After recovering from a heart attack, John Borza became an impassioned runner with dreams of running the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon on the American Heart Association team. When a torn meniscus threatened to derail his plans, he turned to the experts at UPMC Sports Medicine.
John Borza, 62, of Gibsonia, Pa., decided to get serious about his health and well-being after having a heart attack in 2017.
The heart attack, says John, “was a wakeup call that changed everything.”
He adopted a healthy lifestyle, losing weight and walking every day. Walking slowly progressed to jogging — and soon John was running half-marathons.
“I am passionate about running,” he says, “so learning I was accepted to run the 2020 New York City Marathon as part of the American Heart Association’s team was a dream come true.”
While training for the 2020 race, John tore the medial meniscus in his right knee and needed surgery.
“When the 2020 race was cancelled due to COVID-19, it gave me more time to heal and rehabilitate the knee,” he says. “Thankfully, my race entry was deferred so I could run the 2022 marathon.”
The Path to UPMC
For John to have any hope of running the marathon in 2022, the meniscus had to be surgically repaired. As a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) at UPMC, John is often scheduled to work with Volker Musahl, MD, a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. Musahl — chief of UPMC Sports Medicine, medical director of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and a runner himself — knew John was determined to run the New York marathon in 2022.
“Dr. Musahl thought the tear could be fixed, but he did not make any promises,” says John.
The Solution and the Recovery
In November 2020, John underwent meniscal root repair surgery, a procedure that reattaches the torn meniscus to the bone.
“I woke up after the surgery to hear Dr. Musahl saying ‘I fixed it,’” says John. “I followed everything the UPMC doctors and therapists told me to do,” he adds. “We took rehab very slowly.”
After nine months of rehab, John was able to start training in November 2021 to run the 2022 New York City Marathon. Throughout his year-long training program, John visited Dr. Musahl and physical therapist Michael Eskay, DPT, for regular checkups.
“I also saw the cardiologist, just to be sure things were good with my heart,” he says.
On Nov. 6, 2022, John finished the New York City Marathon in just about 6-1/2 hours.
Although conditions on race day weren’t ideal for runners, John says he “just had a really good time. I stayed with my race strategy — and I stopped often along the route to chat with family and friends who were there to cheer me on.”
Crossing the finish line, says John, was a celebration of his recovery from a serious knee injury — and his determination to complete a major marathon.
“My knee feels totally normal now,” says John, who credits the world-class treatment he received at UPMC Sports Medicine. “How cool is it that UPMC provided an average guy like me the same world-class medicine offered to elite athletes — and gave me the chance to fulfill my dream of running in a world-class marathon."