After recovering from a heart attack, John Borza became an impassioned runner with dreams of running the 2020 TCS New York City Marathon on the American Heart Association team. When a torn meniscus threatened to derail his plans, he turned to the experts at UPMC Sports Medicine.

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The Challenge

John Borza, 62, of Gibsonia, Pa., decided to get serious about his health and well-being after having a heart attack in 2017. The heart attack, says John, “was a wake-up call that changed everything.”

He adopted a healthy lifestyle, losing weight and walking every day. Walking slowly progressed to jogging — and soon John was running half-marathons. “I am passionate about running,” he says, “so learning I was accepted to run the 2020 New York City Marathon as part of the American Heart Association’s team was a dream come true.”

While training for the 2020 race, John tore the medial meniscus in his right knee and needed surgery. “When the 2020 race was canceled due to COVID-19, it gave me more time to heal and rehabilitate the knee,” he says. “Thankfully, my race entry was deferred so I could run the 2022 marathon.”

The Path to UPMC

For John to have any hope of running the marathon in 2022, his meniscus required surgical repair. As a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) at UPMC, John often works with Volker Musahl, MD, a world-renowned orthopaedic surgeon. Dr. Musahl — chief of UPMC Sports Medicine, medical director of the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, and a runner himself — knew John remained determined to run the New York City Marathon in 2022. “Dr. Musahl thought the tear could be fixed, but he did not make any promises,” says John.

The Solution and the Recovery

In November 2020, John underwent meniscal root repair surgery, a procedure that reattaches the torn meniscus to the bone. “I woke up after the surgery to hear Dr. Musahl saying, ‘I fixed it,'” says John. “I followed everything the UPMC doctors and therapists told me to do,” he adds. “We took rehab very slowly.”

After nine months of rehab, John was able to start training in November 2021 to run the 2022 New York City Marathon. Throughout his yearlong training program, John visited Dr. Musahl and physical therapist Michael Eskay, DPT, for regular checkups. “I also saw the cardiologist, just to be sure things were good with my heart,” he says.

The Results

On Nov. 6, 2022, John finished the New York City Marathon in just about 6 1/2 hours. Although conditions on race day weren’t ideal for runners, John says he “just had a really good time. I stayed with my race strategy — and I stopped often along the route to chat with family and friends who were there to cheer me on.”

Crossing the finish line, says John, was a celebration of his recovery from a serious knee injury — and his determination to complete a major marathon.

“My knee feels totally normal now,” says John, who credits the world-class treatment he received at UPMC Sports Medicine. “How cool is it that UPMC provided an average guy like me the same world-class medicine offered to elite athletes — and gave me the chance to fulfill my dream of running in a world-class marathon.”

To learn more or schedule an appointment with UPMC Sports Medicine, visit our website or call 1-855-937-7678.

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.