For Kyle Oliverio, sports were important growing up because it was about family. It was his way to bond with his brothers whether they were competing on a Fisher Price hoop as youngsters or competing on the football field as teenagers. Everything Kyle learned about sports and his passion all came from his dad, which ultimately had a huge impact on who Kyle became.
Kyle participated in basketball and football until middle school which is when his first knee injury occurred, and was diagnosed merely as a contusion. Although he noticed his left knee was not as strong as his right one, he ignored the problem and kept playing sports.
The pain and swelling continued to get worse until Kyle went to see a physician while in high school. “That is when I first got the diagnosis that [I had] osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) [where] a small portion of your femur has poor blood flow… where the pain is coming from,” explained Kyle. He opted for a procedure that provided an immediate fix, allowing him to return to football within months.
In the end, his surgery was unsuccessful, which led Kyle to Dr. Dennis Crawford, who diagnosed him with OCD in both knees. Dr. Crawford explained that another solution would be a graft of donor tissue, which was something Kyle knew very little about. Dr. Crawford went on to explain he would put in a request to the tissue bank and look for a match, at which point the surgery would be scheduled. He also told Kyle the donor tissue would be grafted into his knee and would eventually incorporate over six months. Soon after, Kyle had surgery using the allograft to replace the OCD lesion in his knee.
“What I realized was that as much of a physical recovery it was, it was a mental transformation for me realizing how much a blessing your health is and how often you take it for granted,” said Kyle when he reflected on how the simplest things, such as taking a shower, can become a challenge. It was these day-to-day activities that made him appreciate being healthy. “You don’t have a lot of control over what happens to you but you do have a lot of control over your attitude and how you approach the situation or adversity… I’m going to approach it with positivity and perseverance.”
Later, while playing basketball in his freshman year at Oregon University, he felt a pop in his other knee, which led to another surgery to replace the OCD lesion in his other knee. Once again, an osteochondral allograft from a donor was used to treat the lesion. Dr. Crawford suggested Kyle consider a lifestyle change, so he started focusing more on hiking, mountain biking and yoga, but it was still hard on Kyle to fully give up what defined who he was – sports.
When thinking about what the donor tissue meant to Kyle and how it changed his life, he finished with this thought: “It changed my attitude on life, appreciating every day, living in the moment, accepting the way things are and not trying to change that. It really changed my life.” Because of the donor grafts in both knees, Kyle is able to enjoy an active life again doing the things he enjoys most while attending Oregon University as a normal college student.