Back on Track After Reconstructive Knee Surgery: Nolan’s Story

When Nolan Durham was just 12 years old, he was playing with his sister, when he jumped over something and felt a “pop” when he landed.

“I didn’t know how serious it was. I just felt like something was moving inside my knee and it would hurt when I ran,” remembers Nolan, now 14.

Nolan, who had been participating in both cross country and track for his middle school, feared his dreams of running in high school and college could be over. He was referred to Matthew Camarillo, MD, an orthopedic surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

Dr. Camarillo discovered Durham had detached cartilage floating in his knee.

“Nolan broke off part of the cartilage between his patella and top of his femur – known as the trochlea. It’s a fairly uncommon injury as far as the location goes, and while there are several options for treatment, we wanted to give him the best chance possible to return to competitive running,” explains Dr. Camarillo.

Dr. Camarillo was able to reattach some of the larger portions of cartilage and utilized a cartilage scaffold, which combined Durham’s own bone marrow with a synthetic material to fill in the gaps and promote growth of new cartilage.

On the Road to Recovery

After the surgery, Nolan faced a year-long recovery process, which he admits got tough at times. “It was hard to stay motivated for that many months, but I would just picture myself running again and that would help me keep doing the physical therapy I needed to get back in running shape,” says Durham.

Dr. Camarillo says a follow-up MRI showed Durham’s knee was healing well and his body was beginning to grow cartilage in the correct places.

“Not everyone at every stage of life would be a candidate for the type of surgery that Nolan underwent. But thanks to advancements in technology and his young age, it was the right type of surgery to keep him from having any future mobility restrictions,” says Dr. Camarillo. “ I’m happy to see how well he’s recovered and how dedicated he was to his physical therapy.”

Gaining on His Dream

Durham was able to return to cross country this fall for Langham Creek High School, where he ended the season ranked 6th in the district in the freshman division. He’s also currently running track and has placed at a recent track meet in the 3200-meter race.

“We’re so thankful for the expertise Dr. Camarillo provided in repairing Nolan’s knee. I know how hard it would’ve been for Nolan to have to give up competitive running and we’re just grateful that didn’t have to happen,” says Lisa Durham, Nolan’s mother. “We can’t say enough good things about Dr. Camarillo and those who took care of Nolan throughout this journey.”

Innovative orthopedic care available at Memorial Hermann Katy ranges from non-surgical and minimally invasive procedures, surgery, and rehabilitation for muscle, joint and bone injuries and abnormalities.

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Ali Vise