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Mike Willhelm

New York, NY
  • Mike Willhelm in the photo 1

The wonders of medicine and tissue donation are mind boggling and amazing - with a lot of great physical therapy and determination. I tore my ACL late season skiing in Switzerland. The snow was heavy and wet, and I just took a bad turn on a switchback. Kind of a dumb move with consequences.

I was referred to HSS and Dr. MacGillivray who was very confident that he could fix my ACL and have me up and running in no time. Seemed logical and possible. He advised me on the various approaches to replacing my ACL and we decided to use a donor tendon, which ended up being an Achilles tendon.

The surgery itself was easy, but hurt like xxxx. In my mind that day and the next, I thought for sure I wasn't going to walk again, much less anything else. After a day of getting my head around it, I started figuring out how to make progress. I had a race three months later to aim for, plus biking events and skiing plans. The next week I started physical therapy at Spear with a great group of PTs. I laid out my goals - and their goals - which they all said was fairly aggressive, even for my age.

I learned a lot of physical therapy, not just about the stretching and bending of the muscles and tendons to get them moving and ignited again, but also about strength training, and building up strength to do the things I want to do. After a month, I started running again - albeit just a bit to get my mind into it. I eventually built up to 5-7 miles over the course of 6 months.

This past winter with all the snow out west, we hit the ski slopes a couple of times - which was about 9 months after surgery. The first run down I skied very timidly, the second run was a bit less timid but still thought about my knee the entire run. After two runs, I thought to myself "You need to get over this and move on. Just ski as though you had never torn your ACL or had reparative surgery." After this, it was awesome! Just skied whatever, whenever, however - got back on the moguls and carved right through them. I went back a couple of weeks later and skied in the best powder ever - again just skiing as though nothing had happened - and it was awesome and breathtaking. All throughout, the knee stayed on!

There's more adventures and sports to conquer! Thank you HSS, Dr. MacGillivray, your team, and Spear. I couldn't have done it without you all.

(Photo: Park City, UT)