By: Peter Mandt, MD
To say Roxie Millsap is an extreme athlete is an understatement. “My kids think I’m crazy,” Millsap said.
The Ferndale native has committed much of the last decade to competing in triathlons. Before that she was a college volleyball player and high school athlete. She’s always loved competition.
But Millsap’s ability to compete was almost taken away from her. Training for a triathlon in 2010, Millsap felt a pop in her knee. She’s had plenty of issues with her “bad” left knee before, but this was her “good” right knee.
When she visited a local doctor, Millsap received devastating news. She had popped out the potholes of her articular cartilage, which normally allows joints to glide over each other with little friction. Millsap was told there was no way to repair the damage.
“I’d have to basically quit everything I love to do,” said Millsap. “Me being a little bullheaded or hardheaded, I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s not the answer I wanted. Someone has to be able to fix it.’”
That’s when her doctor suggested Dr. Peter Mandt. If anyone could help Millsap, it was Dr. Mandt at Proliance Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine who specializes in complex knee procedures. After scoping both of Millsap’s knees, Dr. Mandt performed Osteochondral Allograft Transplantation Surgery – also known as OATS. He went into the potholes created by Millsap’s injury, corked them out, and then plugged live donor tissue in with surface cartilage that was still attached to her knee. The projected result: the tissue would merge and grow together.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for Millsap. Her body rejected the donor tissue and she never fully healed. “It felt like I was touching an electric fence every time I stepped down,” Millsap said. Despite the excruciating pain, Millsap muscled through and completed the Ironman Canada with a “leg and a half.”
That wasn’t good enough for Millsap or Dr. Mandt.
In February 2012, they did the OATS procedure again. On top of that, Dr. Mandt replaced Millsap’s meniscus and performed an osteotomy on her femur.
“I got a whole new remodel,” said Millsap. “That was the magic ticket for me.”
The procedure got traction in the right place and Millsap’s knee was able to heal properly. Millsap just completed her best season ever. She finished a full Ironman and two half Ironman competitions in a three-month period. She’s not just back to 100-percent; Millsap is stronger than ever before.
“Whatever Dr. Mandt did, it was a just a Godsend,” said Millsap, who is now 52 years old. “I get to do what I love and it’s just been a great year.”
Millsap’s recovery didn’t come without several challenges, though.
“Don’t ever think there weren’t moments of doubt for me,” said Millsap. “If I can encourage anyone to just; ‘Okay, tomorrow. Let’s go again tomorrow.’ I quit a hundred times. But I started again, too. That’s hopefully what my message can bring to people.”
While Millsap is proud of her athletic achievements, she’s also a grandmother to two young grandchildren.
“I can throw my grandbabies on my back and piggyback them,” Millsap said. “I’m exhausted after playing with them. They’re my joy. They own me.”