Valerie Robinson 8

There is something special about a “Second First” when you’ve taken your first for granted.  My name is Valerie, and I don’t remember the first time I danced, swam or walked with confidence. In fact, up until two years ago, I did all of those things without a thought.

Then, I began to experience sharp pains in my groin area and started walking with a limp and tilt. The pain was intense and worsened when I exercised. I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through, not even my family because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.

My sister is a breast cancer survivor, and I remember her asking me to do the Susan G. Komen walk last year. I did not know how I was going to walk, but in my mind I knew it was possibleValerie Robinson 6. The pain was hard to bear, but I did the walk, because I didn’t want to disappoint her. Every step was excruciating, but with my sister by my side, I reached the finish line. At the end, she knew something was wrong, so I broke down and told her about my pain. It was then that I knew I needed to seek professional care.

My active lifestyle was placed on hold, because I didn’t know what was happening to me. For most of my life I was an athlete, competing in track and field events during my high school and college years. And, as president and CEO of Cor-Les Institute, a health education and promotion nonprofit organization and national training center, I dedicated my life to spreading a message of health and wellness within inner-city communities throughout our nation.

I thought of all those people in my Washington, D.C. community who looked up to me and who I encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle. It was now my time to set an example and fight for my mobility, a major part of healthy living and everything that I stand for.

I was referred to orthopedic surgeon Dr. Anthony S. Unger at Washington Orthopedic Sports Medicine, who explained that I had labral hip tears and recommended a total hip replacement. I started to cry, because I would have never imagined that I needed a hip replacement at 53 years old.

As my recollection of days when I was able to walk without pain quickly became a distant memory, I desperately wanted to experience actively living my life again. Dr. Unger explained the anterior hip replacement procedure in detail and in a calm and reassuring voice stated, “I will take care of you.” Although I was nervous, at that moment, I knew everything would be okay. One of my requests was to be tall again. My original height was 5-foot-10-inches, but due to severe body tilting, I was much shorter.Valerie Robinson3

I ended up having anterior bilateral hip replacement, and two and a half days later, I walked out of the hospital. I was back at work and driving in two-and-a-half weeks. I followed through with five weeks of outpatient therapy and started distance walking at three months post-surgery at 1.5 miles.

Today, nine months post-surgery, I am stronger, taller and walking five to six miles, five days a week. My life has been restored, and I am dancing again. I have not looked back, and I’m excited about the future. My key to success was my faith in God, setting realistic expectations and surrounding myself with a lot of love from family and friends. I also trusted my surgeon and I went into surgery as healthy and strong as possible.  I continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I eat a plant-based diet, take natural supplements and have weekly acupuncture sessions.

When I visited Dr. Unger for a follow-up this past summer, I came across two simple words: “Second First,” an initiative described as a point in time when an individual who has lost the ability to do something because of an orthopedic condition can do so again thanks to musculoskeletal care.

Those words captivated me. They perfectly summarized my journey over the past year. I may not have remembered all my firsts, but as I fought to regain mobility, I knew that I would not forget my precious “Second Firsts.”

- Valerie Robinson

My first consultation with Dr. Starr was in the spring of 2008.  I sought Dr. Starr because his reputation was such that I considered him one of the top spinal surgeons in the country.  I met with Dr. Starr because I had had six back surgeries, and was still in tremendous pain.  My pain was concentrated in my back, but also in both my legs which made it very difficult for me to walk.

Dr. Starr is not only an extraordinary surgeon, he is a wonderful person.  He studied my MRIs and my X-rays, he talked with me at length, he took new X-rays, and he thought long and hard before giving me his opinion.  He demonstrated tremendous compassion and empathy for where I stood, what I had been through to date, and what his best advice was to be.  He communicates easily and well and readily explains anything that is asked of him.  He exudes confidence by virtue of his extensive knowledge, expertise, and experience.  After my first conversation with him I never wanted anyone else to operate again on my back.  However, I was unable to have the benefit of Dr. Starr’s surgical expertise until my eighth surgery in May 2009.  Following my consultation, I had two other doctors perform my seventh surgery which failed ten months later.  To me Dr. Starr is nothing short of a hero.  Although I still suffer some back pain caused largely by changes in barometric pressure, my hips and legs have zero pain, and my back, which is now fused from T11 – S1 (8 levels), is structurally sound and solid.

The office staff is an equally wonderful group of people.  It is so refreshing to be greeted and tended to by such an intelligent, bright, cheerful, competent group of people.  Each one makes the effort to know the patients, know who they are and what they need, and then they are able to quickly take care of them in a most effective way.

Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine is a fabulous practice – it is definitely filled with the best and the brightest!

- Marion Frost

I cut the nerves and tendons in four fingers as a result of an accident using a hedge trimmer. During the initial treatment at the Sibley emergency room, they told me I needed to have more extensive surgery.

My internist recommended Washington Orthopaedics Sports Medicine practice. Luckily, Dr. Moss, who is a hand surgeon, was  on call. He took me in right away. I was most impressed with his bedside manners; he was gentle, caring, and took the time to explain and answer all of my questions.  Dr. Moss performed the microsurgery for me later that day. Throughout the healing process, Dr. Moss was there, showing his care and concern.

I now have full use of my four fingers and can hardly see the stitches he put in. I was told by the hand therapist that the location and type of the tendon and nerve cuts in my hand were the most difficult to heal and return to full function.

The office staff in both offices have been super. Dr. Moss’s assistant has always been there to answer questions and follow through.

I cannot thank Dr. Moss enough. He is a rare combination of outstanding surgical skill and superb bedside manners. And thanks to him, I have full use of what I call my “miracle hand.”

- Tufan Kolan
Chevy Chase, MD

My knee started bothering me eons ago, but I thought if I pretended it didn’t hurt, the pain would go away.  When I finally gave in, my internist recommended Dr. Lewis as the best, so I went and saw Dr. Lewis.  Now, a few months after my knee surgery, I agree.  He IS the best.  My new knee does everything I could possibly want.  The office staff is great, but Dr. Lewis’s medical assistant is even better than that — so very approachable, patient and kind.  She could answer all of the questions that I asked, whenever I asked them, and answer them in a way that didn’t make me feel stupid for asking.

- Carolyn Naifeh
Arlington, VA

Dear Dr. Barth & Dr. Rudzki,

I am writing to thank you for your tireless efforts to help me become the athlete I am today. Without your knowledge and skills, I would not be able to enjoy the things I love to do. I will set up an appointment the next time I am in DC. Meanwhile, I will send you a complete email update about my elbow in the next week or so. Thank you for everything.

Happy Holidays,
Cascade Tuholske

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- Cascade Tuholske

I had a knee injury for several months that was bothering me while I ran and worked out. Dr. Shaffer was the first doctor I saw; however, I did get a second opinion. The knee pain was very troubling to me because I am an avid athlete who competes regularly and the pain was interrupting my lifestyle. We had originally chosen another course of treatment, but if failed to solve my pain, so it became clear that we needed to follow a more aggressive approach.

Dr. Shaffer was terrific. He was honest about my options and explained all consequences both positive and negative. I felt very confident that I was able to make an educated choice. By having a second opinion that confirmed the course of action, I had even greater comfort. We chose an approach that addressed the current problem, but also addressed other biomechanical challenges that I faced (even though they did not bother me).

My recovery was very smooth. Dr. Shaffer recommended a great PT and I followed their instructions to the T. Plus, the office staff is a wonderful group of people who were very helpful.

- Jennifer Manner
Bethesda, Maryland

I had two surgeries with Dr. Shaffer: one in 1996 on a progressively worsening rotator cuff tear left shoulder that began with ski injury. Thirteen years later, in 2009, I had surgery for an extensive acute rotator cuff tear, with extreme pain, after I fell while running.

Dr. Shaffer does not rush to do surgery. He explains non-surgical options, and pursues them. He recommends surgical intervention only when he is satisfied non-surgical options are exhausted.

Immediately following each of the cuff repairs, Dr. Shaffer thoroughly and patiently explained the procedure, outcome, and my status to my wife. Near term and long term follow-up with me was to ensure that I reached physical therapy milestones. Dr. Shaffer had different office assistants for each of my surgeries; both were well trained — technically and in patient relations.

Dr. Shaffer is, above all, a skilled orthopedic surgeon. In the case of my two surgeries, that skill was tested because of the extent of damage. To gain a favorable outcome with a difficult injury, the combination of a talented surgeon and patient compliance with physical therapy is essential. That was my experience with and after surgery by Dr. Shaffer. With respect to range of motion, strength and comfort, I could not have had a better long-term result — in both instances. Also, Dr. Shaffer has a pleasant, personable and friendly manner. He communicates in conversation-speak, not in lecture-speak.

- Sorell Schwartz
Rockville, Maryland

Some 15 years ago, after thorough due diligence, including conversations with some of his peers, I sought Dr. Shaffer’s help for a torn rotator cuff, his declared specialty. Before his first touch, I felt the depth and breadth of his medical skills exceeded his reputation. More importantly, I sensed his willingness to take ownership of my problem; to make a personal investment in my repair. Clearly, his gratification depended on my successful outcome.

During subsequent visits over the years, I further realized his interest in helping patients went well beyond his specialty. He graciously offered tentative diagnoses and invaluable advice on other of my orthopaedic issues, several ignored by other doctors. He personally intervened on my behalf, enabling and introducing me to medical expertise and resources outside his practice, medical care that I could not have discovered without his guidance.

Dr. Shaffer is the complete physician: he heals the person. Hippocrates must be proud of him.

- P. David Pappert
Bethesda, Maryland