Tissue Grafts Help Woman Return to Hiking After Serious Injury

Christal Lloyd | Tissue recipient

The term “active lifestyle” might be an understatement when it comes to describing 38-year-old Christal Lloyd. She’s been skiing her whole life, and she loves swing dancing. When she adopted a dog, she went out of her way to find one could that could serve as a hiking partner.

Christal LloydBut in February 2020, it all came to a halt. Christal was skiing on an unfamiliar trail in Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire. She misjudged the fall line, or the most direct path downhill, and chose to bail — or crash in ski terminology — rather than continue out of control. “I had a slight equipment malfunction,” Christal said. “My binding didn’t release as expected. I twisted my leg with the ski on it.”

Her injury turned out to be serious. Christal had torn her anterior, medial, and posterior cruciate ligaments — three of the four main ligaments in the knee. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t great. The entire country was struggling to deal with the pandemic, and there were new restrictions on elective procedures. “Because of COVID I could not have surgery until I had full range of motion,” Christal said.

That meant she had to remain on crutches for months, which changed her life dramatically, especially since she lives alone in a home with stairs.

When the time finally came for her surgeries in November 2020, there were a couple options to repair her ligaments. The surgeon could use Christal’s tissue, which would require additional incisions to take part of a tendon from her other leg. The other choice was to transplant donor tissue. “I needed so much, it would be a lot to ask of my body,” Christal said. “Using the donor tissue would be the easier choice.”

Following her surgeries — there were five in all — Christal has made tremendous progress. While she cannot run or dance yet, she no longer needs crutches. “I’m able to walk my dog in the evenings, which is huge! I look forward to doing some New Hampshire 4,000 footers, which are mountain hikes. There is a list of about 48 of them. But for now, we are doing flat hikes, 2-mile walks. I had the ability to do none of that a year ago.”

Christal was familiar with tissue donation even before her surgeries because she used to work for New England Donor Services, formerly known as New England Organ Bank. Now she knows first-hand the impact donation can have. “I think about my donor and their family daily,” she said. “They thought about somebody suffering during their time of suffering. The impact on another person’s life is astounding. The tissue they donated gave me my life back. I’m going to be able to do swing outs and climb mountains. That’s huge! It’s me to the core! I’m forever grateful.”