Avery Claire Carnahan
All Star Cheerleader
On August 8th, 2019 while tumbling trying a new skill during choreography week, I landed horribly wrong. As a result I broke my right femoral condyle and tibial plateau (kissing fractures they called it) and tore my MCL and attenuated my ACL. I strictly followed my physician's orders post-injury but continued to have lots of pain. My recovery was lengthy and frustrating as I was ready to get back to tumbling. I was a level 5 tumbler and I was in training as a new All-Star season for me had just begun. Unfortunately I had to have surgery (orthoscopic, lateral retinacular release, cartilage repair and fat pad resection) in March of 2020 because of continued issues. I was hopeful and again followed the medical plan. I was eventually released back to tumbling after fully completing my recovery. I was never pain-free. When I told my physician he informed me that the pain could take a year to fully resolve so I trusted him and carried on. I was still frustrated because I missed out on a full season of All-Star Cheer because of the initial injury and now an additional season due to surgery. That is 2 years with no cheer! I was devastated as I absolutely love cheerleading. I was an elite athlete at my D2 gym and I was seeking a D1 gym to continue my cheer career. I started back tumbling in the Fall of 2020 with a new team at my dream gym. I left my Louisiana gym and joined another in Houston. Unfortunately I continued to struggle and decided to seek a second medical opinion in Houston. After researching sports medicine doctors, we made an appointment and was seen. Again, repeat scans were done and I was diagnosed with patella alta, Hoffa's disease with impingement syndrome. I am the youngest patient to have the cryoanalgesia procedure done on them and it was a total failure. I then was scheduled for my second right knee surgery. The first was in my hometown in Louisiana and the second in Houston. I was very sad and further frustrated when I was told this was simply growing pains. I am 5 feet and I have not grown since 5th grade. I have been fused for years. When I asked questions about the pending second surgery I was told that they were going to scope my knee. I have been reading about my diagnosis and researching online and I read about tibial tubercle osteotomy (TTO). When my mom and I asked the physician in Houston about this procedure they stated that they did not feel comfortable performing it on someone so young. I was devastated and lost hope at that point. I now have had failed recovery, failed surgery, failed procedure and I felt that the only thing that would help me was a TTO. At this point I was no longer cheering or tumbling. I had to quit my HS Cheer team and I stopped going to my All-Star gym as I was in so much pain.
We left Houston and decided at that time to continue our search for help. We researched online for answers. We read articles and watched videos of this type of operation. Time and time again Dr. Sabrina Strickland's name kept populating our searches. I watched the video of a young dancer who had similar knee problems like me and she had the TTO with distalization surgery and recovered well and was able to return to dancing. I ran to my mom and showed her this video. She then began to research Dr. Strickland fully as my mom is a RN. My mom called and spoke with the staff at Dr. Strickland's office and send all my scans and reports to her. She agreed to see me.
For Christmas my parents surprised me with tickets to see my favorite sports team - the NEW YORK YANKEES! I have been a fan of them since I was in the 5th grade. I am obsessed or at least that is what my parents say. We had tickets to see them in May. So my mother called and made an appointment to see Dr. Strickland while we were in NY. Our first meeting with Dr. Strickland went great! We were so happy to finally be able to meet and visit with her and tell her my knee story in detail. She said she could help me and it was decided to travel back to NY from Louisiana in one month to have a TTO with distalization on my right knee. FINALLY we have a plan. Dr. Strickland connected all the missing dots for us. She explained it well and helped us understand why I was not healing and why I was continuing to suffer.
Let me explain to you what the past 2 years of my life has been like. I copied this from My mom's Facebook page as she can explain it much better than I can:
“Chronic pain clearly affects the body, but it also affects emotions, relationships, and the mind. It can make you angry. It can cause anxiety and depression which, in turn, can make the pain worse. She has suffered. She has changed as chronic pain robs you of the joys of life. It changed her life dream trajectory. On the last day of school I asked Avery to reflect back on her Freshman year and she said, 'I had a difficult year. I lost friendships. I lost joy. I just only had the energy to make it through what I had to. My grades fell. I had nothing to give to anyone else. I was locked in. I had a few moments of happiness but mostly just pain. I am still mad this all happened!'
Those words broke my heart. If you offered encouragement and genuine support to Avery this past year we want to say thank you. If you silently forgave her for any shortcomings because you understand her and her daily struggle against pain we also say thank you. If her smile seemed forced and not genuine and yet you offered her a reassuring smile anyway we say thank you. If you supported her in her journey to dream chase we appreciate you as we knew this was most probably her only time to do this. As her next step will permanently end her tumbling career. If you did not then maybe now this post offers you deeper insight into her journey and is the next step to rebuilding relationships. On June 5th we journey back to New York. Our exhaustive research for answers kept leading us repeatedly to a physician who has dedicated her career to treating female athletes with patellofemoral issues. Avery will have her second knee surgery on her 15th birthday, June 7 - tibial tubercle osteotomy (TTO) with distalization of the tibial tubercle. This surgery has a long recovery (9 months), but we are hopeful that this surgery will alleviate her pain and her quality of life can be restored. We are hopeful that this will begin her journey of healing and end the struggle of pain. Once her knee heals then hopefully her heart will follow and we can put this all behind us. Billy and I have literally spent thousands and thousands in total on this injury. Life can change in a instant. Her instant was Thursday, August 8th, 2019."
So this is my story. We returned back to NY on July 5th because we went to see another Yankee baseball game. I was scheduled to have surgery on my 15th birthday, June 7th. I had a wonderful experience. The best moment was when I woke up in recovery room and I did NOT feel that pain that has crippled me for so long. In fact, I have not felt that pain since. Everyone was so nice to me, especially my nurse. I just love him. His name was Mr. Richard and he works on the pediatric floor. He was so kind to us. Do you know how many people sent me birthday cakes that day? Almos every department. Cakes kept showing up. It was the BEST! I know that my mom loved him too and was impressed at all the birthday celebrations the staff did for me. I saw her shed a few tears even though she tried to hide it from everyone. In fact, let me tell you more about my mom. She is a RN and has been one for a long time. She was so worried about all of this. She prayed a lot about this decision and I could see the worry on her face. I am my parent's only child and we are very close. I kept telling her it was going to be fine but I think she sees a lot of bad stuff happen. She is a worse case scenario thinker and it drives me crazy. But now I know that she is so thankful and happy that she took me to Dr. Strickland and to HSS. She is always telling people how amazing our experience was.
So, how am I today? Well, my recovery has been textbook. I am not in any pain. I am in PT and finally was able to be off crutches last week. My scar looks amazing and I am so excited to finally be pain-free. My mom says that I am a happier person. We went school shopping this past weekend and I could walk as much as I wanted. Before I was always sitting down and stopping a lot. I am so ready to get back to tumbling, but for now I am happy to keep achieving the goals set for me with therapy. My dream has always been to be on a All-Star World's team at Woodlands Elite. This is what I want more than anything. I am ready to get back to what I love. I AM READY!
Thank you HSS. I will NEVER every forget the kindness shown to me and I will never forget that I received so many birthday cakes on my 15th birthday.