OAA Patient Ambassador: Meet Elaine

February 01, 2017

Meet Elaine – a lifelong athlete, avid tennis player, and former Trexler Middle School English teacher. Now in retirement, Elaine devotes a significant amount of time to the sport of tennis. Whether playing the sport herself, volunteering as a Junior Camp Supervisor, or serving as the Board Secretary for the Oakmont Tennis Club, she can’t get enough of the game. Elaine’s tennis career started in middle school at Roosevelt Park in Allentown and continued through Allen High School and Moravian College, culminating in attaining USTA League Team Championships.

After losing her daughter to leukemia at age 6, the sport became an outlet for her angst and anger. Tennis became something she turned to for relief. “I love tennis because it gives me a viable medium to unleash my inner turmoil. Tennis has truly been a significant mainstay of my life and vitally uplifting for me,” Elaine said. As if losing her daughter wasn’t enough to bear, tragedy struck her and her family again, as her son’s health declined. Tennis also served her well during this stressful and painstaking time in her life.  Currently, his chronic ITP is stabilized.

Elaine’s dedication to tennis has not gone unnoticed. In 2007 she became a United States Tennis Association Middle States Champion and went on to compete at League Nationals in Indian Wells, California. In addition, she was awarded the United States Tennis Association/Middle States/Eastern Pennsylvania District Courage Award in 2014. She was awarded this honor for her support of tennis amidst the personal hardship she underwent during her son’s medical treatments. Most recently, she was awarded the Unsung Hero Award by Lehigh County in May 2016. This tribute recognizes citizens for their “exceptional generosity of time and talent to enhance the lives of others.”

Amidst significant life challenges, as well as the competition and recognition that Elaine has received from tennis, she has been kept in the game with the help of OAA Orthopaedic Specialists over the years. In 2004 she tore her meniscus. Having heard about Dr. Christopher Hawkins and the OAA Sports Medicine Institute from another tennis player, she sought out care from him. Dr. Hawkins is a sports medicine surgeon whose practice is dedicated to a variety of athletic injuries with a focus on injuries of the knee and shoulder. An athlete himself, Dr. Hawkins understands the importance of helping his patients return to their sport of choice as quickly and as safely as possible. He performed an arthroscopic surgery to help get Elaine back on the courts, and now, nearly thirteen years later, she has had no problem since.

In 2007 Elaine began experiencing pain in her knee, most noticeably when playing tennis or when getting in and out of cars. She returned to OAA and Dr. Hawkins, who told her that the cartilage in her knee was worn away from osteoarthritis. Dr. Hawkins referred Elaine to Dr. Paul Pollice, one of OAA’s total joint specialists who focuses exclusively on hip and knee replacements. Dr. Pollice and Elaine decided to try some conservative treatment options including cortisone injections and viscosupplementation before considering surgery.

These options helped get Elaine through her trip to United States Tennis Association’s League Nationals, and provided her with several months of relief from her arthritic knee pain. “Finally, one day my knee locked on the court in the middle of a match and I had to walk like a peg-leg pirate. I then knew that I needed a knee replacement.  The surgery was performed on December 15, 2008, and I have had no trouble since and I have no regrets whatsoever. In fact, I wish I had done it sooner,” Elaine recalled.

Elaine was pain and injury free for quite some time, until, one day, she went for a backhand lob during a tennis match and injured her shoulder. She knew her injury was serious, as it was very painful. However, Elaine also knew that if she went to OAA, they would probably have her refrain from tennis for a period of time. As a result, she played through the pain and used a brace. Eventually, Elaine went back to Dr. Hawkins, who informed her that her MRI indicated that she completely tore her rotator cuff and would need arthroscopic surgery. On November 19, 2015, Dr. Hawkins reattached Elaine’s rotator cuff with three plastic screws, but also shared what to Elaine was devastating news – no tennis for six months and no serving for one year until her shoulder was rehabilitated.

Surgical skill played a big role in Elaine’s comebacks, but so did her devotion to her physical therapy regiments. Elaine offered this advice: “after surgery it certainly helps if you have some motivation or goal, like returning to tennis, to keep you focused. There are times when you become really, really tired of the exercises, especially as the amount increases. I was back playing tennis three months after my total knee replacement and cut my six months restriction from tennis to four and a half following my rotator cuff repair because I was determined to get back on the court as quickly as possible.”
 
For some, sports or hobbies can be more than just a way to pass the time. Elaine is a prime example of someone who views a “game” as much more than a game. Elaine has defeated adversity time and time again, and, through it all, tennis was there to help her overcome any obstacle life threw at her. OAA is happy to have helped her stay in the game!   
 

Do you or a loved one have a similar story? Share your story with us, and you could be next month's patient ambassador! 
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