When the Unexpected Happens

Ann Densler

Kathi Bobillot

Most Quail Creek residents will recognize the smiling face of Ann Densler. For almost 10 years, utilizing the Anza gym has been an integral part of Ann’s life. But in September 2021, the unexpected paid her an unwelcome visit!

Ann and her husband Sam (another Anza patron) hired a handyman to work on their entryway and great room. Furniture was relocated to clear the way. The simple act of walking to the door to accept a delivery turned tragic. Ann turned a corner too fast and smacked into a wrought iron table! The cringe-worthy impact was so hard that she stumbled and fell onto her knees, unable to get up.

Paramedics were called. Good friends then drove her to urgent care. X-rays revealed that her patella (kneecap) shattered into two larger chunks and a few smaller pieces. A brace was fitted, immobilizing Ann’s right leg.

Ann contacted an orthopedic surgeon from the Tucson Orthopedic Institute. Her surgery ensued on Oct. 7 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, performed by Jose Alicea, M.D. The recovery period for a patella fracture varies, but most people can resume normal activities within three to six months. Ann’s complications included the inability to straighten her knee, or keep it extended in a straight leg raise, and (what we take for granted) the incapability to walk.

Shortly after surgery, Ann was able to ambulate with a walker’s assistance. Four weeks later, she was fitted for a new brace with a dial for different degrees of maneuverability (from 10 to 90 degrees). At this point, Dr. Alicea ordered physical therapy.

At Santa Cruz Valley Hospital, PT was scheduled three times per week for three months. During each visit, the therapist measured her knee bend, gradually teaching Ann to walk independently again. The exercises were aggressive, but she exclaimed, “The pain was worth it!” Eventually, Ann’s mobility had progressed to 90 degrees, so goodbye leg brace! One of the most difficult challenges was a simple “full rotation” on a bike. In PT, her goal was the full rotation, and when reached, she “would celebrate with her therapists!”

So, brace free, she enthusiastically returned to the Anza gym. Transitioning slowly, Ann started with free weights. Understandably, she was still “squeamish” about lower body exercises. In a few weeks, she decided to try the sit down elliptical. Not wanting to regress, Ann proceeded cautiously but fell short of full rotation. The third attempt was a charm. She nailed it—a major breakthrough! Ann couldn’t wait for her next physical therapy session, to mount the bike and grandstand her victory!

“I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful it is to have the Anza Athletic Club in our community! The sit-down elliptical certainly helped me recover from a fractured patella surgery.” Her kneecap is rebuilt with wires, so it still doesn’t feel normal, but zero complaints. She is moving and grooving. And Ann is smiling again!

If anyone would like to encourage others by sharing their rehabilitation journey, please contact Kathi at [email protected].