In December 2017, Karen was in Louisville, Kentucky, after piloting a flight from Dallas. She is a commercial pilot and flies a CRJ-900, a 76/79 seat regional jet for American Eagle. The weather was cold and windy and it was dark as she walked around the plane for a post flight check and twisted her left leg on uneven ground, but didn’t fall.
Her knee swelled immediately and her leg would not straighten. Once at the hotel, she called one of her two orthopedic surgeon brothers. He told her to get off her feet, put ice on the knee and see an orthopedic surgeon in Dallas. Karen called the orthopedic practice that handled a previous injury for an appointment. She was offered an appointment in May, six months after the initial injury.
There is a shortage of pilots and her company needs her flying and she wants to fly. Karen explains, “I knew better than to go to the ER. I broke my foot a few years ago and tried an ER urgent care and they could not fix it. No one can wait for weeks or months when something is broken, sprained or torn. Literally an hour after I made the May appointment, I turned on the radio and heard the DOC commercial. What a brilliant idea! I didn’t have to wait at all and cancelled my May appointment.”
Karen went to DOC and was diagnosed by the “awesome” orthopedist. An MRI provides images of soft tissues of the knee joint, like menisci, and confirmed his diagnosis of a meniscus tear. Menisci are two C-shaped pieces of cartilage on the inside and outside of the knee that act as shock absorbers between the thighbone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella). Menisci keep the knee stable. A meniscus tear is often caused by a quick turn or twist. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling, and inability to move the knee through full range of motion.
Karen is in physical therapy with DOC’s partner PT practice to strengthen her hips, quadriceps and hamstrings, improve range of motion, and build stability. The swelling is down and she can completely straighten her leg. She is getting stronger and is back to work. Her left leg is slightly weaker than the right leg. She can pilot a plane without difficulty, but picking up a suitcase and hurrying from gate to gate for a quick turnaround is hard without an injury and harder now. She plans to continue PT and follow-up with her usual gym workout to continue strengthening both legs.
In the meantime, Karen and the DOC orthopedic surgeon diagnosed another injury via an MRI of her shoulder involving a rotator cuff impingement, slap tear and a cyst. Karen plans to discuss a possible cortisone injection with her DOC surgeon at her next appointment. Another option is arthroscopic surgery to create more space for the rotator cuff.
This is part one of a two-part story about Karen’s care at DOC. The ending of the shoulder story is up in the air. Thankfully so is Karen. To be continued…