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Patient Stories: Caroline Moore

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After summiting Mt. Denali in 2013, Caroline Moore contracted a staph infection in her knee during surgery. 

Coloradoan Caroline Moore’s biggest challenge wasn’t her climb to the top of Alaska’s Denali (Mt. McKinley), North America’s highest point; it was a microscopic germ.

An athlete since childhood, Caroline has played nearly every sport competitively and climbed some of the world’s biggest mountains, including all of Colorado’s “fourteeners” – mountain peaks 14,000 feet or taller.

The wear and tear on Caroline’s knees – including twice tearing her left ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus – eventually left her with significant ligament and cartilage damage in her left knee. But an MRI following her painful 16-day expedition in 2013 to the summit of Denali revealed numerous injuries to her left knee due to the severe loss of cartilage. Her knee was bone on bone and several doctors told her she’d never climb or ski again.

After two surgeries attempting to salvage her knee, things were looking more hopeful for Caroline and her relentless ambition to return to sports. That was until Caroline’s doctor determined that her knee was infected with a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus a few days after surgery.

The infection and its aftermath threw Caroline’s life into complete disarray.

After being rushed into an emergency surgery and sent home with an intravenous (IV) line in her arm to administer powerful antibiotics, Caroline spent the next five months barely able to move her leg and in excruciating knee pain. Another surgery helped her regain knee movement, but fractured her shin bone.

In March of 2015, Caroline had her eighth surgery, a bone biopsy to assess a bone infection and her doctor concluded that the damage was irreparable, leaving her with limited options. She has since developed numerous Staph infections under her skin. Constantly taking antibiotics to fight off those infections led to problems with her gastrointestinal system and extreme fatigue.

Determined to get back to being active, Caroline transitioned off of crutches and swims and bikes to stay active until she can have a special type of knee replacement for patients with prior Staph infections and athletes looking to return to their extreme sports. Due to her poor bone density and recurring infections, she’ll have to wait until at least 2018 for the surgery.

Not a day goes by without Caroline visualizing herself skiing or climbing. After a grueling four-year battle, Caroline still trains like an athlete in recovery, determined to use the power of visualization to allow her to return to big-mountain climbing and skiing again – and overcome the invisible bacterium that significantly altered her life.

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