During my sophomore year, my left knee had been bothering me during basketball and football practices. X-rays were inconclusive; an MRI showed I had osteochondritis dissecans: a piece of cartilage and small fragment of bone had come loose in my knee. At first my doctor tried a procedure to try and put the cartilage back using a screw. But that didn’t work, and that’s when I went to see Dr. Crawford at OHSU.
I met with Dr. Crawford and his team. They explained a procedure called an osteochondral allograft transplant, which means I would receive cartilage/bone from a donor to replace the damaged cartilage in my knee.
Several months later, the new tissue was ready and I had the surgery for them to place it in my knee. The first week I wasn’t able to bend my knee at all; it was locked into the brace at 0 degrees, but after 1-2 weeks, they want you to gradually put more pressure on it so the piece lodges in the right place. So you gradually increase the amount you’re able—and allowed —to bend it. I was in a knee brace for 12 weeks and went to physical therapy twice a week for 12 weeks.
It was tough at first; I’ve always been an athlete and recovering from this made me appreciate even small things, like getting into the shower and using stairs.
I did get back to playing basketball, and had a game going with some friends when I suddenly felt a “pop” in my left knee. I went back to OHSU, worried something had happened with the previous surgery, but it was a different injury, a meniscus tear! Dr. Crawford went in and removed the torn area, and that was a 4-6 week recovery.
Months later, I was playing basketball, and felt pain in my right knee. After an MRI, we discovered that it wasn’t a meniscus tear, it was osteochondritis dissecans, now in the other knee. I had to do it all over again – remove a piece of tissue, wait for it to return, schedule the surgery. The second time was easier, because I knew what to expect, and I focused hard on getting healthy and strong again.
By my sophomore year of college, I had another MRI done at OHSU, and they said the piece looked great, and I had the ok to “Go live your life and not come back for another surgery for hopefully a long time!”
I had my surgeries at OHSU’s facility on the south waterfront, and was very impressed by the timeliness and professionalism of everyone. Dr. Crawford and the entire team were fantastic, especially his physician’s assistant, Sam and all the physical therapists. Because they knew I was an athlete, they would help push me and give me the tools to get healthy. They were all really experienced helping people with this type of injury, and that played a big part in helping me get healthy as quickly as possible.
When something like this happens, you have to persevere and approach it with the right attitude. I’m glad I had the team at OHSU to help. A significant aspect of the surgeries was that they were not only physical recoveries, but they were mental transformations that lead me to realize how special of a blessing health is, and the importance of living in the moment and approaching each day with positivity.