Just What I Kneeded

What happens after a life-altering knee injury?

On the receiving end


One part of my surgery that I haven’t really talked about at length is that it’s a tissue transplant. That tissue comes from a deceased donor. And in my case, that donor was a child.

There are numerous reasons that juvenile tissue transplants are better options. As far as cartilage goes, it’s more proliferative. I’m not all that old, but my doctor still believes that it will provide a “more robust response” than had we used my own cartilage (through autologous chondrocyte implantation). I am so incredibly thankful that I had this option, but I kept having a small nagging feeling. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was unsettling to think about having a tissue donor at all, much less one so young.

I’m a big proponent of organ and tissue donation. I’m signed up with the National Marrow Donor Program (“Be the match”). If anyone can use my organs when I’m done, great. I’d probably give away a kidney now if someone I love needed it more than me. But I’ve never once thought about what it might be like being on the receiving end of such a precious gift.

I went into the surgery with all of these mixed feelings. When I came out, I was handed two small cards. Each one correlated to one of the two packs of DeNovo NT that I received. These cards enable me to send a note of thanks through the Pathways Thank You Letter Program. I can let the donor family know how I’m hoping to benefit from their incredibly generous gift. How their sacrifice will make my life better.

I welcome this opportunity, am thankful for it, and want to make sure that I find just the right words to express my profound gratitude.

Dear Donor Family,

I am writing to thank you for the thoughtful and incredibly generous gift of tissue donation from your precious family member. I am so sorry for your loss, but I want you to know that your decision to donate has changed my life in a very meaningful way.

I work in healthcare where I’m lucky enough to observe the marvel of modern medicine on nearly a daily basis. I’ve seen firsthand what surgeons can do to repair broken bodies. But I never really imagined myself in a position where I would be the one needing the latest in surgical repair. I never imagined that I would be on the receiving end of such a generous gift. I think it’s just human nature; no one ever really expects to be so sick or in so much pain.

A little over two weeks ago, I had reconstructive knee surgery to repair damage that was getting progressively worse after the initial injury two years ago. I needed a tissue transplant because I could no longer do simple, everyday tasks without pain. The tissue was used to replace the cartilage on the back of my kneecap, as it had nearly worn away.

My hope with this surgery is that I can work toward doing all the things I used to do and to get through the day without pain. I’ve become an avid cyclist, and I’m holding out hope that I can hit the road again soon. With every mile, I’ll know the obvious benefit of your selfless gift.

For this I am very grateful to you and your family. My family and I will always remember your act of kindness and generosity.

Thank you,


Author: Laura

I have a fern I named Frankenstein. I like leprechauns, practicing kung fu moves on my dining room furniture, and pretending that one day I will move to Fiji. I dislike my neighbors' kids, anything that is chartreuse, and Ben Roethlisberger.

2 thoughts on “On the receiving end

  1. Hi Laura hope all is well with your healing I also received a Denovo articular knee cartilage transplant 7/14 Five months post op still having pain swelling and limited range of motion walking is painful. I have been released to do stationary bike for 30 minutes my recovery seems very slow wondering how you are doing . I like you was extremely active running was my pick of entertainment hope to get back to it some day (soon) My surgeon has no answers and is taking a tincture of time approach. Wishing you all the best If you have any good resources for help please pass on I feel very frustrated. Speedy recovery to you!!! Nita

    • Hi Nita,

      Hang in there! This is definitely a surgery that comes with a long recovery. Much longer than I anticipated, even after I’d been warned it could take a long time to completely recover. I’m still working on it two years out, but now my knee is more bothered by other problems (the graft seems to have worked, but I have patellar tendinopathy). The first six months were very tough; the first year was the hardest. With the second year came many more improvements. I was running this summer! I’m not a runner, but I took on a challenge to run a specific trail (more jog, really), and I did it. So there is hope!

      Are you working with a PT? I know I could not have made the progress I’ve made if I didn’t have the support and expertise of several PT’s who have seen me at various stages. It’s great that you’re able to ride the bike. Any progression brings more positive results, I think.

      I know it’s tough, especially when you want so badly to get back to doing the sport you love, but hang in there!


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