"When I was told that I wouldn't be able to be active again at such a young age, it was like a nightmare."
Courtney Johnson, from Prattsburgh, NY, was 16 when the pain from playing basketball was too much to handle. When she'd started playing hoops regularly, at around 10 or 11, she felt a crunching pain in her knee, almost as if she could feel things moving around. "When I would come home from basketball practice or a basketball game, I wouldn't even be able to walk because my knees were in so much pain–that wasn't normal, especially for a 10-year-old."
Courtney sought help from doctors around the country, but no one was able to give her lasting freedom from her pain.
"I met Dr. Brown and he finally knew what to do," Courtney said.
Christopher Brown, MD, diagnosed Courtney with cartilage delamination syndrome, which means that her cartilage just breaks up into pieces. Cartilage delamination syndrome is genetic and was not caused by Courtney's love of playing sports.
"The doctor compared me to a 50-year-old man because no one my age really has it. It's very rare," Courtney said.
After cleaning up her broken cartilage through several surgeries, Dr. Brown suggested a Matrix-Induced Autologous Chondrocyte Implantation (MACI) procedure, which uses your own cells to grow new cartilage. In August of 2017, Courtney's cartilage was harvested to be grown in a lab. By December, it was time for her cartilage transplant.
Courtney had been told she'd never be able to do anything active again, but Dr. Brown reassured her that she would be able to lead a normal, active life once more.
"For the first time in–since I can remember–my knees started to feel good," Courtney said. "Life without pain in my knees was something that as a little kid I never thought would happen, but now I'm starting to see that with Dr. Brown's help, that can be a possibility."
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