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At First, She Was Told She Was Too Young for Such a Knee Procedure


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May 17, 2023

That’s before Lara Haberberger met with the team at UBMD’s Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine

Lara Haberberger is 46 years old and has worked at Seneca Casino’s corporate offices as an accountant in her words, “for a while.” In her spare time, she does theater and especially delights in gardening around her house. She also enjoys dancing, belly dancing to be precise. “My teacher studied several types of belly dancing and has actually traveled to Egypt to learn more.”

Close to 30 years ago, Lara was playing rugby and experienced a bad tackle, with another player landing on her knee, pushing it into the ground. At the time, the injury required an ACL construction. She describes how she performed some physical therapy for it after the procedure, but says, in retrospect, she didn’t do enough, so it “really never healed properly.” Lara goes on to say, “I hadn’t been able to walk up and down stairs like a regular person in over twenty years. I had to go one step at a time prior to this most recent surgery.”

It was also during the period prior to this most recent knee surgery that Lara loves to describe her own adventure in Egypt. She was in so much pain at the time, she was using a cane, but she didn’t let that deter her. She tells us how she was visiting one of the country’s many tombs and had taken a sailboat to get there, when, in the middle of the Nile, the wind stopped. So, they had to hail a motorboat to come out and rescue them. But, in changing vessels, she had to literally walk the plank with her cane to get from her boat to the rescue boat.

“I didn’t know how this was going to work with a cane, but, hey, it was the Nile!”

So, what finally prompted her to seek help?

“I had a lot of pain, and my knee was getting worse. I was looking into what treatment options were available, and ended up going to a physician in Buffalo who specializes in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine.” After a series of x-rays, he told Lara that “your knee is too terrible for me and you’re too young for me to work on it.”

That’s when the doctor suggested Lara make an appointment with Dr. Scott Nodzo, a member of the team at UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine who focuses on lower extremity joint replacement and reconstruction.

At first, Dr. Nodzo informed Lara that he, too, doesn’t normally perform this type of surgery until a person reaches 60 but having determined that “your knee is in terrible shape and it’s not going to last you 10 years. It could go in 3 years, or it could go in 2 years, so let’s just do it!” Exclaims Lara, “It’s exactly what I wanted to hear!”

Lara goes on to describe how, “the mechanics in my knee were being worn down. When Dr. Nodzo measured my leg, the knee angle was 19 degrees, and he told me he would fix it to a 2-degree angle. You could actually look at me and see how my knee was bent out to the side.”

There was an overwhelming amount of organization

In talking about the surgery, Lara said that her best experience was how organized everything was at the facility. “You get signed in, get your x-rays right there and the doctor receives the information immediately. I was able to get my procedure done fairly quickly even though it was during the Covid surge. I was approved for surgery in October and had the procedure in December 2021.”

There are scars and then there are scars!

“I was in and out the same day,” says Lara, talking about the procedure.

Lara had a physical therapist, Alex, come out to her house the very next day and what Lara found most amusing was as Alex looked at the scar she proclaimed, “that is the straightest, nicest scar I have ever seen for a knee replacement.”

Lara describes how every time thereafter when Alex brought a student with her, she would say to them, “You’re going to see the best, straightest looking knee replacement scar.” At that point, Lara was just so happy that she didn’t care what it looked like. But she does reveal she has seen other people’s scars and “they look just awful. My scar looks so nice.”

Post-op process was very helpful

Post-op, Lara had a stationary bike at her house that she was able to use routinely, and it proved quite helpful in getting her range of motion going. In addition to the PT, she did a variety of exercises, such as squatting, “I’m also doing rebounding which is helpful in keeping the strength up in my knee. I’m keeping active, because, as I learned much to my dismay 30 years ago, if I don’t follow up with the PT and other activities, I think my knee would be much worse today.”

Even after surgery, Lara asked for another script for PT as she was having a few issues going downstairs, saying, some of that was simply because she hadn’t done so in over 20 years. “I’m basically almost fully healed; the PT is just helping me strengthen up certain areas.”

As for her ability to return to dancing, she says it took about 6 weeks until her initial reappearance on the dance floor, but there was definitely no “bouncing” for some time.

Lara offers a bit of advice for anyone dealing with a knee injury

“First and foremost, get a professional to look at it to see if there is something to be done, and then follow their advice,” says Lara.  And she continues, if you do get surgery, definitely do what they say and follow up with the necessary physical therapy. “PT is really important to ensure your knee is getting rehabbed as best as it can.”

In closing, Lara just wants to express her gratefulness to Dr. Nodzo. “My quality of life has improved over 100 percent. He did a great job, and I am so happy with it.”