Weiss Hospital

Darcy Jo Wood, 34—billed as “a little lady with a BIG voice”—is not used to an idle life. The professional singer, musician, actress, and producer, usually tours more than 200 days a year with her Chicago-based group, “The Lovettes”, in rollicking retrospective performances of the greatest girl group hits of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. 

As an entertainer, Darcy found herself with unexpected downtime in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even this unanticipated rest from performing didn’t help a nagging knee pain that had bothered her over the years and now took a turn for the worse. Over the course of the summer and fall, Darcy’s lingering knee pain finally became unmanageable. 

After a visit to Weiss’ outpatient Arvey Clinic, Darcy was referred to Sebastian Ko, M.D., a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who specializes in arthroscopic and reconstructive techniques. Right away, Darcy knew she’d found a doctor who would listen, and who could help.

“He feels like a friend,” she said. “Dr. Ko was so diligent in helping me with every health issue I dealt with, really helping me through the whole process.”

Finding a Fix for Knee Pain

Dr. Ko is no stranger to treating active and athletic patients like Darcy, who in addition to being a performer is a recreational runner. His experience includes treating elite athletes while serving as the assistant team physician for the Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Cubs, and Rockford IceHogs professional sports teams, and the Northwestern Division 1 collegiate football team. At Weiss, Dr. Ko is on the medical team providing comprehensive care to several high school and collegiate sports teams.

Dr. Ko was able to quickly diagnose Darcy with a meniscus tear, a very common—but painful—knee problem. He recommended laparoscopic meniscus repair surgery to alleviate her knee pain once and for all.

“Each knee joint has two tough, rubbery C-shaped pieces of cartilage, called menisci. Their job is to act as a cushion and absorb shock in the knee joint,” said Dr. Ko. “A meniscus tear like Darcy’s can be so bothersome and painful because of how hardworking the knee itself is. The knee is the largest joint in the body, taking on a weight-bearing load of more than one and half times your body weight with every step.” 

With COVID-19 a serious concern, the timing of the surgery had Darcy nervous. During the first wave of the pandemic, elective surgeries were paused and Darcy was worried that an unpredictable pandemic surge might end up sidelining her opportunity to have the procedure. 

Putting off surgery can hold its own risks. Some people who delay treatment for a meniscus tear may experience further knee problems down the line. Part of a torn meniscus can break off and become lodged in the knee joint itself, sometimes causing serious knee mobility issues and pain that require a more urgent and invasive surgery than an initial meniscus repair or treatment. An untreated torn meniscus can also lead to other long-term problems, including early development of osteoarthritis in the knee.

“Dr. Ko went above and beyond to help get the care I needed in a timely way. He was so helpful in navigating the insurance and finance issues also, and this sped up the process tremendously,” Darcy said.

Darcy said Dr. Ko spent the time to make sure she understood the procedure she was going to have and even gave her his cell phone number so that she could contact him with any concerns after surgery.

Later Darcy learned that while she underwent meniscus repair surgery, the operating room was filled with her “BIG” voice, as Dr. Ko and the OR team listened to her album. Darcy was delighted and moved that Dr. Ko chose her music as his surgical soundtrack. Finding out that music in the operating room is a real practice also reminded her of one of her favorite TV shows.

“It’s just like ‘Grey’s Anatomy!’She said.

‘His quick action is why I’m still here.’

About a week and a half after surgery, Darcy was not feeling well. She was experiencing ankle pain and some difficulty catching her breath. Dr. Ko quickly brought Darcy in for an assessment. An ultrasound of her leg showed a large blood clot behind her knee. 

“Blood coagulation is the body’s normal response to some injuries. It’s a natural response to keep you from losing too much blood,” said Dr. Ko. “But this natural bodily response can create a risk of dangerous blood clots after many types of surgery. We always take precautions to prevent blood clots and we educate patients about prevention and symptoms during our preoperative visit.”

A computed tomography, or CT scan, and an echocardiogram of Darcy’s heart, were ordered, revealing that Darcy had a pulmonary embolism, a dangerous, sometimes fatal, complication.

Darcy was quickly admitted to the hospital for monitoring and treatment, including blood thinner treatment and oxygen therapy. During her stay, Darcy was often visited by Dr. Ko and Suzanne Pham, MD, FAAP, Weiss’ Associate Medical Director. Darcy said she really appreciated the kindness and attentiveness, especially since COVID-19 safety precautions prevented her from being able to have visits and the in-person support of her boyfriend.

“The whole team was so kind,” Darcy said. “They really helped reassure me.”

Within a month after leaving the hospital, Darcy was feeling much better as she continued to heal. She was working out again, and was reassured by Dr. Ko at her most recent follow-up visit that her knee was healing nicely and would have a full recovery.

Darcy said that she wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Dr. Ko to a friend for a sports medicine or orthopedic problem.

“I respect him so much for his medical expertise and how much he cares. He just went above and beyond—I feel like I’ve known him my whole life,” she said. But beyond repairing her torn meniscus, she also credits Dr. Ko with saving her life. “His quick action is why I am still here. Dr. Ko saved my life.” 

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Hear the “little lady with a big voice” on the website of her group, The Lovettes, by clicking here.

Watch this video to learn more about Dr. Sebastian Ko

Click here to learn more about Sports Medicine at Weiss Memorial Hospital.