Patient Story

Jenny's story: Life-long athlete faces full knee replacement at 29

While most kids were outside playing, 13-year-old Jenny Johnson often found herself limited by pain and swelling in her knee. After seeing a doctor, she was diagnosed with an uncommon joint disorder called Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD). Due to a lack of adequate blood flow to the bones in her knee, Jenny was experiencing pain, cracking and deterioration of small segments of her cartilage and bone.

An athlete at heart, Jenny didn’t let her condition limit her. In 2007, she received a collegiate offer to play basketball at LeTourneau University in Texas. But as her pain increased, she was forced to forgo the offer attend Clemson University in South Carolina to be closer to home. During her freshman year of college, conditions worsened further and Jenny was forced to undergo an osteochondral allograft transplant to address the progressive deterioration of her knee.

During her recovery, doctors suggested she pursue cycling, an exercise that would allow for her to remain active while also avoiding unnecessary stress on her knees. Becoming an avid biker rather quickly, Jenny soon found herself participating in her first IRONMAN triathlon in 2014.

Even after achieving this athletic feat, pain returned to Jenny’s knee as her transplant began failing. Determined to someday fully improve her knee function, Jenny researched hospitals and doctors that offered full knee replacements.

In the summer of 2018, Jenny found Dr. Jon Minter of Arthritis & Total Joint Specialists, part of the Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute, who specializes in hip and knee treatment. Dr. Minter’s willingness to treat Jenny at her young age, his experience in robotic surgery and his own love of biking were big draws for her.

In November 2018, at 29 years old, Jenny underwent a total knee replacement, performed with the assistance of robotic-arm technology.

To have the option of treatment here in Atlanta was really cool,” she said. “It allowed for a more precise surgery and was able to address my condition while I stayed close to home.”

From preparing for surgery to progressing through recovery, Jenny was in constant contact with Dr. Minter and the nurses at Northside.

I felt so well prepared through both surgery and recovery that nothing about the process surprised me,” she said. “My patient experience, from the nursing staff, to billing, to the doctors was smooth and seamless. I was at ease being in good hands at Northside.”

Just 71 days after her surgery, Jenny was back up and cycling, but when she started to feel limits in her knee’s range of motion, she returned to Dr. Minter’s office. She soon underwent two additional manipulation surgeries, in January 2019 with Dr. Minter and in April 2019 with Dr. Christopher Potts. These address the pain and excess scar tissue in her knee.

Today, she visits physical therapy monthly, continues checkups with Dr. Minter and remains an active rider. She credits her speedy recovery to the lofty post-op goals she set for herself and the quality of care she received at Northside Hospital. She and Dr. Minter also stay in touch via a ride-tracking app for cyclists.

Jenny’s clocked over 1,650 miles on her bike between February and September this year. She continues to add miles with each cycling trip and has goals of completing Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) is the upcoming year.

Even when the task ahead is daunting, Jenny takes each day as a new challenge. Giving up just isn’t in her vocabulary.

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