Rachel Klaus knows knees.
She is currently recovering from her third surgery to restore the cartilage on her patellas
(kneecaps) using stem cell transplant. As Klaus will tell you, it’s not an easy healing process,
particularly given how little blood flows to cartilage in the first place.
Rachel Klaus also knows anatomy.
She holds a master’s degree in human anatomy from the University of Colorado (Anschutz
Medical Campus) and a bachelor’s degree in human physiology from the University of Oregon.
In addition, Klaus is currently Head of Content at Touch of Life Technologies, a medical anatomy education company in Colorado that produces “interactive anatomical software for teaching, learning and reviewing anatomy.”
And, on top of all that, Klaus has worked on one of the most intricate and fascinating anatomy projects in the country, the Susan Potter “virtual cadaver” project at the University of Colorado.
We have previously written about that effort here.
On Monday July 1, Rachel will bring all this expertise to a free Meetup at the non-profit
Anatomy in Clay® Centers in Denver—“Knee-D To Know Basis: Learn the Basics of Knee
Surgery and Build the Knee in Clay.” The Meetup will run from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2201 S. Delaware
St. To sign up and register, follow this link.
The Meetup is for anyone who is contemplating surgery on their knee or even full knee
replacement surgery. Klaus, who ran across the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System attending
conferences around the country, will talk about what questions to ask prior to surgery, what to
expect from the surgery and during recovery, too.
The Meetup is also for anyone with an interest in anatomy and the peculiar knee joint, which
Klaus calls “the worst joint in the human body.” The switch from life as a quadruped to
bipedalism was not a good one for the knee joint, says Klaus. That’s because the knee only
moves significantly in two directions—flexion and extension—and yet takes tremendous torque from such high-impact sports as football or soccer.
The result? Some 700,000 full knee replacement surgeries are performed every year in the
“We all walk around with anatomy and none of us know enough about it,” says Klaus.
“Understanding anatomy is very helpful when talking with doctors and other experts about how to move better or how to improve aches and pains.”
It’s also very helpful with self-diagnosis—with being able to explain to a doctor or physical
therapist about the specific nature of a complaint.
“You might say ‘my back hurts,’ but what in your back hurts? Obviously, your doctor will be
able to figure out your diagnosis, and subsequent treatment, more easily depending on how
specific you can be,” she says.
That self-diagnosis can also come in handy when no doctor is around.
In 2017, Klaus was deep in the back-country of Washington State, rock climbing the highly
technical route up Goode Mountain. (It requires a glacier crossing and a Class 5 climb on loose rock.) A rock fell on Klaus’ foot.
There were two options. The first option was to call in Search and Rescue for a highly dangerous evacuation. The second was to figure out what was wrong and determine if the injury could wait a few days for treatment. The summit was still two days away.
The first thing Klaus did was to allow for a half-hour of letting the adrenaline settle and tending
to her wounds. The second was to make a decision.
“There wasn’t a very safe way to get down from where we were,” recalls Klaus. “The only
option was to continue. I didn’t know if the bone was damaged but I didn’t feel anything that
wiggled like a broken bone and I was able to put weight on it so I knew it wasn’t critical. My
foot hurt but I thought it would be okay. So I cinched up my shoelaces to apply some
compression and on we went.” When you sustain an injury like this the general recommendation is to rest, ice, compress and elevate. Klaus took the only treatment option she had available to her at the time.
Because, in the end, she knew her own anatomy like the back of her hand.