Janet Anderson’s ACL Repair Allowed Her to Hike the Mountains of Peru

Snowflakes – the decorative kind – led to a Christmas Day 2016 fall in Janet Anderson’s kitchen. It happened after she noticed special crocheted snowflakes weren’t in her kitchen window. Anderson grabbed a nearby stepstool and jumped on the counter to deck the halls. When she finished, she misjudged the distance to the stool and took a tumble.

“I knew I had torn a knee ligament because I did the same thing in a skiing accident in college,” says the 57-year-old Coopersburg, Pa., resident. 

As she lay in pain on her kitchen floor, she had one holiday wish: to take a planned mountain hiking trip to Peru.

Wish part 1: Repair torn ACL

A few days later, an X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam confirmed Anderson’s assessment – a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her right knee. The next day she saw Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) orthopedic surgeon Gabe Lewullis, MD, with LVPG Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

“We approach each patient differently and consider factors like age, activity level and personal goals,” Lewullis says. “Janet was very forthright in her goals – she wanted to hike the Andes in Peru and see Machu Picchu (the famous 15th-century Incan citadel). She was determined to get there.”

On Jan. 17, 2017, Lewullis performed an ACL reconstruction with a cadaver tendon at Center for Orthopedic Medicine–Tilghman. “We want to ensure stability and limit risk for early-onset arthritis,” Lewullis says. “From that point, it was up to Janet to rehab and get back.”

Anderson began that process with physical therapist Mike Hosak, DPT, with LVHN Rehabilitation Services. “Janet did everything we asked of her and then some,” Hosak says. “It takes about three to six months – working on range of motion first and then regaining strength. She did a lot on her own as well. We had no setbacks. It went like clockwork.”

Wish part 2: Reach Machu Picchu

Anderson had to delay her trip from May to September. But she and husband Bruce made it to Peru, hiking 26 miles of mountainous terrain as high as 13,800 feet above sea level in four days to reach Machu Picchu.

“I had no problems thanks to Craig Baker (manager, Lehigh Valley Medical Supplies) and the knee brace I wore in Peru,” Anderson says. “And I can’t say enough great things about Dr. Lewullis, Mike Hosak and everyone at LVHN. They all made my trip possible.”