Mary Ann Henker: After the Race

Patient Mary Ann Henker Patient Mary Ann Henker

In 2001, Mary Ann Henker had a significant injury to her left leg. In addition to a broken tibia, badly sprained ankle, and a torn MCL, she also tore her ACL in her knee, which resulted in the need for ACL-replacement surgery. As to be expected, her leg has never been quite the same. However, she was able to recover to the extent where she could live a fairly active life.

In 2009, Mary Ann was determined to run the Marine Corps Marathon; she did not expect this to be an issue because she was frequently exercising. This was her first marathon, so she started training as anyone would for an upcoming long distance run. Early in her training, she began to experience excruciating pain in her left knee that was similar to the pain prior to her surgery in 2001. After seeing an orthopedic, she was referred to physical therapy. She chose to go to Tidewater Physical Therapy’s (TPT) Easton clinic. Essentially Mary Ann learned that she did not re-injure or have a new injury in her left knee, rather Scott Hazuda, PT told her that her left leg was very weak because of her old injury and previous surgery and therefore it could not maintain the demands of training for a marathon in its current condition. The orthopedic and the TPT team knew that she was not an ideal candidate to train for and run a marathon. However, as Mary Ann was going to run the race in memoriam of a close friend, both her doctor and the TPT team were determined to help her reach her goal. They worked with her so she was able to condition and maintain the strength needed throughout the six months of training to ensure she was strong enough to participate in and finish the race. With the help of everyone at the TPT Easton Clinic, she was able to successfully finish the marathon! When the training and race was over, Mary Ann felt she was a very educated patient because of the team at TPT and continues to do the guided exercises to this day to maintain a strong left leg.

Fast forward to the summer of 2014. Mary Ann now had a one-year old son and was embarking on her weight loss journey to focus on losing her “baby weight.” As she was climbing a staircase while on vacation, her left leg gave out and she was again in excruciating pain. Since she was eight hours away from home, she went to the emergency room in the town where she was staying. In the ER, Mary Ann learned that she tore her meniscus in her left knee. She also learned that it was not uncommon for individuals with ACL replacements to get future meniscus tears. Although some types of meniscus tears are able to heal on their own, because of her specific tear, surgery would be required to fix hers. For other reasons, Mary Ann was not a candidate for surgery so she began to learn how to “live with the pain.” She definitely felt defeated.

Over a year later, in fall 2015, she was at the point where she knew she had to address the constant pain she felt in her knee, especially since now she was chasing after a toddler daily. She let go the feeling of defeat and began to focus on being ready to put in the hard work she knew would be required to get where she wanted to be physically.

With surgery not being an option for her, she went back to her friends at TPT in Easton. She was hopeful that they would be able to help her like before. Brian Meilke, DPT, assessed her and created a Plan of Care that would allow Mary Ann to strengthen her left leg, but this time strengthen her leg for a meniscus tear, which provides for different elements than if being treated for an ACL-replacement. The whole TPT team encouraged her. With consistent appointments at the clinic and being committed to completing at home exercises, she was able to significantly increase the range of motion in her left leg in just a few weeks! Mary Ann then began to exercise as she did before the injury, which then led her to lose almost thirty pounds.

Whatever it took, she knew her quality of life was going to improve with TPT’s help. However, to find success, Mary Ann knew she needed to reach the point of being able to make the mental commitment and go to her first appointment. Once she made the mental commitment to move forward, she knew a portion of the “hard work” was done. Mary Ann is extremely thankful for their encouragement and dedication she received from everyone at TPT, because with TPT, she was able to get physically where she wanted to be.