AMERICAN ROLE MODELS: DON H. O’DONOGHUE, M.D.
FOURTH OF A SERIES
By Grant Hall
Dr. O’Donoghue did not take vacations. When he was not performing surgery in hospitals or examining patients at his famous, O’Donoghue Orthopedic Clinic in Oklahoma City, he wrote articles and books on his passions: surgery and treating athletes. His classic volume, Treatment of Injuries to Athletes, (W.B. Sanders Co.) did not contain a bibliography. Writing a medical book without citing other experts’ work might have been interpreted by some as arrogance, but those who practiced in the field of sports medicine in the 1970’s and before knew the difference between ego and talent and accepted him as the one and only supreme authority on knee surgery.
His name was associated with a type of knee dislocation, suffered by football players: “The O’Donoghue Terrible Triad”.
Athletes at the University of Oklahoma reaped the benefits of the best in the business as he was the team’s physician for many years. In addition to the Midwest’s demand for his medical services, his “miracles” were sought by those whose lives depended on the best possible reconstruction of a knee.
They came from pro teams in the largest cities and university towns- anywhere big-time football was played, and believed he was the one who would make it possible for them to play again.
There are severity variations of the “terrible triad” with frayed ligaments, excessive scar tissue, and other complications contributing to a poor recovery. I had a knee no one could fix. I had surgeries, wore a cast for many months, and limped badly for almost a year when Doc said, “I’ve contacted Dr.O’Donoghue. You’re going to Oklahoma”.
Dr. O’Donoghue looked tired, but energetic. Well into his seventies, large with a ruddy complexion, he looked up, said it looked “stable” and recommended hospitalization for the purpose of manipulations as required and physical therapy three times daily, seven days a week.
The Elgin Chair was a primary tool of the O’Donoghue physical therapy team. It taxed the knee, forcing quadriceps strength through the entire range of motion. Physical therapists forced an increased range of motion manually and strapped weights around the patient’s ankle for repetitive, strength building exercises for the hamstrings.
Following a month of manipulations under anesthesia every week, combined with the seven days a week physical therapy regimen, thrice daily, I said goodbye to the physical therapists and Dr. O’Donoghue, the man who did not take vacations, wrote a medical book without a bibliography, and changed lives.
As I walked from the cab to check in luggage for the plane ride home, I did not limp.
Copyright: James Clark King, LLC, September 8, 2009