Sarah-Jane’s return from knee injury

Getting back on board: Sarah-Jane’s return from knee injury

It was when she slipped on the dancefloor at an office party that 38-year-old Sarah-Jane finally realised something wasn’t right with her knee. A keen skateboarder and tennis player, Sarah-Jane had always led an active lifestyle, but never thought much about injuries.

“I was pretty active throughout high school and college, playing rugby and then intercollegiate tennis five days a week,” she says. “Then, when I moved from LA to London, I took up skateboarding and loved it. It was kind of fun during lockdown having so much space to practise!”

But, Sarah-Jane admits, she never took warming up or stretching that seriously. “When you're young you're told to stretch but you don't really pay attention. I would just push through any pain!”

What’s more, having spent years in Hong Kong and California, Sarah-Jane says she lived in flip-flops which, as any orthopaedic specialist will tell you, is bad news for the knees. It was only when she came to London and encountered British winters that Sarah-Jane says she started wearing shoes regularly. “The cold was a real shock to my system!” she remembers.

The ‘crunch’ point for Sarah-Jane came when she took up skateboarding. She started to experience more swelling and weakness in her knee than ever before, especially after a ‘pivot shift’ on the board. But because the pain wasn’t consistent, she never realised the injury might be more serious.

To make matters worse, her local hospital dismissed the pain and swelling as superficial. She was told to take ibuprofen and wear a knee brace for sports but, essentially, to carry on with her day-to-day activities. And that’s what she did, treating the symptoms with occasional painkillers, visits to the osteopath and some acupuncture sessions.

“The problem was, it never felt quite right,” she says. “It felt loose whenever I pushed or turned my knee, whether playing tennis or pushing away on the skateboard – or even just getting off a bus. Sometimes it felt as if my knee wasn't connected.”

It was only when Sarah-Jane suffered her dancefloor injury that she contacted Mr Simon Thompson, Orthopaedic Surgeon at The Lister Hospital. “As soon as he examined my knee, he could tell something wasn’t right,” she says. Mr Thompson ordered new scans and diagnosed an unstable ACL and a bucket handle tear of the meniscus.

“I was due to go on a big family trip to Japan,” recalls Sarah-Jane, “but Mr Thompson reviewed my scans and explained I hadn’t only torn my ACL, my meniscus had flipped and there was a high risk that my knee would lock and I would be in serious pain. That’s when I realised I would have to cancel the trip!”

Just weeks later, in January 2023, Sarah-Jane underwent major ACL reconstruction and meniscal repair surgery on her right knee. This was Sarah-Jane’s first surgery, so she was naturally anxious. But, she says, Mr Thompson and his team were very reassuring. “Mr Thompson was super relaxed and said, ‘don't worry Sarah-Jane, we'll get you back on that skateboard and playing tennis’. He took the time to explain the procedure and he was very open. I knew I could reach out if I ever had any concerns. I just felt very lucky!”

The procedure went smoothly and Sarah-Jane says she always knew she was in good hands: “From beginning to end, all the staff at HCA UK were so helpful. They just kind of kept me going at each stage. The healing was good too with very little pain. When I had a question about the stitches and wound, I contacted the nursing team who reassured me and it healed really well. There was no scar or any issues really, just these really neat little stitches!”

Sarah-Jane has worked steadily with her physiotherapist to get her strength and mobility back, slowly incorporating gentle walking, strength and balance training. And, with three dogs looking forward to their daily walk, she has plenty of opportunity to stay mobile. “I’m really into Schnauzers – so I have two!” she laughs. “My partner also had a Frenchie so we ended up being this big family when we moved in together!”

The results of her rehabilitation are noticeable. “I feel much more confident and my knee actually feels super strong – much more solid than before.” But, she says, she’s not quite ready to start skateboarding again. “You do so many twists and pivots on the board, I want Mr Thompson to be 100% sure I’m ready. He says my knee is stable but just wants me to develop a bit more strength. So hopefully, after the next meeting I’ll be ready to roll!”

A year on from the procedure and Sarah-Jane is really happy with her surgery: “I never thought I’d get to the point of having a stable and pain free knee,” she says. “I expected to have a chronic knee condition forever but my knee is stronger than ever. As it was my first surgery, I was nervous, but I had the best care and the best people. Simon Thompson and his team were calm and confident. I just felt, ‘they know what they're doing, and I’m in the best hands!”

Find out more about the knee injury services available at HCA Healthcare or to book an appointment, call 020 3733 5966.

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