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Danielle Leahey

Middletown, NJ
  • Danielle Leahey in the photo 1
  • Danielle Leahey in the photo 2
  • Danielle Leahey in the photo 3
  • Danielle Leahey in the photo 4
  • Danielle Leahey in the photo 5
  • Danielle Leahey in the photo 6
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In 7th grade I participated in basketball, softball, and was on a competitive dance team. One day during dance class my knee subluxed and I was in a lot of pain. I told my mom and she said she would make a doctor’s appointment. My mom never made an appointment, but I never had an issue after that. I continued dancing after my knee subluxed because competition was coming up. I competed and our dances did very well!

In 2014 I was starting my 8th grade year, I decided to give up basketball and softball to be in more dance routines. I was in 5 dances and danced 5 days a week for about 3 hours a day. Dancing became my life. It was October 11, 2014 when I dislocated my right knee. I was dancing with my sister and our friend in my living room. We were doing a dance move called a floor leap; you are sitting with one leg straight and one leg bent and you push off the floor and suppose to stand. When I did the floor leap, in mid air, my knee popped out of place and I landed back on the floor. I was in shock. I was laughing and crying because I had no idea what just happened. I kept telling my sister, “my knee is not in the right place!” My sister got my dad and he relocated my knee and the following day I went to the hospital. My mom then scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic doctor and he told me 4 months of therapy. He wasn’t even sure if I could go back to dancing, but I returned in February!

Competition was in April, I had to relearn all 5 dances. On March 20, 2015 I was at my dance studio going through our big group routine. I had to go from one side of the room to the other and I was always late. I had to speed it up my transitioning for the routine and when I did I placed my left leg and my knee popped out. Lucky when I hit the floor it popped back in. I was in pain and I was so devastated. I called my dad and he brought me home. The next day I was brought to the hospital and my mom called to make a doctor's appointment. My doctor realized something was wrong and he transferred me to the surgeon he works with. I was nervous to have a new doctor especially since he was a surgeon. The surgeon sent me to physical therapy, but this time my knee kept dislocating. My surgeon informed me that I have patella alta and trochlear dysplasia, that was the reason why it kept dislocating. We scheduled an MPFL reconstruction for December 30, 2015.

I had the surgery and I thought it went well. I noticed, however, that my kneecap was moving the same amount as before. I did 4 months of therapy and my surgeon discharged me. I did not want to go back to dance, however, I was frightened that it will happen again. I joined the girls tennis team and the coach put me at first doubles.

During the summer we practiced and my knees were in so much pain. I told my mom I need another doctor’s appointment. The surgeon told me I have PFPS (patellofemoral pain syndrome) also known as chondromalacia. He gave me two knee braces and told me to do physical therapy during my tennis season. It was a lot for my knees to handle. The pain got really bad. I had to leave the courts a couple of times and sometimes even cried. My doctor said to cut down on the sports and sit out. I could not do that because we did not have any backup players. At the end of my season I was in more pain than before I started so my surgeon said he cannot help me anymore and I need to see a patellofemoral specialist. He gave me two names, but suggest Dr. Shubin Stein because he knew about her work. He said she was so good that she might have a waitlist. My mom called the next day and no waitlist! My mom was not thrilled about the office being in New York because of New York traffic, but I loved the idea! I was excited to have a female doctor (I never had one, not even my pediatrician), to be in New York, and to have the knees of a kid again!

I was scared to meet Dr. Shubin Stein at first because she was my third doctor. I wanted to be done with my knee issues. When I walked in everyone was so welcoming! I was really nervous when Dr Shubin Stein came in, but she was very reassuring. She asked me to get a new MRI, and a physical therapy evaluation. The next appointment she told me I tore the graft my previous surgeon put in and said it was misplaced. My mom and I were shocked! Dr Shubin Stein then said that both my knees needed surgery and we agreed that a MPFL reconstruction and a tibial tubercle transfer was the best fit.

I had the MPFL reconstruction and TTT on my left knee on July 7, 2017. I had it done on my right on November 17, 2017. I remember both days very well! My first surgery with Dr. Shubin Stein I was scared even though I had surgery before. It was my first surgery with her and I only had two-three appointments before then. Dr. Shubin Stein could tell I was nervous because she tried to take my mind off of it. She said that I could have personally asked her if I would be back to tennis in time instead of asking over the HSS Facebook Live she participated in. It made me laugh and smile. Both times Dr. Shubin Stein made me feel relaxed and confident about surgery.

The recovery part about surgery, however, was not easy! There was a lot of pain with physical therapy and a lot of disappointments. It was a struggle to stay motivated, but I did. Of course there were times when I wanted to give up, but I knew that in the end I would love the results. I began to document my recovery and I put it into a video.

I also made an Instagram account just about my recovery. Each day I would update about how my knees were doing. I would update about my appointments and how everything went. I included all the ups and downs that I faced as well. Through my account I met so many people who had the same surgery and issue! I started decorating my crutches and braces to try to cheer me up. I put my username (ReturnToTheGame) on my brace and the pockets of my crutches. It was something to remind me to never give up and to remember what my goal is. Everyone at the office loved my bedazzled crutches and glittery braces. They also loved my “patella squad” shirt that me and the other people, who went through the same surgery as I, created. The doctor appointments were the best and most of them were even funny! I have so many awesome stories from the appointments. Dr Shubin Stein was always nice, she listened, and made me laugh. Sarah, Simone, and all the nurses made each appointment even better! The truth is, I was that annoying patient that wondered when she could run, dance, play tennis, go rock climbing, etc... Dr. Shubin Stein’s answers were hilarious. (“That’s a hard no”)

There were a lot of bumps in the road to recovery, but I am proud of the outcome. I am finally back to running, dancing, and playing tennis! It was a hard recovery, but totally worth it! I learned so much throughout my four year recovery and I am just beyond happy! I will always remember the day I was told that I could run again! It was the best day of my life! I have so many stories and lessons to tell because of my journey. Thank you so much Dr. Shubin Stein you are the best doctor ever!

Now I am going off to college next year with a major in biomedical engineering/biology following the pre-med track. I hope to be an orthopedic surgeon with a fellowship in sports medicine and/or trauma. In college I plan to do research on patellofemoral disorders and patellar instability. Through my research I strive to create a new procedure to fix patellar instability. I hope one day I can work alongside Dr. Shubin Stein.