Science has always been a huge part of my life. My father is a chemist and my mother a pathologist. They started a small clinical laboratory and me and my older 2 brothers grew up working in the family business watching my mother diagnose cancer by looking through a microscope, and seeing my father run large fancy machines running complex blood tests. We all loved the science of it and not surprisingly all these of us became physicians.
Thats right – three brothers, all orthopedic surgeons, and all passionate about our craft. The satisfaction of returning someone to a functional life by using my hands and cutting and repairing tissue brought such a sense of excitement and passion that words cannot describe. This hit close to home when my father, who was 70 at the time, injured his knee playing tennis and needed surgery. He had a flipped bucket handle tear of his meniscus and had an ACL tear with a 40 degree of loss of extension. In layman terms – a really bad knee injury. Despite being 70, my father played tennis 3-4 times / week and was extremely active.
There isn’t a single orthopedic surgeon in the country who would not have operated on my dad’s knee. We were taught that not operating on such a problem would result in significant disability and even delaying surgery is negligent. Shockingly, despite the strong opinion from me and my 2 brothers, and another non-Raiszadeh orthopedic surgeon to have surgery, my dad refused.
He asked what he needed to do to optimize his results. Not believing he would be able to fix his 40 degree loss of extension (his ability to straighten his knee), he agreed that if his extension didn’t return to normal in 4 weeks, he would undergo surgery. I taught him the exercises and I explained that if he failed with them, his knee may be stuck in a bent position. Not only would he be unable to play tennis, but he would be limping and have significant issues walking around. For > 6 hours a day over 4 weeks he was religious about adhering to his stretching. Amazingly, he regained his full range of motion. Surgery was avoided and in 2 months, he was back on the court playing tennis.
There is not a single day that passes that I don’t scratch my head when I see my father walking around and playing tennis. His story exemplified someone who took complete ownership of his problem, was responsible to do the necessary work to get better, and was deeply motivated to avoid a more invasive, risky procedure. As a surgeon, he made me also realize that I should always keep an open mind to the ability of patients to profoundly improve their health once they have the right mindset and fully empower themselves to recover.
About the Author: Kian Raiszadeh, MD, is the CEO of SpineZone, and always smiles when he tells the story about how his father inspired SpineZone and its core values.