Paulette Gangemi

I just wanted to take a moment and share my story and wonderful experience with The Women’s Sports Medicine Center and Doctor Sabrina Strickland at Hospital for Special Surgery.

As you can see, I am not “local” to NYC. It is an effort to come to Manhattan, but the effort it well worth it.

I have had a lifetime of knee problems starting with a patella dislocation at age 14. In spite of repeated dislocations and unsuccessful surgeries I still managed to ski race in college in Vermont, Rock Climb, Backpack and competitive cycle and mountain bike. Recently in the past 5 years, as I approached 40 years old, I noticed I was unable to do basic life activities and athletics. It was a slow progression to inactivity and very upsetting. Other orthopedic surgeons told me to “stop all activity to preserve the joint” and I was truly at a low point. I was planning on training to become a volunteer ski patroller at a local mountain in PA and after seeing non-HSS physicians this goal seemed so far past my capabilities I had almost given up hope. I decided I was going to do everything possible to remain as active as I could, so I started researching HSS. (Best reputation in the world for Orthopedics, so I thought why not, I have nothing to lose)

I made a list of qualities I wanted in a doctor. I preferred a female surgeon, because I felt they may understand my situation better, I wanted a doctor who skied and understood the “skiing culture” and a doctor who went to a top university and specialized in knee instability. Honestly, I had low hopes of finding anyone who fit that description, until I read Sabrina Strickland’s profile.

My first appointment with Dr. Strickland was totally different then the lifetime of appointments I have had with other surgeons. She took the time to get to know me, my history and what I wanted to do, she understood skiing, that I was an educated patient and motivated. Dr. Strickland made me feel like it was possible to train hard, patrol and prepare for an MPFL reconstruction after ski season.

She ordered custom knee braces which were immediately helpful, ordered PT and monitored my situation closely. I was able to train, get very strong and become a Volunteer Ski Patroller that next season. I had a very successful first season patrolling and recently had the MPFL reconstruction.

Even at 2 weeks post op I could see the difference in where my patella is and how it tracks in my knee. I am now 3 1/2 years out of surgery, passed my Ski Patrol toboggan test (transport) 2 years ago and am more functional than I ever thought possible.

The entire experience at HSS was positive and singularly focused on getting me back to sports. I cannot thank HSS and Dr. Sabrina Strickland enough for giving me my life back and continuing with follow-up care so that I may realize my full potential.

Beth Shubin SteinPaulette Gangemi
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Maureen Suhr

Since adolescence, I have had knee pain and subluxation and many knee surgeries. Knee pain was a part of my life for over twenty years, but it became increasingly worse to the point where I had episodes of significant swelling every other week. It began interfering with my work, my commute, and limited my activities with my family. I was directed to Dr. Shubin Stein who recommended surgery to improve the alignment and stability of my patella while decreasing the stresses placed on it. When we first met, Dr. Shubin Stein told me that she couldn’t make me pain-free but she would make me feel better. I reluctantly agreed to surgery. I underwent a tibial tubercle osteotomy, medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction, and De Novo cartilage graft.

It was a long road to recovery. I spent many hours working on my range of motion and strength in physical therapy. My therapists, Glen Rowell, PT of BiCounty Physical Therapy (an HSS Rehabilitation Network Member) and Theresa Chiaia, PT at HSS were an invaluable support system.

Dr. Shubin Stein told me that she would make me feel better but I never anticipated the end result. I feel AMAZING! My knee is better than it was twenty years ago! The experience has been life changing for me. I climbed Mt Crested Butte, elevation 12,162′ and I had no pain. I am a fun mom now! Over the winter I was able to run through the snow and sled and snowmobile with my two young boys. This summer we went to the ocean and jumped over the waves for hours. There is nothing better than hearing my children squeal with laughter as we play tag and chase each other across the yard! I wake up in the morning and I have no pain. I wish I could put that feeling into words but I can’t describe it. Finally, I am IN the game!

Beth Shubin SteinMaureen Suhr
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Laura Carhart

I am 27 years old. A few years ago my knee cap was on the left side of my knee and half of my cartilage was gone on the right side of my knee. So my doctor down here told me he could not do it and he sent me up to HSS see Dr. Shubin Stein. She looked at my knee and told me I would need surgery. On April 24th, I had the surgery. Now I feel great walking without crutches, just the brace. She is the best doctor for knee surgery. I thought I would not be walking around without the crutches this soon. It’s been two months and I see her a few times a month. Down the road, she wants to my right knee. I am happy with the surgery and recovery. Thank you so much, Dr. Beth Shubin Stein. You are the best doctor I could ask for.

Beth Shubin SteinLaura Carhart
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Viviana Denig

I’m a runner for over 20 years and after I ran the 2011 NYC Half Marathon, I started feeling some discomfort in my right knee, but I did not put too much attention. I went to see an orthopedic MD in Astoria and after an MRI and x-rays, he told me that my days as a runner were over, and that was one of the worst feelings that I ever experienced in my life. To know that running was over for me, I got depressed. After a few months, I decided to go for a second opinion and I found Dr. Howard Rose at HSS. He ordered a new MRI. He started a series of cortisone injections that helped with the pain, but still, I was not able to run. So, in a follow-up visit, he told me that I was a perfect candidate for Dr. Beth Shubin Stein. He referred me to her and since the first visit, I knew that she was the one that could help me. Dr. Shubin Stein and her great team were really honest and straight forward with me and she proposed and explained a procedure that can put me “back in the game.” I agreed to do the surgery called Tibial Tubercle Transfer with Denovo implant, which was performed in 12/2012. After a year of the surgery I was running again and after almost 2 years, I ran the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon. I can’t find enough words to express how thankful and blessed I am for having had a great surgeon such as Dr. Shubin Stein working on my knee. She is my superhero, my Wonder Woman and I’ll be grateful to Dr. Subin Stein for the rest of my life for giving me back the chance of enjoying again the passion of running. Thank You HSS!

Beth Shubin SteinViviana Denig
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Stephanie VandenBerg

I would first like to take the time to thank Dr. Beth Shubin Stein and her staff for giving me the best possible treatment and experience I could have hoped for. Not only did Dr. Shubin Stein fix my knee, but she got me back running in the shortest time possible!

While running my first full marathon in Disney World in 2010, I felt a very sharp pain in my right knee. Little did I know, that sharp pain was a lot more dangerous than I thought. Unfortunately, instead of listening to numerous doctors and physical therapists, I kept on running only to create a far worse problem in my knee cap. When I finally realized that physical therapy and cortisone shorts were not enough, I decided to go see Dr. Shubin Stein.

At the first initial visit, Dr. Shubin Stein was immediately able to recognize the condition in my patella and recommended the DeNovo surgery. Not only was she extremely knowledgeable of the surgery, but she thoroughly explained the process and how it was still considered experimental, but was very hopeful that it would work for me. A few short weeks later, I had the surgery at HSS and started my recovery program. In the matter of a month, I was back on my feet and in physical therapy. While it was hard work gaining strength and movement in my leg, I knew it would be worth it in the end.

One year later, I received the greatest news possible! All of the cartilage in my knee cap had rejuvenated and I was officially cleared to go back to doing what I love: running! I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the experience that I had at HSS with Dr. Shubin Stein and I recommend anyone who has even the slightest bit of knee pain to go see her! You will not be disappointed!!

Beth Shubin SteinStephanie VandenBerg
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Kimberly Zastenchik

I had an amazing experience with at HSS. Dr Shubin Stein did my TTT (Tibia Tubrical Transfer) on both knees, each 6 months apart, and then screw removal. Both surgeries went way better than I could have imagined. Previously, I had crunching and significant pain especially with stairs. Now I never have pain and feel free to to whatever exercise I desire. Within a year after the first surgery, I ran a Mud Run obstacle 5K with no pain during or after. Not only was the doctor amazing, but her staff, particularly Amy and Maggie, were always available via email or phone calls to help with any questions and made sure I was well taken care of during and after surgery.

Beth Shubin SteinKimberly Zastenchik
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Seyward Darby

My left kneecap started dislocating and subluxating in early adolescence, when I was playing soccer and basketball regularly and also growing tall rather quickly (I wound up close to 5’8). Over the next 15 years, the condition was a constant in my life–I lived with the pain when my kneecap popped out of place a couple of times each year. It didn’t hold me back from anything, exactly… I ran 35 miles a week, hiked in the Himalayas and the Andes, and did all sorts of other intense activities. I saw several doctors, but all of them said, “If you can walk, you’re fine.” Some people, they insisted, just had weird knees.

Then, when I was 28, I was walking across my apartment one morning when my knee sublaxated terribly–so badly, in fact, that I could feel pieces of something (cartilage, it turned out) floating around the joint for weeks after the fact, as I struggled to walk even short distances without pain and instability. I had to give up running and wear a brace almost constantly; my left leg became noticeably small as I favored my right. I tried physical therapy, but I couldn’t lift my leg while in a seated position without the kneecap popping out of place; same went for doing leg presses.

Finally, my PT recommended that I go to Dr. Sabrina Strickland at HSS. Within two weeks, I had an appointment. Dr. Strickland came in, took one look at my MRI, and said she could help me. She recommended surgery–specifically, a tibial tubercle transfer with an MPFL replacement and Denovo cartilage implants. I wouldn’t be able to walk for about six weeks while my leg was in a locked brace, and then I would be in physical therapy for several months. It would be a very involved process. But Dr. Strickland said she operated on young women like myself all the time, and that I would be able to resume the activities I so enjoyed. (I should say that at this moment, I burst into tears imagining major surgery; a nurse practitioner kindly came into the room to comfort me and offer tissues.)

A little over a month later, Dr. Strickland and Dr. Beth Shubin Stein performed my surgery. It was bizarre to walk into an operating theater and then, when I woke up, not be able to walk at all. But my care at HSS for the first two days was fantastic; nurses came by my room regularly, not just to check my pain but also offer a smile. A PT taught me how to hop up stairs (I live in a third floor walk up apartment), another showed me how to use an RPM machine, and I was given clear instructions for followup with my doctors.

The next six weeks were very hard–I’d never had major surgery and certainly had never been unable to walk. My fiance was my full-time caretaker, and he was incredibly attentive, even renting a wheelchair so he could push me around Brooklyn a bit each day (I hated being trapped inside). I would hobble on crutches to the local YMCA to do arm and abdominal exercises, trying to keep my fitness up. Dr. Strickland’s office was always available if I needed advice from a nurse.

At six weeks, I saw the doctor and was told I could start putting my left foot back on the ground–and that I was ready to start PT full time. Here, things got great because I met Theresa Chiaia, the best PT at HSS–or, I’d wager, maybe even the world. For the next 14 or so months, I saw “T” twice a week at HSS (an hour commute for me, but well worth it). Bit by bit, she helped me get better; if ever I felt discouraged with my range of motion or muscle strength, she assured me it would improve. She kept in constant touch with my doctors, to keep them abreast of my progress. The day that I was told I could ride a bike at the Y, on my own, felt like my birthday: I’ve never been so excited to work up a sweat! The big goal, though, was for me to be fully on my feet and able to dance at my wedding, which happened to be scheduled for about six months after my surgery. T and I worked hard to make sure I was ready; she even helped me pick out shoes that would make me comfortable and stable.

Things took a turn when, in May 2015, three weeks before my wedding, I was in the Amtrak 188 crash outside Philadelphia. I was in a front car, which flipped over when it derailed; my seatmate was killed. Purely by luck, I emerged with a hurt lower back and ribs; my “new knee,” as I called it, was bruised but structurally sound. Within a day of the accident, Dr. Strickland called me in Philadelphia to check on me and said she could see me immediately. I went in for an appointment and she checked not only my knee but my whole body, offering to recommend a back specialist if I needed one. (Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.) I was extremely anxious that my injuries would set back my PT progress. But the staff at HSS rehab were amazing, and I kept getting better. I danced at my wedding. I hiked (lightly) in Utah a few weeks later. I started riding hills on the bike at the Y, and using an elliptical trainer. One day, for the first time in my adult life, I realized I could do a leg raise without my kneecap popping out. The cherry on top came when I saw MRI pictures: The juvenile cartilage that Dr. Strickland had implanted looked good, and seemed to be growing.

I went for my first run in almost two years in March 2016, when my husband and I took a belated honeymoon to Hawaii. I jogged slowly along the Kauai coastline, thinking there was no better place to celebrate being healthy again. When we hiked the Na Pali Coast, my husband took pictures of me and I texted them to T, thanking her for getting me back on my feet. These days, I work out 5 days a week: biking, using the elliptical, and doing light jogging, in addition to PT exercises that help my strength and flexibility. I feel the best I’ve ever felt: confident, fit, and unafraid that my kneecap might suddenly slip out of place, tearing cartilage as it goes.

To say that I’m thankful for HSS is an understatement. The doctors and PTs changed my life. There’s a reason it’s the best orthopedics hospital in the country. The staff does procedures routinely that other doctors (including ones I saw) do rarely. I’m so glad I got my surgery and rehabilitation at HSS, and I will be singing its praises forever.

Beth Shubin SteinSeyward Darby
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Taylor Dumond

Imagine you’re in a sports game. And all of a sudden your knees start hurting. You think it’s just from running and it’ll go away. For a few months it doesn’t go away. You tell your parents and go to a doctor. The first doctor says do physical therapy and you’ll be fine. You do the physical therapy while you are involved in school and sports still. And no relief of pain. That’s when I decided to go to HSS. You see a few doctors. They send you to different ones that might know what it is. That’s when I was referred to doctor Beth Shubin Stein. She dosed injections and I was still involved in physical therapy. The injections work for only a few weeks. Then I go back. And after many MRI’s we decided to do surgery on both to get the dead cartilage out. Overall the surgery worked and I can go back to doing small activities that I missed a lot. Nobody knows what caused it or why a 12-year-old girl would have this damage in her cartilage. But I’m not gonna let my knees stop me from doing what I love. I feel great and feel like the surgeries definitely helped thanks to Doctor Shubin Stein!!

Beth Shubin SteinTaylor Dumond
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