Get Back In The Game

Donna Svennevik

New York, NY

ACL Injury

It was a balmy August Sunday night in the Rockaways. A three day sojourn in one of those cute bungalows lay before me. I picked up an electric rental bike and peddled thru the streets empty of the weekend crowds. Whee…. ! I remember feeling - life is good.


I reached my destination the supermarket, about to park the bike, standing - my two feet astride the bike, about to lift a leg over and the bike lunges and rears up like a spooked horse. It’s true what they say about the slow-motion quality of an accident. I was sure that I could control the bike but it was super heavy the way rental bikes tend to be. The bike twisted and torqued my left leg eventually slamming me to the ground, bike on top of me.


Passerby’s quickly came to my aid lifting the bike off and suggesting I get up. My whole body was reeling like a fully lit pin ball machine, I didn’t want to get up yet. When I accepted a hand to stand, my left leg collapsed below me. Interesting I thought, I just need to shake this out and it will be ok. Cutting to the chase, there was no standing at all on the leg. I was practically carried into a good samaritan’s car and driven back to Manhattan.


The next morning my knee swollen like a basketball, and using a beach-umbrella-pole as a crutch, I hobbled over to Dr. Della Valle, a wonderful doctor at HSS who treated me before for minor knee issues. After X-rays, an MRI and the aspiration of a great deal of blood, the diagnosis was a complete tear of the ACL and considerable damage to the Meniscus. Dr. Della Valle enthusiastically referred me to his colleague Dr. Robert Marx who he assured me, was the right doctor for my condition and would take great care of me. No sentence has been truer than that one.


Not being able to walk is a profound and humbling experience. Deep vulnerability is felt. As a self employed person I knew my health insurance wasn’t the greatest - which added to my fear and considerable uncertainty about what would happen to me.


Dr. Marx, Joe his PA and a team of residents came into the room. As I’m writing this, thinking back to that moment, my eyes tear up. Because the moment I met Dr. Marx I knew I was going to be ok and he was going to help me and solve the very big problem I had.


He examined my knee and of course it was sliding in a way it shouldn’t. Being an experienced patient I had a lot of questions written down, he answered them all with patience, kindness and a thorough scientific expertise.


Dr. Marx asked me about my activity level, I am an actress and a photographer. Recently for a short film I dove into the ground in a controlled fall and I climbed over a fence and did some running in high heels. As a journalistic photographer I’m always standing, crouching, running and climbing. I enjoy all kinds of exercise especially biking, hiking and ocean swimming.


He said we should wait a couple of weeks before surgery, to see how the knee would heal, I was surprised and relieved at his restraint and prudence. More than anything after meeting Dr. Marx, I was confident for the first time in a couple of days that I would be able to move the way I wanted to.


I returned to Dr. Marx after the prescribed time and after examining me he suggested ACL reconstruction (using my own hamstring tissue) and Meniscus repair surgery. Ok, we set a date - on to the next obstacle, my not so great health insurance.


I meet Maria Dedvukaj - Dr. Marx’ practice manager, she is warm and present. I express my fears about my health insurance and she is optimistic that we can find a path thru. I might add here that when you find yourself at HSS it’s because you’re down and wounded and with that comes a great amount of fear.

Knowing Dr. Marx will perform the surgery and Maria will walk the path with me is intensely comforting. My fears are allayed. In the days prior to surgery Sarah Bunnell (from the practice) is helping with all kinds of pre-op details and she like Dr. Marx and Maria all hit home the same message, that everything is going to be all right - in fact everything is going to be great and you will be whole again.


A backstory - In 2017 I had two spinal surgeries performed by Dr. Federico Girardi. The experience from beginning to end was flawless and successful. From pre-op to post-op, the nurses, the hospital stay, the imaging technicians, the security guards at HSS without exaggeration are all on the same page - the HSS mission is healing, humanity and kindness. HSS became the place where I feel safe and I trusted that I would be taken care of in a powerful way.


Well a miracle happened, Maria found a way, HSS worked with my economics and Dr. Marx extended to me an astounding generosity. I was joyful on surgery day in full trust of Dr. Marx and knowing when I woke up I would be on the road to wholeness.

Surgery was a success and I quickly started physical therapy at HSS Sports Medicine with yet another talented HSS professional Hector Lozada.


It’s been three months since surgery and even though this is a long recovery, every day I see improvement. My knee is fixed! It’s completely stable again, I ran a little for the first time the other day which was kinda thrilling.


I am writing this a week before Christmas 2019, brimming with gratitude and deep thanks for Dr. Robert Marx, his team and HSS. I thank my lucky stars, God and Karma that somehow I was fortunate enough to walk into Dr. Marx’s office.

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