The evening began as a fun holiday outing at a local trampoline park with his wife and kids. Then Patrick Miller suddenly found himself down on a trampoline unable to move while somebody called 911.
“I couldn’t believe it,” says the 46-year-old Bloomsbury, N.J., resident of the rare injury he sustained while trampoline jumping on July 4, 2016. “I was with my 8-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter at the time, not doing anything crazy at all. This was maybe the fifth time I’d ever been on a trampoline in my life. I came down and was springing to go up again – and bam. I knew it immediately.”
In that instant, Miller tore the patellar tendon in both knees. The patellar tendon connects the kneecap to the tibia, or shin bone. Within an hour, he found himself being evaluated in the emergency room at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Muhlenberg. He would need to undergo surgery to repair the tendons the following day.
“I’ve seen maybe two other cases like it in my career,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) orthopedic surgeon Mitchell Cooper, MD, of LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, who performed the surgery. “It’s certainly uncommon. You want a good definition of a freak injury, this would be it.”
Cooper says it’s important to perform the surgery as soon as possible to curb scar tissue formation. Miller came through the procedure without complications. “In this case, that was the easy part,” Cooper says. “The hardest part is the rehab. Usually somebody has one leg to bear weight while the injured leg is healing. Patrick didn’t have that option.”
Miller, who recuperated at LVH–Muhlenberg for four days before being transferred to LVHN’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Center–Cedar Crest, would need to wear metal knee immobilizers for five weeks to keep both legs straight to avoid stress on his knees.
“Everybody in our unit wanted to observe this case,” says LVHN occupational therapist Colleen Noga, who worked with Miller. “We were curious how this was going to work with both legs being immobilized. How do you go about taking a shower or using the commode? Even getting into the back seat of his car when he was going home took some thought. It all required a lot of creative problem-solving, and most of the time it came down to Patrick and what he could support with his upper body strength.”
Despite his leg restrictions, Miller was determined to make as much progress as possible during his stay in inpatient rehab. “I was stumbling about 200 feet on the rolling walker at the rehab in a matter of days,” Miller says. “It was really tough, but I knew what I needed to do. My wife, Mychaelann, and I own a dog day care and boarding business, and we have two young children too. I had to be able to move around when I got home.”
Once Miller had the immobilizers removed, he went about the business of regaining his range of motion in outpatient rehabilitation.
“It was pretty amazing to see,” Cooper says. “Patrick was already at 90 degrees in his first outpatient appointment, about two months after the surgery. He was at 120 degrees maybe three weeks after that. That’s a tribute to how hard he was willing to work.”
Miller felt about 75 percent back to normal by year’s end. Cooper expected it would take a full year before Miller felt back to his old self.
“I can’t say enough about how great Dr. Cooper and everyone at LVH–Muhlenberg were with me,” Miller says. “And it was exactly the same with Colleen and everyone at the rehab unit. If I come across anyone who needs some sort of orthopedic help, I’ll be telling them LVHN is the place to go.”