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Joyce: Knee Injury

A Bike Accident

On Easter Day 2016, Joyce and her husband went biking on the trails along the Ohio river. Twenty minutes into their ride, they came across a boulder keeping a gate closed to prevent cars from entering the trail-way.

As they passed the boulder, Joyce’s right handlebar grazed it just enough to pitch her over the front of her bike. She landed on her left knee.

“I knew right away I broke my knee,” recalls Joyce. “But it was more than just broken. I could tell right away it pulverized the top of my tibia.”

Joyce’s husband called for an ambulance, which took her to UPMC St. Margaret.

The Path to Orthopaedic Care at UPMC

Once Joyce arrived at UPMC St. Margaret, she had x-rays.“After they took x-rays, they told me there was only one person in Pittsburgh that could address the severity of this injury. The break in the tibia was so bad,” said Joyce. “Based on the x-rays, my tibia looked like a lot of puzzle pieces.”

Doctors at St. Margaret sent Joyce to UPMC Presbyterian for treatment by Ivan Tarkin, MD, a trauma surgeon at UPMC Orthopaedic Care. Dr. Tarkin assessed her injury and decided she needed immediate surgery.

“Dr. Tarkin said that the swelling within 24 hours would be so bad. If they didn’t operate that night, I might need to wait for weeks until the swelling went down,” said Joyce.

She had knee surgery that night.

Knee Surgery and Recovery

Joyce’s surgery took nearly three hours. She needed 13 pins and a plate in her knee.

“Dr. Tarkin had to basically reassemble my knee,” said Joyce.

After surgery, she spent five days in the hospital and couldn't put weight on her knee for two months.

Four weeks after surgery, Joyce had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Tarkin. He assessed her range of motion and removed her brace.

“It scared me to death when he removed the brace,” Joyce said. “But it amazed Dr. Tarkin how easily I could bend my knee. He said most people with this severe of an injury have significant long-term complications. But with me, things looked promising for a full recovery. Within six weeks of my surgery, I had mobility that I never thought I would have again.”

Joyce used crutches and a walker for the next month while slowly putting some weight on her knee.

“I began basic exercises like sitting and just putting my heel on the ground,” said Joyce.

Two months after surgery, Joyce began physical therapy at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute outpatient rehab location in Harmarville.

“I went to PT once a week for six weeks,” said Joyce. “But I was diligent about doing the exercises they taught me at home twice a week, too.”

After six weeks of PT, Joyce's therapist cleared her to return to full activity.

“I am an athlete. I like to cross-country ski, and I like to bike and be active,” said Joyce.

Over a year later, she has very little stiffness or discomfort in her knee.

“I'm grateful for Dr. Tarkin’s ability to fix my injury. He enabled me to get back to my active lifestyle and get back to all of the sports that I enjoy.”

Joyce's treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.

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