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From a Torn ACL to Completing an Ironman Race

Back in 2004, Lise was leaving some trash at the City Dump. When she lifted her right leg to get into her truck, she felt significant pain in her right knee. She knew something was wrong.

She pursued getting her right knee evaluated. Her insurance at the time led her to a particular doctor who examined her knee, took x-rays, and diagnosed her with a sprain. However, the pain did not improve. In fact, it got worse.

A month later she was seen again by that doctor and an MRI of her knee was performed. The MRI confirmed that she had suffered a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in her right knee. The ACL is a ligament in the middle of the knee that provides stability and proper movement of the knee. When the ACL is torn, the knee often feels like it may buckle or give way.

From a Torn ACL to Completing an Ironman Race
When Lise Nyrop hurt her knee, she received two widely different medical opinions about her treatment.

She was sent for physical therapy. She was told by the doctor that she was not a good candidate for surgery to reconstruct the torn ACL because she was "too fat, too forty, and too female."

She was not happy with that opinion about her knee. The physical therapy wasn't helping. She kept having intermittent episodes with her knee in which the knee felt like it was "dislocating" and slipping in and out of place. When it was out of place, the pain was excruciating.

So, she changed her insurance so that she could be seen at Columbia Orthopaedic Group. "I knew they had superior surgeons at COG and a superior standard of care. That's where I wanted to go."

In January of 2005, she saw Dr. Bus Tarbox at COG. The first time she saw him their personalities just clicked. "He told me right away that my knee could be fixed, and he was honest and positive. He treated me like an adult, and I appreciated that."

Dr. Tarbox recommended an ACL reconstruction procedure. She agreed and had that procedure performed as soon as she could.

From a Torn ACL to Completing an Ironman Race
"I didn't break any records, but I was so happy when I crossed the finish line. It was such an accomplishment. It was overwhelming."
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There is more than one method used for that reconstruction. Dr Tarbox used what is known as an allograft technique to reconstruct her torn ACL. In this technique, healthy tissue, harvested from an organ donor who had passed away, is used to substitute for the torn ligament. The harvested tissue is called an allograft. That allograft tissue is passed through a tunnel drilled into the tibia (shin bone) and is then passed through the middle of the knee joint and into a tunnel drilled into the femur (thigh bone). The proper tension is applied to this graft, and then it is fixed on each end so that the proper tension is maintained. That graft then provides the stability needed for the knee and substitutes for the torn ACL.

The surgery went very well, and Lise recovered quickly. In fact she called Dr. Tarbox's office with an interesting question.

"I called Dan (Dr. Tarbox's assistant) after three days and asked when the nerve block would wear off? He told me two days ago. I laughed, but that is how little pain I had after surgery."

Her knee recovered so well that she decided to train for an event she never envisioned doing: an Ironman event. She completed the Idaho Ironman in 2008, just three years after surgery. It included a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile marathon, raced in that order.

In the last ten years, she has had two other surgeries on her other knee. She calls it "maintenance." Of course, these were also performed by Dr. Tarbox.

"I'm a tough person. You have to prove it to me. I trust him so much."

Remember, a second opinion can be totally worth the effort!

From a Torn ACL to Completing an Ironman Race

Dr. Tarbox is a Board Certified Orthopaedic Surgeon who specializes in Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy with a special emphasis on problems related to the knee, shoulder, ankle, and hip.

For an appointment with Dr. Tarbox, please call (573) 443-2402.

For more information about Dr. Tarbox, please visit his page.