Skip to Content
Megan’s Story: A Physician Assistant’s Journey from ACL Injury to Recovery

Megan’s Story: A Physician Assistant’s Journey from ACL Injury to Recovery

An ACL Injury Resurfaces

Over a decade after having two ACL surgeries to repair bilateral ACL and meniscal tears, Megan noticed weakness in her right knee. It wasn’t holding up as strongly as it had during those first few years after the operations.

She considers herself “your general, average Jane” who works out in the gym and runs an occasional 5k. But she's also a physician assistant for UPMC Orthopaedic Care.

In the summer of 2018, Megan’s jogs in the park led to fatigue, instability, and pain in her knee. She knew something wasn’t right.

“It affected me more as time went on,” said Megan. “It got to the point where I was walking down the stairs and almost falling every time.”

As someone who works in health care, she already had an idea of who she’d like to assess the problem. Her knowledge led her to see Volker Musahl, MD, at UPMC Sports Medicine.

Right away, Dr. Musahl checked Megan’s knees, comparing them to one another. He then sent her for an MRI to find out for sure what he thought to be the problem.

The MRI confirmed his diagnosis, showing that Megan’s ACL graft had failed. To keep leading her active lifestyle, she'd need ACL surgery to regain full function of her knee.

Planning Knee Surgery Around Life

Megan opted to have the surgery, but she had just booked her long-overdue honeymoon and had concerns about timing.

“We were going to Ireland for two weeks,” said Megan. “I stressed to Dr. Musahl how important it was that I be able to hike and be active on that trip.”

Dr. Musahl kindly took Megan’s schedule into account, scheduling her surgery well in advance of her trip.

In April 2019, Dr. Musahl did ACL reconstruction surgery on Megan’s knee at UPMC Montefiore. This is an outpatient procedure, so Megan was home on crutches the same day. And she wasn’t allowed to put any weight on her knee for a week.

“I had wonderful pain management,” Megan said. “I felt like the staff members were extremely skilled and polite. Everybody made my comfort their goal.”

Megan was still regaining some strength when it came time for her big honeymoon trip in September of 2019. But her range of motion was great, so the surgery's timing allowed her to hike with little help on her honeymoon.

Improved Strength and Motion

Megan then moved into the physical therapy phase of her recovery. She had regular appointments for three months at the UPMC Freddie Fu Sports Medicine Center with two physical therapists.

“Both of my physical therapists were fantastic,” she said. “They both had different skills and expertise to bring to the table.”

She greatly improved her range of motion and strength through exercises such as single-leg squats, step-ups, and biking — to name a few.

“I saw improvements every single week. I’m just so grateful they were able to help me get back to doing my own thing at the gym,” Megan said.

After those three months, Megan’s physical therapists helped her design a home therapy program. She could get back to her gym while tracking her workouts on the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services app.

Through the app, Megan could see her progress. And her physical therapists could keep track of the exercises she was doing and how often she was doing them.

Megan expressed how helpful this app was in her recovery process.

“It was like having an accountability buddy in a way,” she said.

Just Like Everyone Else

Megan’s advice to others with ACL tears is that recovery isn’t always a straight line, no matter who you are. Having gone through a few setbacks herself, she wants people to know that it’s okay.

When asked what it was like to be a health care provider in a patient’s shoes, Megan said:

“It was completely different from the patient side because it reminds you of how humbling it can be. Even though I have knowledge about this process, and I could anticipate certain milestones, I’m no different than anyone else. I still have the same emotions. I get frustrated, and I have setbacks. It’s still a process going through recovery, but you just have to keep chugging along. My knee is surely in much better shape than it was before surgery.”

Read more stories from ACL Program patients.