Kim has been running for more than 30 years. She completed a marathon 21 years ago, and again eight years ago. She runs in half marathons and has completed more than a dozen 10K races in the Chicagoland area.
She was looking forward to running in the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, but when it was canceled due to COVID, she took advantage of the year off to discover what was causing her right knee pain.
Injuries that Led to Meniscus Repair Surgery
Years of running took its toll on Kim’s knee. During one 10K race, Kim fell after getting too close to the runner in front of her. “He had really long legs so I got kicked in the knee and went down,” she recalls. “It would bother me, and I would rest it and then go back to running.”
Plantar fasciitis was another problem for her. “I wore a boot for about six months,” she says.
It almost felt like a blessing in disguise to miss the 2020 race, Kim admits.
“I’m not sure if I would have ‘rolled’ my knee if I had been able to run in 2020,” Kim says. “I was kind of disappointed that I couldn’t run it, but when I found out the 2021 marathon fell on my Dad’s birthday, I was excited.”
A Focus on Fitness
Kim hopes to be healthier than her parents. Her mom died at 59 and her dad died at 60. She has been working on staying active, eating healthy, and seeing orthopedic specialists when things don’t quite feel right.
For her knee pain, first she tried some non-invasive methods like acupuncture, cortisone shots, and rehab, but after none of those things alleviated her problem, she decided to investigate further.
“I wasn’t sure if it was a tear, but then they confirmed that yes, it was a tear, and it also had a bone spur on top of it,” Kim says.
Her knee pain led her to schedule surgery with IBJI Orthopedic Surgeon Eric Chehab, MD. He provided the diagnosis and inquired about her fitness goals.
“He said to me, ‘What do you want to get done?’ I said, ‘I only have one goal. I only want my knee to get through one more marathon.’ He said, ‘If you do the rehab, I think you can do it.’”
Kim felt confident and comfortable with Dr. Chehab since she had been seeing him for other orthopedic issues for years. “He did my rotator cuff surgery three years ago,” Kim says. “I did nine months of rehab and now I have full rotation. It’s amazing how well it feels.”
Torn Meniscus Surgery
In the spring, Dr. Chehab performed surgery to repair Kim’s torn meniscus on her right knee. “He told me that your knees take a lot of pressure from running,” Kim recalls. “I got the hidden message that if I had less weight on my knees, it would be better for me.”
Kim started a diet program and was faithful to her rehab, taking her doctor’s advice. He also recommended a great book on marathon running which she purchased and read.
Rehab for Meniscus Surgery
“I worked hard on my rehab for nine weeks and then took a break,” Kim says. “Then I went back for more exercises to make my knee stronger. Everyone is amazed that it feels as good as it does. I think rehab is really important and if you have the opportunity to do extra rehab, you should do it.”
By the time she got to the 2021 Bank of America Chicago Marathon a few months post surgery, her knee was ready and she was a much smaller, stronger, and healthier version of herself. She went from 154 pounds to 121.
Running a Marathon After Meniscus Surgery
There was a lot on Kim’s mind the day of the marathon, like finding her husband Matthew, who rented a bike to follow her to deliver electrolyte drinks and positivity.
“The last four miles, Matthew was riding about 100 feet from me to keep encouraging me,” Kim says. “Those last four miles were not shaded and it was extremely humid and hot.”
She also battled winds of up to 20-22 miles per hour. “It was a tough one,” she says. “You felt like you were running in place.”
While overcoming the weather, finding Matthew, seeing her friends in the crowd cheer her on, and working her way toward the finish line, Kim’s biggest motivation was her gratitude. She had a plan in place for thanking Dr. Chehab.
“Leading up to the marathon, I was at a dinner party with two other people who, coincidentally, were patients of Dr. Chehab as well,” Kim says. “I said, ‘I want to thank him,’ and ‘here’s what I’m thinking of doing.’”
A Special Thank You
Kim had visited the IBJI website and downloaded Dr. Chehab’s photo, printed it out, wrote a thank you message, took it to an office supply store, and had an 8.5” by 11” poster card laminated. She knew while she was running toward the finish line that Matthew had her poster in a backpack. It took her six hours and some minutes to get there, but when she crossed the finish line, she felt elated. Matthew took out the laminated poster and handed it to her. She held it up and he took her photo.
“‘I just wanted Dr. Chehab to know that I got it done,” she says. “I hit my goal. I just really wanted to thank him in some way, and once I got the photo of myself, I could do that.”
Kim learned that she qualified for the 2022 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, which was a surprise, she says. “This was going to be my last marathon and I was all excited about that. Now I’m a little bit nervous and also psyched up. I probably will do it next year.”
Delivering Her Gift
After the marathon, Kim paid Dr. Chehab a visit. “I wanted to take the poster to him so he could use it at the office.”
Since Dr. Chehab hadn’t begun to see patients yet that day, Kim was ushered back to see him personally. “I was able to hand it to him and it was great. He was thrilled and shocked. I’m not sure that everybody gets thanked when they should. He helped me to do what I really wanted to do, and that was important.”
Kim is feeling great now, but if any new orthopedic issue comes up, she’ll know where to go.
“I will have no hesitation calling Dr. Chehab. “I am very thankful for him and truly grateful that the surgery went as well as it did.”
*The blog is for general information and educational purposes only regarding musculoskeletal conditions. The information provided does not constitute the practice of medicine or other healthcare professional services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor-patient relationship is formed. Readers with musculoskeletal conditions should seek the advice of their healthcare professionals without delay for any condition they have. The use of the information is at the reader’s own risk. The content is not intended to replace diagnosis, treatment or medical advice from your treating healthcare professional.