Marathoner Recovers Strong from Meniscectomy
When she runs, Jeanne Bruksch feels peace, joy and exhilaration.
Jeanne started running long distances at 22 years old when she got married, moved to the Chicago area and joined a group of friends she worked with who were all runners. She ran her first marathon at age 30 and has since then successfully completed 20 marathons.
“My friends were all running five miles, so I just thought ‘Well if that’s what you do, I guess I’ll run five miles too’ and I loved it, so I just never stopped.”
Jeanne finished her 20th marathon (which was her favorite race) on her 60th birthday, right alongside her three daughters. Her friends and family were joyously waiting at the finish line in beautiful Big Sur, California. Jeanne says running is an important part of who she is, and the “achiness” after a marathon is a physical reminder of the monumental feat she accomplished.
“It’s like no other feeling,” she says.
Jeanne’s Diagnosis: Torn Meniscus
A few years after Big Sur, Jeanne started feeling a flap in her knee while running, as if something was getting caught. Knowing she was afraid of the idea of surgery, Jeanne paid close attention to her knee going forward with the sport. Eventually her injury led her to stop running one to two miles into her workout and Jeanne had to walk home when she felt the catching sensation.
Her son recommended she see a friend of his who is an orthopedic surgeon in the area, Dr. Van Thiel, who diagnosed her as having a torn meniscus.
“I went to Dr. Van Thiel’s website and did research about how qualified he was, so I just trusted him. He said he just had to clean up my meniscus and I’d be fine afterwards,” Jeanne said. Dr. Van Thiel told Jeanne that if she had any trouble running again, it would just be from loss of cartilage, and the meniscus will never bother her again.
There are multiple ways a meniscus can be torn, including a sports injury, wear and tear over time or an accident. Jeanne experienced a flap tear of her meniscus, which forms at the top of the meniscus of loose cartilage.
Undergoing a Meniscectomy with Dr. Van Thiel
Dr. Van Thiel performed a meniscectomy on Jeanne’s right knee, removing part of the meniscus so her knee would be able to function properly. When the damaged parts of the meniscus are trimmed away through tiny incisions in the knee, the meniscus can provide stability and support for the joint again. Recovery from a meniscectomy is often relatively quick.
“He told me with the cartilage issues, I should just take Advil and cut back a little bit on my distance and I should be fine, and that’s exactly what’s been the situation,” said Jeanne.
Jeanne’s Incredible Recovery
Little by little, Jeanne got back to feeling like herself, with the help of physical therapy to strengthen her muscles again after surgery. She had added one mile more per week when running and never felt pain as the distance became longer.
“It had been two years since I had felt like myself. Something was missing, and when I run, I start the day in a great mood, feeling so good. No other exercise satisfies me in the same way,” Jeanne expressed.
After going through her surgery and finally getting back to her sport, free of pain, that feeling of pride from running has slipped away. It’s been replaced with pure happiness, she says, because she doesn’t feel limited anymore.
Jeanne feels nothing but grateful for Dr. Van Thiel, and recommends him to anyone.
“I think he’s extremely qualified, and a really nice, caring man. He would answer any question I had. He I just felt so confident, and I don’t think he would be quick to put someone under the knife if he didn’t think he could help them. So, I was just really, really pleased with him. Everyone in the office was wonderful, as well.”
Getting Back to Doing What She Loves Most
Today, Jeanne runs about 25 miles per week, on average, and feels no pain at all.
Almost one year to the day after her meniscus surgery, she ran a half marathon and won first place in her age group. On the day of the race, Jeanne’s son asked her if he could text his friend, Dr. Van Thiel, and let him know what she had just accomplished. She smiled.
“My son asked me, ‘Do you think it was a necessary procedure?’ And I said, absolutely. There’s no way I would have been here without Dr. Van Thiel. I’m just so thankful.”
When it comes to her plans for the future, Jeanne is looking forward to continuing running three to four times per week, enjoying new trails she can find and the peace the sport brings her.