Inspiration comes in many forms. Here at Paspa Physical Therapy we are often inspired by the spirit of physical and mental effort we see in our patients. Below is the story of one such spirit. A lifelong athlete, Rainne ran and danced through pain and the restricted movement of her legs. We are all smiles now, cheering together as she is triumphing over what she thought was something she had to “live with”.
Q: What is your diagnosis and what does that mean?
A: I have both genu valgus and femoral anteversion. Genu valgus is where one side of my femur that connects to my shin is longer than the other (this condition is on both legs). This essentially pushed my tibia out of its proper place in its socket. So I had what could be considered dislocated knees all the time. Femoral anteversion is an inward twisting of the thigh bone, resulting in my entire legs being turned inward, making me pigeon toed.
Q: As a child, did your pediatrician notice or try to correct the alignment?
A: I saw a few pediatricians when I was a child, but no one really knew what was going on. I understand, because this isn’t terribly common. Genu valgus can apparently have many causes, even though it can manifest itself in a pretty common manner. I wore corrective shoes from the age of 8 through 18, but I don’t think shoes can do anything about the shape of your knee joints! Alignment issues that actually require serious surgery are not that common. I don’t think anyone I saw during my childhood knew quite what to expect.
Q: What sports and recreational activities do you participate in?
A: I’ve always been active. I have a brown belt in Shotokan Karate, I did modern dance, ballet, and hip hop in college. I was an avid runner, and ran the NYC marathon in 2013. In high school I did synchronized swimming. I used to skateboard, but I was terrible!
Q: What has your overall experience been with genu valgus and femoral anteversion?
A: With the condition, it was something that I learned to live with. People can adapt really quickly. I think I just accepted it as normal until it began to seriously hamper my ability to move easily.
Q: Was it difficult participating in athletic activities throughout your life?
A: It was, but again, I’m not the type to accept limitations. I know I’ll never be a professional athlete, but I want to be the best runner, ballet dancer, martial artist, swimmer, that I can be. I’m confident that with Kristen (Tomlinson, physical therapist at Paspa) and Hospital for Special Surgery’s help, I’ll reach new heights.
Q: How did you choose to seek help from Paspa Physical Therapy Group?
I actually had been seeing physical therapists on and off for many, many years. As for how I found myself at Paspa, I have to say that I got SUPER lucky. I joined One Medical Group and I happened to see that they had a category of physicians who specialize in orthopedic evaluations. After an evaluation of my condition, I asked for a recommendation for a physical therapist. Paspa was recommended.
As I’d mentioned before, I’d always known that my legs had an unusual structure. It was a matter of finding someone who was willing to go the extra mile and dig into the cause for my condition. Genus valgus actually has many causes, most of which aren’t actually serious. I was incredibly lucky, and found that person in Kristen
Q: What surgeries did you have and when?
A: I had surgery to correct the genus valgus. Basically, an open-wedge osteotomy to make the shorter side of my bone even with the longer side, and my tibia pushed back into its proper place within the joint. Bone graft was placed within the open wedge, and a six inch metal plate holding the wedge in its new place (again, on both legs).
I also had corrective surgery for my femoral anteversion. This surgery involved cutting my thigh bone through completely, rotating it outwards by roughly 15 or 20 degrees, and nailing it in place until the bones fused. I did one leg at a time. First leg was done May 2015, and the second leg done October 2015. I’m currently scheduled to have the hardware removed – also one leg at a time. Both should be completed by spring of next year.
Q: Who (MD) did the surgery and where?
A: Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch at the Hospital for Special Surgery.
Q: How many years before surgery were you symptomatic?
A: I honestly don’t remember ever having “normal” legs. My mother noticed issues with my legs when I was still a toddler, but this isn’t something your average pediatrician would know about. My parents were poor immigrants who weren’t very confident in their english.
Q: What prompted you to have surgery?
A: I’ve always had sports-related injuries. I sort of accepted that it was something I’d have to tolerate, having unusual legs. After I ran the NYC marathon in 2013, I noticed my recovery taking far, far longer than it should have. I knew that my legs were rather unusual structurally, but I’m not the sort to accept limitations. It didn’t really occur to me that this would actually be a deformity until even swimming became painful.
Q: Was it difficult finding a physician who would perform the surgery?
A: I wasn’t even sure where to start, but Kristen, with her extensive knowledge, knew exactly who to call. I have to admit that though the road to finally addressing my condition in a meaningful manner was rather long, once Kristin came into the picture it was shockingly easy and fast.
Q: How did Kristen help you before surgery in finding a physician who would even perform the procedure?
A: We talked a great deal about my history before I even saw her. Kristen is the sort of therapist that understands the complete picture rather than focusing on just the one area where you experience difficulty. She was also the one that advocated getting MRIs over X-rays, so we’d have a more complete picture of what was going on with my legs. One surgeon I saw early on in the process, (before I worked with Dr. Rozbruch, at the Hospital for Special Surgery – the one who performed the surgeries on me), casually mentioned that my medial condyles in my femurs were longer than the lateral ones. That’s when I knew structurally there was something pretty unusual and off about my legs!
When I came back and told Kristin what the surgeon had said, rather than accepting the diagnosis, she encouraged me to get a second opinion, and gave me Dr. Rozbruch’s contact information. She didn’t give up on me. She doesn’t give up on her patients, which is a wonderful trait.
Q: What sports and recreational activities were you involved in before surgery and do you plan to return someday?
A: Oh, I miss running so much! I would love to return to running. Thanks to my surgery, my ballet turnout is amazing now. I’m really eager to see how I’ll do in many of the sports I enjoyed before surgery. I have a feeling they’ll be surprisingly easy now that my alignment is normal.
Q: What has your physical therapy experience been like?
A: I can’t say enough about Kristen. She advocates for her patients, so much, and I really don’t think I would have found Dr. Rozbruch without her. She really listened to my concerns, and isn’t the sort of physical therapist who comes up with some exercises and abandons you to the machines in the exercise room. She adapts the exercises over the course of your treatment to help you progress. In my case, when it became obvious that therapy could do only so much, she used her knowledge and network to put me in touch with the surgeon who could make me better, faster, stronger.
I understand and recognize that luck isn’t something we can depend on, which is why I hope more people will come to know about Paspa, and Kristen Tomlinson, because they provide fantastic patient care.