Boogie Fever
Photo courtesy of Estela Garcia Cabrera.

Estela Garcia Cabrera

Arthritic knee rebounds after treatment with amniotic stem cells and PRP.

When Estela Garcia Cabrera’s father fled Cuba, he didn’t speak a word of English. So instead of relocating to the United States proper, he moved his family to the US territory of Puerto Rico, where the population speaks predominantly Spanish, his native tongue.

Moving to the small island territory had a profound impact on Estela.

“Living in Puerto Rico, I had the opportunity to attend Pontifical Catholic University and earn a master’s degree,” she relates. “With that, I became a Spanish professor at Pontifical Catholic and finished my career there. I taught at the university for forty years and loved my students. For me, they were the best part of teaching.”

Estela, 74, met and eventually married her husband in Puerto Rico, where the couple raised two daughters, one of whom is a doctor at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Augustine. Estela and her husband are both retired now and live half the year in Puerto Rico and the other half in Florida in Pembroke Pines.

While here in Florida a few years back, Estela’s husband developed a wound on his leg that wouldn’t heal. Their daughter recommended he visit Rosana Rodriguez, DPM, at All About Feet & Legs in St. Augustine. Estela was so impressed by Dr. Rodriguez’s treatment for her husband that she visited the doctor when she developed symptoms of her own.

“Dr. Rodriguez healed my husband’s wound in five days,” Estela raves. “So, I went to see her when my legs started hurting. Both legs became very painful. Dr. Rodriguez performed a procedure for insufficient veins, and the pain went away.

“But I also had a problem with my right knee that started about two years ago and got progressively worse. It went from a little painful to very painful, a nine or ten on a scale of one to ten.

“I had trouble going up and down stairs, and walking. I used to walk an hour every morning, but I reached a point where I couldn’t walk, couldn’t swim and couldn’t dance, which is something I really enjoy doing.”

X-rays showed Estela had severe arthritis, which destroyed the protective cartilage in her right knee. An orthopedic surgeon told her she needed knee replacement surgery, but Estela desired to avoid surgery. She returned to All About Feet & Legs hoping Dr. Rodriguez would offer an alternative treatment. Dr. Rodriguez had just the thing for her.

“Estela is a very active lady. She and her husband travel a lot, and she was having severe pain in her right knee that was affecting her activities of daily living,” Dr. Rodriguez observes. “The surgeon recommended a total knee replacement, but because of her level of activity, Estela did not want surgery. She did not want to be housebound or slowed down during the months of recuperation following surgery.

“I offered Estela a different type of treatment to try to improve her symptoms. It is regenerative medicine that combines amniotic stem cells and platelet-rich plasma, or PRP. These two factors work together to accelerate healing and regenerate damaged tissues.”

Tissue Regeneration

The stem cells Dr. Rodriguez uses for the regenerative medicine procedures she offers at All About Feet & Legs are amniotic stem cells. They are obtained from the placentas of heathy women who donate the tissue following caesarean deliveries. The PRP is obtained from the patient’s blood.

“Amniotic stem cells are young cells that contain many growth factors,” Dr. Rodriguez describes. “I combine that with PRP, which is the patient’s own growth factors, and I inject the mixture into the area of the affected tissue, which can be tendons, ligaments, nerves or joints. For Estela, it was her right knee.

“These growth factors initiate the process to repair the injured tissue, whether it is a muscle, ligament, tendon, nerve or joint. They reduce inflammation as well, which decreases pain. The growth factors also stimulate tissue regeneration, including cartilage regeneration in arthritic joints.”

Dr. Rodriguez’s regenerative medicine technique is a process. On the day of the injection, the patient’s blood is drawn and placed in a centrifuge to obtain the PRP, which is then mixed with the stem cells. At that point, the injection site is numbed with a local anesthetic.

“The injection is placed using fluoroscopy guidance if I am injecting a joint or ultrasound guidance if I am injecting a tendon, ligament or soft tissue,” Dr. Rodriguez notes. “Typically, patients require only one injection to achieve significant improvement in their condition. Occasionally, a patient will need more than one injection to achieve improvement and to avoid surgery.

“In Estela’s case, a single injection improved her function enough so that she can now perform her activities of daily living without discomfort. At this stage, she does not require knee replacement surgery. She is able to walk. She told me she has been able to go to the mall and walk with no pain. In the past, she had to stop to rest her knee.”

Positive Signs

Dr. Rodriguez chose regenerative medicine to improve Estela’s arthritic right knee to a healthier state. The doctor used an injection of stem cells and PRP growth factors to initiate cartilage regeneration and tissue repair in Estela’s knee. While this process occurs over several weeks, Estela noticed positive signs early on.

“It’s only been four weeks since I got the stem cells, but my knee is already better than it was,” Estela enthuses. “In the morning, I don’t have any pain when I get up.”

Estela is taking full advantage of her improved health. She’s being as active as she can be with the improvement she’s achieved thus far and looks forward to even greater improvement and a return to all of her activities in the near future.

“I’m back to walking a little, and I’m swimming and doing aqua aerobics in our apartment pool,” Estela reports. “An instructor at the complex clubhouse taught me the exercises to do for the aqua aerobics, and I think those exercises are helping my knee.

“I still haven’t gone back to dancing, which is something I had to give up when my knee pain got really bad. But I know I’ll soon be dancing again, and I can’t wait for that, because dancing is something I love to do.”

Estela’s quality of life has improved significantly. She says she’s seen enough results to feel comfortable recommending the stem cells and PRP. Regenerative medicine is definitely a better option than surgery, she opines.

“And I recommend getting those treatments from Dr. Rodriguez,” Estela adds. “She’s a wonderful professional and a very good doctor.”

 

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