Elizabeth: I was practicing volleyball at the University of Arkansas one day, and I came down on one of my teammates’ ankles, and I just completely blew out my ankle. Tore pretty much all of the ligaments and tendons in it, and it was just a really significant injury.
Dr. McKenna: Elizabeth was told by the university physicians that she needed major surgery; significant ligament reconstruction. She was going to have to take a hardship year, and her father, hearing all that, brought her MRI and showed up at my OR. And his question was, “Is there anything we can do that’s minimally invasive, that stands a chance for making a big difference for Elizabeth?”
Elizabeth: When we talked it over, he said that we would try the stem cells, and he thought it was going to be about an 8-week recovery. I was looking at it as, it was going to be my career so I went for it, and I’m so glad I did.
Dr. McKenna: He brings her in and we’re under a pretty significant time crunch because if I can’t get her better in 12 weeks, she’s going to have to go through these surgeries in order to meet the scholarship requirements with the way the school’s got her kind of pinned into a corner. We harvested her marrow, both from her crest and from her tibia. With spinning all that down, we were able to inject all the ligaments around the ankle itself, inject the ankle, not immobilize her. Didn’t put her in a cast. Didn’t put her in a splint. We put her in a kind of figure-of-8 brace that allows her to put weight on it, and her biggest fear was losing her conditioning. That’s the entire reason for what we do, is to limit the downtime of someone, so you don’t lose all the hard work you’ve already put in. So, she’s back on the court within 10 weeks and sends me a picture of her literally over the net, and sets her personal record for striking percentage, kill percentage, and her vertical jump’s better than ever – with no surgery. So, she has no incisions on her ankle. Didn’t have to take a hardship year. She’s not going to miss playing in the summer in Europe.
Elizabeth: Words can’t express how grateful I am for McKenna. I always joke with people that my bad ankle is now my good ankle and my good ankle is now my bad ankle, because I mean it feels like a brand new ankle. Sometimes I even forget that I had the stem cells because it just feels great. Volleyball has been my life since I was 13 years old and so I’ve never really known anything other than it, and it made my last two years of playing volleyball the best I could have imagined.