Rare Transplant Surgery.

Rare transplant surgery gives Yuma teen chance to walk
ABC 15 News
March 25, 2008

Someone died so she could walk again.

Rachel Palombo, 18, of Yuma understands the gravity of her meniscus, or knee cartilage transplant surgery, and she's thankful.

"I know that someday my stuff will go to help somebody else, just like me," Rachel said.

At an operating room in Paradise Valley Hospital, Rachel's life soon will change, going from struggling to walk to having the hope that one day she'll again walk, run and even dance.

"You don't realize how much you do walk, and then when you can't that's really hard," she said.

Rachel injured her knee cartilage at age 16 while running cross country for her school, and later, it tore in half while playing softball.

She's seen the inside of an operating room three times hoping to fix it. This is the fourth time, and she hopes her last.

"It's actually a relief," said her mother KC Hoffman. "It's like a light at the end."

Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Brian Gruber said the surgery is a rare one, but because the menisicus heals poorly, it's one that's necessary.

"The meniscus is so important because it serves as a shock absorber to the knee," Gruber said.

Gruber and Dr. Jeffrey Lyman spent three hours in surgery working to fix Rachel's knee.

The hardest part, Gruber said, was making sure it fit.

"You have to cut it down to exact specification of the knee," Gruber said.

If Rachel hadn't undergone the transplant, he said, she probably would have been in pain for much of her life and experience early arthritis.

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