‘A Walk in the Park’: Patient, 85, Grateful for Surgeon at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care Who Ended Her Decade of Pain from Deformed Knee 

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September 13, 2022


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Carlyn Vanover-Hacker, 85, spent nearly 12 years with pain from a badly fractured leg, resulting in a lack of mobility that slowed her down considerably in retirement. A resident of Lehigh Acres in Florida, a community east of Fort Myers, Ms. Vanover-Hacker recalls falling and breaking both bones in her leg in March 2010, and then enduring the surgical implant of a titanium rod. Eight months later, she fell again at home.

“They said the titanium rod had broken and they would have to redo the surgery,” she said. “So, they redid the surgery. They put me in a wheelchair for four months. Then they said I could start walking. Well, that’s when the problems really began because my leg was crooked.”

The deformity that developed did not improve and non-surgical follow-ups didn’t help her condition. Her healthcare team at the time offered little hope.

(Watch video: Hear from patient Carlyn Vanover-Hacker, 85, and Charles M. Lawrie, M.D., a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care. Video by Steven Pipho.)


“The doctor that did the last surgery said all the doctors in his office could not correct my leg,” says Ms. Vanover-Hacker. “It was crooked and there was nothing to be done. So, as time went on, I had to have my shoe built up every year because my leg kept advancing further out. And I used a cane, I used a walking stick and I took shots. I did everything all these years, but I still had the pain.”

Last year, she met a physician in Fort Myers who assured her there was an orthopedic surgeon in South Florida who could help her. Today, she is very grateful for the referral that led her in January to Charles M. Lawrie, M.D., a board-certified, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.

“Carlyn came to me with a fairly complex problem with her knee,” explains Dr. Lawrie. “She had a previous injury, a fracture of her tibial plateau, the bottom part of the knee joint, several years prior. She had undergone previous multiple surgeries to try to correct the fracture. And, unfortunately, what she was left with was a fairly deformed knee with pretty severe arthritis. It was really limiting her ability to do the activities that she enjoys in her life.”

It is not uncommon for complex orthopedic fractures to require follow-up surgeries, he said. That includes the development of arthritis.

“Unfortunately, a lot of orthopedic injuries, no matter how well they’re treated initially, can go on to needing subsequent surgery,” said Dr. Lawrie. “In Carlyn’s case, she sustained a fracture of her tibial plateau that involved the cartilage surface of the joint. And, oftentimes, no matter how well that is put back together, even if the pieces are all put back in the correct place, the cartilage surface has taken such a hit from the impact of the injury that, over time, arthritis develops in that knee.”

A knee that’s been previously injured and has developed “post-traumatic arthritis” has mainly one solution – joint replacement surgery, he said.  “In her case, that joint replacement surgery is more complex than, say, a standard run-of-the-mill knee replacement surgery. One, because of the deformity she developed. And two, because of the presence of previous orthopedic hardware — in her case, plated screws on the side of her tibia.”

Despite the many challenges of her joint replacement surgery, her recovery has been remarkable, said Dr. Lawrie.

“From a surgical standpoint, her case was fairly complex, requiring removal of part of her plate and screws to accommodate the knee replacement implant,” he said. “I was very pleased with everything in surgery and the end result. She’s had quite a remarkable functional recovery, and I’ve been impressed with how hard she’s worked with physical therapy to really get back to where she is today.”

Ms. Vanover-Hacker said she is finally pain free and able to enjoy retirement. 

“Well, I went in one night, and he did the surgery the next morning, and came home that night. It’s been a walk in the park. I have no pain. Nobody can believe I’ve had the surgery. They want to see the scar, but this scar is so tiny. They can hardly see it. And I just thank the Lord every morning when I get up. Thank you Lord. And thank you, Dr. Lawrie, for giving me a new life.”

To learn more about Baptist Health Orthopedic Care, please visit BaptistHealth.net/Ortho or call 833-556-6764.

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