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Dr. Gardner’s and Dr. Woo’s Stories

At age 16, Dr. James Gardner tore the cartilage in his right knee. In high school, Dr. Daniel Woo tore the anterior cruciate ligaments in both his knees.

They didn’t know each other at the time. Yet decades later, the after-effects of those teenage injuries would lead both doctors to seek total knee replacement surgery from one of their physician colleagues: board-certified orthopedic surgeon Jeffrey Leary, MD, the Chief of Orthopedics at Overlook Medical Center.

Before they chose surgery, both doctors wanted to ensure they could keep up with their active lifestyles.

Dr. Woo, a board-certified anesthesiologist at Overlook Medical Center, enjoys hiking and golf, and he takes annual snowboarding and skiing trips with his teenage children. “I chose knee replacement surgery because I still enjoy taking vacations with my family, and I didn’t want to be limited with the things I could do on those vacations,” Dr. Woo says.

Dr. Gardner, board-certified Chair of Plastic Surgery at Overlook Medical Center, is a former competitive mountain biker who accomplishments include conquering the Leadville 100, a 104-mile-long event in Colorado with over 14,000 feet of elevation gain at altitudes up to 12,600 feet. “When I started limping into the operating room (OR) and couldn’t walk playing golf, I knew it was time to get my knee replaced,” Dr. Gardner says.

Choosing the right surgeon

Both doctors wholeheartedly trusted Dr. Leary and his team at Overlook Medical Center, which ranks as high-performing in knee replacement nationally by U.S. News & World Report. “As an anesthesiologist, I work with surgeons every day in the OR,” Dr. Woo says. “I knew Dr. Leary was top-notch in every aspect and really dedicated to his craft.”

Dr. Gardner was wowed by the experience of his colleague, physical therapist Mickey S., who enjoyed fantastic results after knee replacement with Dr. Leary. “Mickey competed in a triathlon after his surgery, and if he could do that, I knew I’d have good results, too,” Dr. Gardner says.

Ironically, both doctors initially talked with Dr. Leary about partial knee replacement surgery, but their arthritis had progressed enough that they both needed total knee replacement. In August 2019, Dr. Gardner had his right knee replaced by Dr. Leary. Three months later, Dr. Woo had both of his aching knees replaced by Dr. Leary.

Both doctors followed similar post-surgery routines, starting with physical therapy (PT) at home, then moving to outpatient PT. “I was back in the OR two-and-a-half weeks after my surgery,” says Dr. Gardner, who estimates his total rehab time lasted about two-to-three months. Dr. Woo’s recovery from double knee replacement was about six-to-eight months. “Over the course of that year I regained almost all my range of motion,” he says.

According to Dr. Leary, recent advances in pain control have dramatically shortened recovery time for nearly all knee replacement patients. “Today we use multiple non-narcotic medications to reduce pain,” he says. “And the less pain you have after surgery, the quicker you can mobilize.”

Saying so-long to knee pain

Knee pain is now a distant memory for both Drs. Woo and Gardner, who both have regained their active lifestyles. Dr. Woo, 52, is back to walking 18 holes on the golf course, “and my golf handicap is lower now than before surgery,” he says. He even tried a new activity this summer. “I tried surfing for the first time,” he says.

Dr. Gardner, 60, is back on the links, too. He’s also rekindling his passion for mountain biking. “I was riding in Bend, Oregon, this summer, and I regularly ride in Ringwood and in many places in New York State,” he says.

To show his appreciation to Dr. Leary, Dr. Gardner sent him a video. It showed Dr. Gardner completing a Greek dance with a backflip at a wedding, just three months after his knee replacement. “I’m just so grateful to live in a place where I don’t have to travel to get state-of-the-art care,” Dr. Gardner says.

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