In many ways, I have been very fortunate in this life. I am married to an amazing and lovely wife. I have a top-notch education. I have very good health. But my biggest misfortunes, the ones that have had the biggest negative impact on my life, have been the injuries to my knee.
In 1985, when I was 22, I was playing a pickup basketball game at Wayne State University in Detroit. Back then, even though I am only 5'7", I could jump high enough to get my fingertips over the rim. During one game, I jumped about that high, and when I came down on my leg I landed on someone's foot. By doing so, I tore the anterior cruciate ligament of my knee, and I also tore my medial meniscus. The pain was horrific....up to that point in time I had never experienced such pain, and I'd already had some painful experiences (broken bones, a concussion, deep scarring cuts,...).
At that time, I was not yet quite sophisticated and worldly enough to know that I should research surgeons. I consulted with my family physician, who referred me to a local orthopaedic surgeon (who shall remain nameless), who was the "go-to", prolific, orthopaedic surgeon for athletes in downriver Michigan. Accepting that referral was one of the worst mistakes of my life. That surgeon put in a dacron ligament graft and resected my medial meniscus (which might have been repairable). That dacron graft failed in 1992, when I was 29. I found out later that it was knowable at the time that the dacron graft would fail. I also found out later that that orthopaedic surgeon botched the placement of the graft. I also found out later that that surgeon lost his medical license due to malpractice.
So, I was 29 with a failed surgery, and a painful, arthritic, and unstable knee. It was a nightmare for me. I loved athletics....playing tennis, basketball, running, hiking, backpacking to do landscape photography.... The only saving grace was by that point in time, I had gotten my Ph.D. in Engineering, and I knew how to do research. I researched for weeks. I looked for surgeons who specialized in revision anterior cruciate repairs, meniscus repairs, and cartilage restoration. I read about 300 medical papers in all. Imagine that: 300 medical papers and I was not a physician. My search ultimately led me to Dr. Frank Noyes at the Cincinnati SportsMedicine and Orthopaedic Center. Dr. Noyes had pioneered many of the procedures that I would need. I traveled out of state to see him, and later to have multiple knee surgeries.
Dr. Noyes performed a revision anterior cruciate repair on my knee in 1992, along with a double-longitudinal lateral meniscus repair. With great skill, he repaired and stabilized my knee. He was one of the few people in the world who could do what he did. The surgery and recovery were both very difficult, and I had to be readmitted to break up the scar tissue in my knee. I was very diligent in months of physical therapy, and that, along with some good luck and a lot of determination, enabled me to continue to do two of the things that I love the most: hiking and landscape photography. You see the photos on my homepage? 98% of those were taken after Dr. Noyes repaired my knee. I don't know how much of that I would have been able to do without Dr. Noyes' world-class skills, but I'm guessing just a small, small fraction.
I never was able to return to tennis or to basketball (due to the arthritis), but I have logged well over 2000 miles of wilderness hiking and landscape photography over the past 26 years, about 20% of that with a full backpack, almost all of that made possible by Dr. Frank Noyes. That one man, and that one orthopaedic center, made a huge positive difference in my life. Dr. Noyes, in 2014, was recognized as receiving the most citations, in the world, in knee repairs and knee clinical outcomes. Knee surgeons and knee researchers have cited Dr. Noyes’ work more than anyone else’s knee research in the world, ever. Dr. Noyes was and is a world-class knee expert and surgeon. Dr. Noyes literally "wrote the book" on knee repair, and I count myself extremely fortunate to have met him and to have him perform surgery on me.
I learned an important life lesson the hard way. I learned it by spending over a year of my life on crutches, and over a year and a half in physical therapy (most of it before I found Cincinnati Sportsmedicine).
The lesson is this: If you are severely injured or ill, find the best doctor you can, and spend whatever it takes, and travel however far is needed, to get the best care you can. Nothing, nothing can replace that. Nothing replaces world-class skill. You don't know what you don't know. Do the research, even if you don't know how. Pay out of pocket, if need be. Be willing to travel out of state. If you choose the wrong doctor, you will pay a price for it. Read 100, 200, 500 medical papers. Read 1000 if that is what is needed. Then make your choice. You will have to live with it.