On the first nice day of spring in April 2015, Kendall Thompson went for a bike ride with her mother and her dog. The dog was on a leash attached to Kendall’s bike. When the dog stopped abruptly, Kendall’s bike snapped around and she injured her left knee.
Kendall went to a local emergency department in her hometown of Richmond, Indiana, where she was referred to a local orthopedics practice. The surgeon she saw told her she had broken the front of her shinbone and that a piece of the bone had been pulled away by a ligament in her knee. A week later, Kendall had surgery, which involved implanting a plate and 10 screws in her knee and stitching the bone back in place.
Pain and Instability After Surgery
When Kendall got married two months later, she walked down the aisle on crutches. Over the next few months, Kendall also wrapped up her dissertation and earned her PhD in the history of science, medicine and technology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
By then, physical therapy and working out in the gym on her own helped Kendall regain range of motion and some strength. But she was still in a lot of pain and her knee didn’t feel stable. “I resumed life in my new normal,” she says. “I didn’t do a lot of the physical activities I used to do, like running, because I didn’t trust my knee.”
After having a baby boy in 2017, Kendall’s knee pain got worse. She went back to the local orthopedics practice where she saw a different doctor. “The new doctor didn’t even do a physical exam or review my medical record. He gave me a cortisone shot, which didn’t help. I was in pain again two days later,” says Kendall.
When Kendall went back to the doctor again, he did a cursory exam and without any imaging told her that she had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and needed surgery. He also said that she needed to have the plate and screws from her first surgery removed.
Time for a Second Opinion
When the surgeon started to schedule the procedure, Kendall decided she needed a second opinion. She posted a message on the listserv at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, where she is a library-operations assistant, asking for recommendations for an orthopedic surgeon. “I got a call from an athletics trainer and physical therapist at Earlham who recommended Shelbourne knee Center,” she says.
In December 2018, Kendall had her first appointment at Shelbourne knee Center, which is about 75 minutes from her home. She saw orthopedic surgeon Rodney Benner, MD, and physical therapist William J. Claussen, MPT. “A second opinion is helpful whenever a patient doesn’t feel that he/she is making sufficient progress after surgery,” says Dr. Benner.
One Step at a Time
Kendall, Dr. Benner and Clausen had a conversation about her injury and her treatment options. “Dr. Benner told me he didn’t have a clear-cut plan. We had to see what works,” says Kendall.
Dr. Benner recommended physical therapy to improve her range of motion and strengthen her knee followed by surgery to remove the plate and screws from her knee. Kendall agreed and started physical therapy that day. Dr. Benner performed the procedure on January 30, 2019.
After imaging, Dr. Benner also confirmed Kendall’s ACL tear. Kendall is deciding whether to have ACL reconstruction. She’s leaning toward saying yes. “I don’t want to be second guessing everything I do and whether it will hurt my knee more, says the 32-year-old.
“Kendall’s case was unusual. We were honest about this, and are working with her to take care of her injury without overtreating her,” says Dr. Benner.
“At every step I felt certain that the next step was required,” says Kendall.
Treated Like an Adult
Physical therapy at Shelbourne Knee Center has been much more effective for Kendall than her earlier physical therapy at the other center. Claussen is Kendall’s personal therapist, and since he works closely with Dr. Benner, he understands her injury and has developed a custom rehab program for her. Before, Kendall never saw the same physical therapist twice.
“Bill treats me like an adult. He shows me the exercises I need to do and then I do them,” says Kendall. She also likes being able to do most of physical therapy at home, with periodic visits to Shelbourne Knee Center to see Bill, who checks her progress and updates her exercises.
Kendall will soon decide whether to have ACL reconstruction. After she completes her treatment, she hopes to soon get back to hiking with her husband and son.