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A popular high school referee and umpire credits GBMC with saving his knee

By:

Korey Karnes Huyler for Greater Baltimore Medical Center

August 10, 2020
After playing baseball in high school, college and a short time in the pros — and with a current career as a football referee and baseball umpire — Chuck Harmon, 55, knows how to handle a little bit of knee pain.

So, when he started feeling aches in his knee around his 50th birthday, the Parkville resident just took a pain reliever and waited for it to feel better. That worked for a few years, but eventually he couldn’t tolerate the pain any longer.

One of his doctors suggested he meet with Dr. D. Allan Lanzo, an orthopaedic surgeon and the head of sports medicine at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC).

Chuck Harmon hard at work
Chuck Harmon hard at work
Dr. Lanzo and Harmon decided a subchondroplasty was the best option for his painful, arthritic knee. In fall 2019, Dr. Lanzo performed the minimally invasive, fluoroscopically (X-ray) assisted procedure that targets and fills subchondral bone defects. Subchondral bone is found below the cartilage in a joint and acts as a shock absorber.

The surgery went well, and physical therapy was a success. Harmon got cleared to return to work in March 2020. But, by the third inning of his first game back, Harmon was in pain. He went home and iced his knee.

The next day, COVID-19 shut down the state.

Harmon wasn’t sure what to do. The pain was getting worse; he had limited to no mobility and he couldn’t sleep at all.

“When I became unable to sleep because of the pain, my wife, Cara, told me she had had enough,” he said with a laugh. “I had to stop complaining and figure out what was happening.”

He called GBMC and was told there would be no surgeries for months because of the pandemic.

“When I got through to Dr. Lanzo’s physician’s assistant, I said, ‘I am begging you, I need to see him as soon as possible,’” said Harmon. “Dr. Lanzo knows that I am not a person who likes doctors, nor am I someone who harasses a doctor for an appointment. He knew it must be bad.”

And bad it was.

Once Harmon got an appointment, Dr. Lanzo discovered Harmon had almost no cartilage left around his right knee. He’d never seen anything like it in 20 years.

Harmon said, “He felt terrible and said he would do anything he could to fix the problem.” Unfortunately, Dr. Lanzo's hands were tied, and he could only help to manage Harmon's pain with medication until operating rooms were open again.

It was a long wait, but Harmon was scheduled for the first surgery as soon as Dr. Lanzo was back at work and elective surgeries at the hospital had resumed: June 10.

Chuck Harmon with his family
Chuck Harmon with his family
In accordance with GBMC's new pre-operative process, Harmon was tested for COVID-19 and self-quarantined before surgery. He couldn’t have his wife with him in recovery due to visitor restrictions made necessary by the pandemic and was told he would have to spend the night at the hospital, which he did not want.

“Because of COVID-19 precautions, my wife couldn’t be there, (nor) my kids. You are basically going through this surgery, and you are totally alone.”

Dr. Lanzo was the person who called Harmon’s wife to tell her surgery was a success. And, though Harmon did end up having to spend the night, his care team treated him like family, and Dr. Lanzo was back in his room at 7 a.m. to see how Harmon was doing. It turns out, Harmon was doing great: The surgery was a success and Harmon was walking just four hours after the procedure.

Though he had to have two surgeries, Harmon said Dr. Lanzo was the only person he would have wanted by his side.

“It’s his bedside manner. I just feel comfortable with this guy,” Harmon said. “He went out of his way for me. I could actually see the pain on his face once he knew the first surgery hadn’t worked. He went out of his way to do what he could to help. Many people don’t treat others like this.”

Harmon felt so comfortable, in fact, that he recommended Dr. Lanzo and GBMC to his father-in-law for his knee issues.

“Every aspect of my experience at GBMC, from the secretaries to the people taking the COVID tests, they were excellent,” Harmon said. “Everybody was professional and had a smile on their face. I felt it was as good a situation that it could have possibly been.”
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