It takes a lot to slow down 38-year-old Amy Hafensteiner. A skilled water skier, runner and former D1 athlete, this mom of three young children was forced to do just that after she tore her meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a fall while skiing with her family. After digging deep into research about treatment options and consulting orthopedic surgeon Dr. Joseph DeAngelis of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, she chose the BEAR Implant because she wanted a treatment that would allow her body to heal itself.
We spoke to Amy and Dr. DeAngelis about Amy’s journey before and after her surgery.
Q: How did you tear your ACL?
Amy: I was skiing with my family. My 5-year-old son was still learning how to ski, so he was between my legs, and the snow was unusually icy. It didn’t feel safe, so I tried to stop. In an effort to protect my son as we were falling, I twisted my knee and knew right away something was wrong.
Having a torn ACL made me feel like my leg was bending backward. It was awful, and I didn’t want to wait any longer than necessary, so I kept calling for an MRI appointment. After I was diagnosed, a physician assistant immediately began proposing ACL reconstruction and didn’t even mention any other possibilities.
Q: How did you learn about the BEAR Implant? What made it the right choice for you?
Amy: I found out about the BEAR Implant through my own research and discussed it with a number of doctors and my sister-in-law, who is a doctor of physical therapy in sports medicine. I wanted to make sure I was making the right choice, with the right doctor. Dr. DeAngelis respected the research I had done and understood my goal of returning to sports, not just regular life. I could tell the BEAR Implant was something he believed in, so it didn’t feel like I was venturing into the unknown. I trust the FDA approval process, and I know there’s a lot of research conducted to secure that approval. I thought the BEAR Implant was the best choice for me because it appeared to be the only option that offered a full recovery without a graft.
Q. What did your family and friends think about you getting the BEAR Implant?
Amy: My friends and family know that I do my research, so I think they trusted that. But when my parents and mother-in-law saw me make the decision to choose something new to the market, I think it was enlightening. It was a reminder that there are new ways of doing things, and the old ways aren’t always the best.
Q: Why was Amy a good candidate for the BEAR Implant?
Dr. DeAngelis: Amy is an avid athlete and is very active with her family. For her, an ACL repair using the BEAR Implant was an opportunity to get back to her active lifestyle while minimizing the long-term risks to her knee. She had read and understood the science, and she was enthusiastic about the practical application of medical knowledge.
Q: Can you tell us about your rehab experience?
Amy: I’ve been very pleased with my physical therapy experience. A lot of people don’t fully understand the importance of the physical therapy piece of the puzzle, but it’s so important. My therapist worked closely with my doctor to ensure I was following the correct protocol. The first six months were the most critical. The hardest part for me was keeping my legs straight and not moving—which is not easy when you’re a mom of three active kids! The recovery process also involves a lot of mind over matter. There is certainly a mental load. I had to tell myself: “I’m going to be in pain for the next week and I have to figure out how to manage it.” Breaking my recovery down in pieces actually helped me to stay focused.
Dr. DeAngelis: In my opinion, Amy’s recovery was uneventful because she was well prepared going into surgery. She understood the plan and had realistic expectations of herself and her knee. She did a great job of staying on the path to recovery.
Q: Can you tell us about the return to sport experience?
Amy: About three months post-surgery I started to run and was jogging regularly at about six months. I also did a lot of work with yoga and strength exercises. But I waited a year before I returned to skiing. When I skied again for the first time, I only attempted the bunny slopes. I had nothing to prove, so I took my time. I was very relieved when I got to the bottom of the hill – at that point it was more of an emotional and mental game. Just 14 months later, I am skiing down from the summit on the blue and green trails.
I never considered not returning to sports. An ACL injury doesn’t have to be the end of physical activity. While not all athletes have the patience to return gradually, I wasn’t in a rush because I know the body takes time to heal. At one year, I was back to 100%. I can run for 30 minutes, I participate in yoga three times a week, take long hikes and play soccer and basketball with my kids. This summer I plan to get back to my first love of slalom water skiing. I rarely even think about my BEAR knee now, so that’s a good sign!
Dr. DeAngelis: For smart, motivated patients like Amy, the BEAR Implant process is well described and produces a reliable and predictable result – a return to sports at 9-12 months with a healed ACL.
Q. What have you learned through this whole process?
Amy: The past year has really shown me how hard some things are for people with physical challenges. As a human resources leader, I have a newfound empathy and perspective for people who have permanent or temporary disabilities. I also realized that there are a lot of people who don’t really understand how hard it is to get FDA approval. If this is an FDA-approved device, then I trust it. But some people are still suspicious because they may not understand how much is involved in the approval process.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
Amy: I’ll tell you one thing: I’m not going to give up on myself. I’m an active mom with athletic kids and I’m not willing to sit on the sidelines. I plan to be running around Disney World with my grandchildren and great grandchildren someday. I don’t want anything to hold me back. For me, the BEAR Implant is the way to go for people who want to be physically active, long term.
Learn more about the BEAR Implant and find a surgeon
The BEAR Implant from Miach Orthopaedics was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2020. It is indicated for skeletally mature patients at least 14 years of age with a complete rupture of the ACL confirmed by MRI. Patients must have an ACL stump attached to the tibia to facilitate the restoration.
It is important to follow the BEAR Implant physical therapy program. Your surgeon can explain the program details.
Be sure to discuss your individual symptoms, diagnosis and treatment with your surgeon. The BEAR Implant has the same potential medical/surgical complications as other orthopedic surgical procedures, including ACL reconstruction. These include the risk of re-tear, infection, knee pain, meniscus injury and limited range of motion.
Visit www.miachortho.com for complete product information, including Instructions for Use.
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