Getting to the Heart of What Matters Most…Penguins

One surgery helped this patient reach her travel goal of walking with the penguins

Written by: Lauryn Feil

Have you ever had a conversation about your goals and aspirations or maybe about the people and things you care about most? Sure, maybe with your best friends or your family but never your doctor, right? We are here to change that. The Musculoskeletal Institute and other clinical practices at UT Health Austin are getting to the heart of what matters most to their patients because, well for one, it goes without saying but our clinicians really care, and two, when you know a person’s motivations and goals you can tailor their treatment plan to help them get exactly where they want to be, and for us that’s a measure of success. For Musculoskeletal patient, Cindy, her story is a prime example of a treatment plan that helped her get exactly where she wanted to be… surrounded by over 700,000 Antarctic penguins.

Cindy is a retired registered nurse, she lives in Georgetown with her husband David and they, more specifically she (Cindy jokes that David is just along for the ride), crave adventure. They’ve been to over 100 countries and all seven continents with the exception of one, Antarctica. Antarctica has been on her bucket list for years, so when her right knee, which underwent a full joint replacement in 2009, started giving her issues again, she knew she needed to do something about it in order to fulfill her goal of walking with the penguins.

“After I retired, I got my first knee replaced in 2006 followed by my second knee replaced in 2009. Both knees recovered great and that’s really when we started traveling more. I’ve stayed pretty active, I like to walk, hike and swim and be able to take tours around the places we visit. But a few years ago I started experiencing instability in my second, newer knee replacement. It would swell up real painfully and just give out on me to where I couldn’t hold myself up,” she says.

Cindy had both of her knee replacements done by a local Austin orthopedic surgeon but when she called the practice to make an appointment she was informed that her doctor was no longer there. “I was explaining the issues I was having and they mentioned that I may want to visit someone who has a lot of experience with correcting previous knee replacements and that’s when they referred me to Dr. Kevin Bozic,” she says. After doing her research she decided to make an appointment.

Cindy met with her care team and because Cindy is young and active and her x-rays and CT scans didn’t show any sign of actual joint failure, they initially decided to take a conservative, non-invasive approach to her knee issues. However, after some time, nothing seemed to work. “The first six months we explored non-invasive treatments, like bracing and other tests they suggested, which I was on board for, but after a few visits, we decided that since I wasn’t finding relief, and it was still impacting my lifestyle, the best option would be to move forward with surgery. I really just wanted to get back to doing things and traveling again,” Cindy explains.

They scheduled surgery for January 2018. During surgery Dr. Bozic found that Cindy’s ligaments in her knee were completely torn, which explained her pain and lack of stability. He was able to replace the top portion of her knee replacement with a different type of implant to allow for enhanced stability due to her lack of ligaments. After her surgery Cindy already noticed a difference. “I was out of the hospital within 24 hours, it was amazing. The pain control and recovery was totally different than my first two knee surgeries. My rehab also went quickly, and after six weeks I was in pretty good shape, which I didn’t expect,” she says.

Fortunately, everything went great during Cindy’s recovery and after a few post-op visits Dr. Bozic cleared her for normal activity and that’s when she decided she was ready to finally plan her big trip. “I remember telling Dr. Bozic that one of the biggest reasons why I wanted this surgery was so that I could be in good shape to go on this expedition where you have to get in and out of a small zodiac boat, climb into the water and walk along rocky beaches. So stability was obviously going to be an important thing,” says Cindy.

In December 2018 Cindy and her husband finally made it down to the southern-most tip of South America where they took a small boat over the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island. “It was great to have the year to focus on gaining my strength back and to get comfortable walking to prepare for the trip. When the trip finally came, we spent three weeks down there and I able to go on the hikes, one of which was a pretty steep two mile hike, and I was able to do and see everything there was to see,” she exclaims. Cindy saw seven different types of penguins, along with seals, dolphins, whales and other wildlife native to the area. “It was such an awesome experience. I just couldn’t wait to tell Dr. Bozic about it and thank him for helping make it possible for me to go,” she says.

When your doctor’s care about where you want to go, may that be Antarctica or maybe just a walk in the park with your dog, your healthcare and treatment means more to everyone involved. It means that your team is in this with you; their goal is to help you reach your goals. When you ask Cindy about her experience at UT Health Austin, she says she has never had a team that communicated so well with her before. “I was really impressed with the communication between him and his team. It’s also so nice that they take the time to really sit and talk with you. Everyone is so friendly and I really appreciated that along with the interdisciplinary approach.” So yeah, it matters, because you matter, and the way our clinicians approach your treatment makes a difference.

Cindy and her husband are now planning their next trip - a relaxing cruise around Portugal, Spain and Ireland – and we are sure it won’t be their last adventure. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as they always say, but sometimes you need a little help from an experienced orthopedic team to get you there.

About UT Health Austin

UT Health Austin, the group practice designed and managed by the faculty and staff of the Dell Medical School, focuses the expertise of a team of experienced medical professionals to deliver personalized, whole-person care of uncompromising quality. Our experienced healthcare professionals treat each patient as an individual, with unique circumstances, priorities and beliefs. Working with you, your care team creates an individualized care plan to help you reach the goals that matter most to you — in the care room, and beyond. For more information, call us at 1-833-UT-CARES or request an appointment here.