Wall Of Life - Laura - Fifty Lives

Tissue Recipient

In a volleyball game my senior year of high school, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.  I was no longer able to run, jump or even walk without my knee giving out on me, a very painful thing.  Playing sports was the center of my world and a season-ending injury was an extreme blow to my morale and spirits.

Days after my injury I had ACL reconstruction using an autograft, or part of my own hamstring tendon, as my surgeon suggested.  After a painful recovery and 6 months of physical therapy, my knee would still give out on me, as my ACL had essentially "stretched out."  I missed part of the spring track season, my real athletic passion.  After high school I was fortunate to make it through one year of collegiate athletics, but was unable to return my second year as my knee had become too unstable.  My surgeon suggested another surgery, but I just wasn't ready for another 6 months of misery.  I was willing to settle for a crappy, but intact, ACL.

Then, while skiing, I tore the ACL on my other knee. Having experienced this before, I knew what had happened instantly.  Lying on the slopes in pain, I dreaded what lay ahead.  As a graduate student studying to become a physician assistant, and planning to begin clinical rotations in less than one week, my options were limited.  Delaying surgery until after graduation was not an option, as my knee would give out when I walked.  Having surgery was also not an option, as walking around the hospital on crutches all day or standing in the operating room on one leg, was just not possible.

I explained these circumstances to my surgeon, and he suggested using donor tissue to replace my torn ACL.  Rather than using part of my own hamstring tendon, he wanted to use a tendon graft from a deceased donor.  Because this wouldn't cause any damage to my hamstring, my recovery would be less painful and much quicker, reducing my time away from school.  And the surgeon was right.  I missed only 4 weeks of clinical rotations, allowing me to graduate as scheduled.  My knee is stable and pain-free - unlike my other, failed knee.  After such success, I look forward to having surgery on my other knee , having experienced such a wonderful outcome using a donor graft.

I've become a huge advocate for the use of donor grafts - sharing my story whenever the chance arises.  My specialty is orthopedics, and I am excited to guide others in choosing the treatment plan best for them while promoting the use of donor grafts.

I thank those who graciously decided to pass on the gift of life and health to myself and others by donating tissue and I thank their families for supporting their decision.