Cathy used to be a distance cyclist and long-haul downhill snow skier who knew the French, Austrian, German, and Italian Alps very well. She took a fall from a ladder in October 2012 and knew immediately that it was bad; but she also knew she was in good hands with Dr. David Griffin, who was the trauma surgeon on call at the ER that night. Both legs were injured in the fall and she hoped the right leg was worse because she already knew her right knee needed replacement surgery. However, the end of her left tibia was crushed – a very serious injury which leaves many unable to walk again.
The day after Cathy’s injury, Dr. Griffin studied images and was satisfied with his planned course of action. After hours in the OR, Dr. Griffin sternly explained recovery instructions to Cathy and her husband: mostly staying in a wheelchair for 5 months, with NO weight-bearing physical therapy at all, not even standing – for five long months. Dr. Griffin said if she could stay off of her leg, there was a chance she’d be able to walk again. Cathy resolved to follow Dr. Griffin’s orders and her husband rented a wheelchair. He also bought her a shower chair, and other friends provided another wheelchair.
At her 2-week post-surgery checkup, Dr. Griffin reviewed x-rays with Cathy and confirmed that she indeed had already needed knee replacements for both knees, even before her fall. Dr. Griffin said they could discuss that again in 2 years; but for now, Cathy had a recovery plan that would require a lot of time, therapy, persistence, and patience. She and her husband both got on board with Dr. Griffin’s plan.
Cathy learned to prepare meals from her wheelchair. After 5 months, she could stand up to go to the bathroom (without “hopping” herself out of the wheelchair). She started limited walking inside the house. By summer, she used a cane to walk the 100+ feet to their mailbox and started going to the grocery alone. Cathy’s family medical professionals in other states felt hers was a wildly successful recovery and were amazed to see her walking at the family reunion in July.
After waiting 3 years, Cathy’s knee pain became challenging; but Cathy learned that Dr. Griffin had moved his practice to Florida. She started researching knee surgeons all over again and actually considered going to Florida to see Dr. Griffin. After another year, Cathy’s knee pain was increasing and she decided to go to TOC and request an appointment with another knee surgeon. Cathy was still on record as Dr. Griffin’s patient and the scheduler informed her that Dr. Griffin was back from Florida! He was working in trauma, however – not as a knee specialist. Nevertheless, she got an appointment and asked him if he would replace her knees. Dr. Griffin remembered Cathy’s tricky crushed tibia surgery and all the metal braces he had put in place in 2012, and he agreed.
In January 2017, Cathy followed instructions for preparations for her right knee replacement – it was done without a hitch. She studied the PT instructions during her 3 days in the hospital and soon realized after returning home, that she could manage the PT. Having been a Candy Striper, and also having managed 2 nursing schools professionally, Cathy could take her own vitals and managed her Lovenox injections easily. Dr. Griffin had done such a fine job that almost no pain medications were needed. After 10 days (with Dr. Griffin’s permission to drive), Cathy again drove to her PT sessions. Weeks later when she was about to be released from PT, she took pictures of the equipment her therapist had regularly used, and found similar machines at her gym on Redstone Arsenal in order to continue exercising after PT ended.
That PT prep and continued exercising proved most helpful when Cathy’s left knee was replaced in September that same year. This time Dr. Griffin carefully made 2 incisions: first to remove the metal he had meticulously put in place to repair the crushed tibia in 2012; and the second incision to replace the left knee. Dr. Griffin asked Cathy to arrange for her husband to take photos of her red and swollen left leg every day. She then sent Dr. Griffin the pictures and circumference measurements as instructed every day for 2+ months. These were the moments when Cathy and her husband again realized Dr. Griffin was superior among surgeons.
Cathy is happy to be walking, if usually with a cane, but she’s mostly free of pain. Amid the craziness of 2020, Cathy’s husband took her to Nashville to buy a professional Precor recumbent bicycle to keep muscles toned when gyms closed. At her annual checkup with Dr. Griffin, he thought this would be wise.
If Cathy ever needs surgery again, she hopes she can return to Dr. David Griffin; she knows him to be the best! Dr. Griffin provides clear instructions and makes sure they are being followed at every follow-up appointment. He stays on top of his patients’ progress indefinitely – her next annual follow-up will be March 2021. Cathy hopes Griffin stays in Huntsville and never retires within her lifetime.
Back in 2012 Cathy knew Dr. Griffin was special as she sat in his waiting room and she met two of Dr. Griffin’s other patients. One had flown in from California for his follow-up appointment, and the other lived in Florida. “I’ve never known any doctor with such a grand following – like me, these patients didn’t want any other surgeon either. He is that good,” says Cathy.
Dr. David Griffin is a member of The Orthopaedic Center Trauma Team and Joint Replacement Team. He is board-certified in orthopaedic surgery and has completed fellowship training in orthopaedic hip and pelvis replacement and reconstruction. His goal is to provide comprehensive care for severe injuries. Dr. Griffin offers trauma care in a timely and appropriate fashion to increase the potential for significant recovery. His patients always receive a detailed explanation of procedures in order to ease their concerns.
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