She Wasn’t Ready to Give up… so Neither Was I
“She had been told by everyone else to give up; they told her that losing her leg was inevitable. But her whole body was fighting for that leg. Something had to be done.”
This September marked the completion of one patient’s long journey to recovery, which would have never been possible without Assuta Ashdod’s Professor Drexler. Back in 2017, Rivka Nochamowitz underwent an unsuccessful knee replacement that drastically altered the next five years of her life.
Rivka is from Kiryat Bialik, near Haifa, which is where she initially sought treatment for pain in her left knee. The surgeon recommended a knee replacement, which ended up being the first of many surgeries. More than a year after the original doctor’s visit, Rivka was still suffering from extreme pain.
Despite her complaints, doctors told her it was all a natural part of the healing process. For the next three years, Rivka had multiple surgeries to no avail; her situation only worsened. And to make matters worse, as a result of the multiple failed operations, Rivka had developed a serious infection in her knee and doctors in her area were recommending amputation as the only prognosis.
Rivka looked for second, third, and fourth opinions all over the country but could not find a doctor willing to help her keep her leg. Finally, in 2021, she was referred to Professor Drexler, the head of the Orthopedic department at Assuta Ashdod.
“The first time I met Rivka, her situation was dire. Her leg was extremely infected and she was begging for help. Because her case was so complicated, she couldn’t find anyone else willing to take on the job. But she refused to give up, so I knew I had to do what I could,” Professor Drexler recalls with care.
Professor Drexler told Rivka that she would have to relocate to Ashdod for the surgeries, but she was more than willing to do whatever it took to save her leg.
“The series of surgeries Rivka needed were a big deal. Her knee was infected, and there was bone missing, among other serious issues. We first needed to remove the failed implant and treat the infection with several rounds of antibiotics in order to lay the groundwork for future treatment.”
After putting in hours of academic research, he concluded that he would have to reconstruct Rivka’s knee using a method rarely performed in Israel.
“This was certainly one of the most challenging cases I have ever had. I had to build something from nothing using a combination of unique materials that would be able to carry the weight of her body and last forever,” explained Professor Drexler.
Finally, in September 2022, Rivka underwent her final surgery with Professor Drexler. The recovery process was not simple, with Rivka moving back and forth from Assuta Ashdod to her home in northern Israel. But after the better part of a year, Professor Drexler had done what everyone else had said was impossible. He had saved her leg.
“I couldn’t tell Rivka no. I love my work, and sometimes things get complicated in my line of work. I knew we had to try.”