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ACL Surgery Gets Woman Back on the Field

Kaci Harrison is no stranger to challenges.

A lifelong athlete, the Goldsboro mom had made it through two Spartan races—several-mile runs with numerous obstacles that work the whole body. After training for months, she and her friends were looking forward to their third race in a year, which would complete their prized Spartan trifecta.

“It’s exhilarating,” said Kaci, a flight chief stationed on the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. “Everyone becomes one big family, and you forget about the world while you’re running.”

But the day of the final, 14-mile race—called the Beast—was brutal. Rain turned the course to mud and chilled athletes’ bones on the November day. Kaci had to brace herself to make it up and down hills, which felt “like a slip-and-slide,” she said. At mile 3, she tried to scale a 7-foot wall. Her knee popped and started swelling.

She took a break, but pushed herself to keep going. Adrenaline masked the pain as she ran another 4 miles.

Finally, she quit and called for medical transport. After getting first aid, she let her family drive her to the emergency room at Wayne UNC Health Care. There, kind professionals took care of her and confirmed no bones had broken, but ordered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to learn more.

Worse Injury Than Expected

Shortly afterward, she saw her primary care provider. He referred her to Thomas Meares Green, DO, a fellowship-trained sports medicine specialist with UNC Orthopedics at Goldsboro.

During Kaci’s appointment, Dr. Green pulled up the MRI images and showed two tears in her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Then, he patiently explained her treatment options.

“Going in, I thought I might just need physical therapy for six weeks,” Kaci said. She was shocked to find out she needed knee surgery—with a recovery period of nine to 12 months.

“Dr. Green told me it would be a year of downtime in exchange for a lifetime of activity after that.” Ultimately, “it was a fair trade-off.”

The physician answered all her questions about the surgical approaches she could choose from and let her take time to decide. “I loved how thorough he was,” she said. “He didn’t seem rushed to get to the next patient."

A nurse, Casey, had recently received ACL surgery and told Kaci what to expect as well. “They were both very warm during that consult,” Kaci said.

Personalized Care Helps Treatment Goes Smoothly

After getting encouragement from family and friends, she went in for treatment at Wayne UNC’s Surgery Center. Her dad, Don, accompanied her. “They told us exactly what to expect,” she said. “I felt very comfortable.” During the procedure, Don got updates on Kaci’s status from staff and monitors in the family waiting area.

Surgery went smoothly, and Kaci returned home the same day. “All the nurses signed a card wishing me well. That was a nice touch,” she said.

Not long afterward, she started physical therapy with a team including Meredith Alyse Kelly, PT, DPT, Cert DN, BFRT, FMS, and physical therapy assistants Ivy and Grecia. “They’ve done phenomenally in getting me where I need to be,” Kaci said. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Running Again

She’s back to activities she used to do, including running and agility drills. And she’s grateful to be able to hike, bike, and swim again with her daughter, Katelynn, 14.

Another race is already on the horizon, Kaci said. “I can see I’m going to be back on that Spartan field doing exactly what I was doing before.”

“I’ve been very glad with the treatment decision I made. I would recommend Wayne UNC to anyone.”

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