Testimonials & Patient Stories
Bob Mahovsky - My Mended Knee Journey
Like most people going into my first total knee replacement surgery, I was optimistic thinking I would be on the golf course in two weeks. That did not happen to me as it had to one of my friends. My story starts on December 14th, 2015. I did leave the hospital early because my physical therapy sessions revealed excellent ability to bend and extend my leg. But a week later I was changing my bandages about seven times a day because of the drainage. It was difficult for me to explain to the surgeon that I had infection when he insisted it was too early for me to have any infection. On December 29, 2015 the surgeon agreed that I had an infection and said he would take out the plastic parts on December 31st. The following is a picture of what my knee looked like after that 2nd surgery: A mess!
The day after the surgery the original surgeon told me that I would need another (3rd) surgery in a few days. After meeting with the recommended reconstructive plastic surgeon who is new in the area I insisted on a second opinion. (Fear and denial.) The next Physician (that I had met before) agreed that I needed a surgery called a muscle flap. It involved taking a part of my calf muscle and swing it over the knee so that it would provide blood flow that would provide for new skin to grow from a skin graft. Before the third surgery I was also informed that my knee was infected with the bacterium named MRSA. The following is a picture of what my new look like after the 3rd surgery:
Recovery was long and difficult. As the skin graft healed I was optimistic that all would be well. Unfortunately, in a few weeks I developed a cyst on the knee. When the plastic surgeon opened the cyst, there was a hole that went deep into the tissue. See the following picture:
Sadly, it was MRSA, that still had not been eradicated. After several weeks and the infection not clearing there was talk of a need to have another surgery. I just did not want to take that route. (More emotions of fear and denial.) I had been on a walker, receiving I.V. antibiotics, and home healthcare too for long! I and wanted to seek another alternative. Clearly, I had lost confidence in the first surgeon. I gained false hope from a wound clinic that said there was a chance that hyperbaric treatments could aid the antibiotics and clear the infection. Over the next two months of treatments and 60 hyperbaric treatments and a failure to eradicate the MRSA, I asked a different physician for a referral to a specialist who is familiar with complications like mine. I still believed I could overcome this problem. I was not going to let this problem cripple me or take my life. After meeting the new surgeon, I felt so blessed to have been referred to Dr. Thomas Fehring at the Charlotte, NC office of the OrthoCarolina Hip and Knee group. He did not sugar coat what needed to be done and why it had to be done. Yes, yet another surgery, that would be followed by another surgery after the MRSA was no longer present. I knew I had to do something urgently because the MRSA had become resistant to several of the antibiotics that were prescribed for me by my previous physicians. It is now November, 2016 almost a year since I began this journey and pus was rapidly draining from two holes in my leg. Really, no other choice! But even so I still believed that there had to be a purpose for me having to go through all these difficulties. I did not know why I had to go through all this, but I believed that if I endured, I would be able to survive and do well in the end. I also had complete faith in Dr. Fehring. The following is a picture of an X-ray of what my knee looked like after Dr Fehring's first surgery (my 4th surgery) to temporarily fuse my knee to allow it to heal properly .
Along this journey there were many opportunities for me to be really depressed about what my life had become. Indeed, my wife had to be a caregiver and she was going through all this with me. Our life style had changed a great deal. I am so blessed that see she remained strong during this ordeal and that my friends also supported my belief that all would be well in the end.
On May 31, 2017, I had the last surgery on my left leg. Dr Fehring removed the pins holding the bones together and finally reinserted a new knee. Below is a picture of my new knee.
After a lot of physical therapy and tips from Dr. Fehring I now walk without a limp. I can climb stairs alternating my right and left legs. I am so glad that I never gave up hope. I am so glad for the honesty and skill of Dr. Fehring and the OrthoCarolina organization.
Why did I have to go through this? Was there ever really purpose? I believe it was so I could serve others, perhaps you, who might be going through something similar to what I went through. Perhaps I could give you encouragement that you will come out OK in the end. But also tell you that you can’t be lazy or pity yourself. When you have prescribed physical therapy two to three days a week know it is not enough. Do the recommended home physical therapy every day, and when your insurance runs out don’t stop your home physical therapy until the Dr. says it is no longer need. It takes belief that you can heal and that with the help of a superior medical team it will all work out in the end of your journey. My prayers and best wishes are with you.
Pierre Wander Alcicat is a 25 year old who lives in the Haitian village of Cathor and attends the Organization for the Christian Force in Bayonnais (OFCB) School. Until several years ago, he had lived with a debilitating knee issue for more than seven years simply because he did not have access to the proper care.
The Bayonnais River Valley lies in the remote mountains of the Artibonite Region of central Northern Haiti and has a population of about 70,000 people, mostly subsistence farmers. Bayonnais has little infrastructure which means almost no access to services for its population. The Organization for the Christian Force in Bayonnais (OFCB), a local Haitian-based nonprofit, has operated a school in the region for nearly 27 years, providing students living in Bayonnais with the opportunity for an education and a meal each school day.
“When I was 12, my mother had a donkey, and one day I rode the donkey to the mountain and fell off and badly hurt my knee. My family has 10 children, and my mother could not pay for me to visit a doctor in Haiti. I sat in the house. I could not go anywhere because of my situation. For seven years, I got around on crutches.”
Dr. Pressly Gilbert, an OrthoCarolina surgeon in Bayonnais on a mission trip with Friends of OFCB, a Charlotte based charity, saw Pierre one day when Pierre walked home from school on his crutches. At that time, he was around 19, and Pierre’s knee had been swollen for many years. Dr. Gilbert helped Pierre get new X-rays of his knee.
“My knee was so big it looked like a watermelon. Pastor Kevin (Rev. Kevin Wright of Myers Park United Methodist Church) was in charge and he gave me money to visit some other doctors in Haiti but they could not do anything for my situation. I had X-rays and had a severely degenerated knee. My knee was still getting worse; so bad I couldn’t go to school. They told me they were going to bring me to the U.S. to get help and get the surgery I needed. ‘Dr. Pressly’ arranged the surgery with Dr. Fehring and OrthoCarolina.”
Rev. Wright arranged for Pierre’s transport to the United States and met him in Miami to deliver him safely to Charlotte. Through Friends of OFCB, Pierre lived with Mr. and Mrs. Thold Gill, a Charlotte family, while undergoing his medical care. The Presbyterian Orthopaedic Hospital generously provided free hospital care for Pierre.
“I lived with a family I didn’t know but I felt that they were my family. They were so kind to me. I had my first surgery, which was cleaning inside my knee. There was a lot of liquid in my knee that had to come out, because before I came to the U.S. I had been infected by tuberculosis. They treated the tuberculosis, which was only in my knee. A machine took all of the liquid out of my knee to make it dry. My second surgery was a skin graft. My third surgery was having plates and screws put inside my knee to fuse the bones together. Although I will never again be able to bend the knee again as it is now fused. I no longer have pain and I can walk far as I want. I thank God for that because he brought this solution for my leg and these doctors to me.”
The tuberculosis infection had destroyed the joint surfaces in Pierre’s knee. Dr. Thomas Fehring, OrthoCarolina Hip & Knee surgeon, inserted a plate connecting the tibia and femur that allowed the two bones to grow together and become one bone. Pierre was placed in a cast following his surgery. He stayed in Charlotte for six months while he recovered, underwent physical therapy and was treated for his TB. While in Charlotte he made a number of friends in the large Haitian community. Those Haitian friends collected money on Pierre’s behalf, and when he returned to Haiti, Pierre was able to buy a piece of land to farm, build a house, and move his family into. His English skills, acquired during his time in the United States, are helping to support him and his family.
“I am strong now because of those in North Carolina who fed me well, and I will never forget them in my prayers. I thank all the doctors, and nurses, and people who cared for me.”