Why I became a knee surgeon
Do you know it? The years go by and many things that used to take what felt like an eternity are now done almost too quickly. Wishes and dreams that once seemed huge and unattainable or unfulfillable are now part of everyday life taken for granted. Whenever I feel that the activities of everyday life are becoming too dominant and taken for granted, and that I need a push back to more fire and passion, I pull out my photo albums and remind myself that all that I am allowed to do today and all that I have been able to accomplish to date are products of a long-lived passion.
How it all began
I, Martin Gruber, come from a classic conservative academic family. We are from Lilienfeld in Lower Austria. My family owns a farm there a little outside, up in the densely wooded hills to this day. In my childhood – long before I asked myself career questions or had to make educational decisions – I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. The best moments were always those when we worked together on crafts. So even as a little boy, I was building walls, doing woodwork, or being there when we had things to do in the woods. It soon became clear to me that my profession needed a strong craft component. I liked to work with my hands, I could devote myself to one and the same activity for a long time, I was proud of what I saw emerging in front of me and – at least that’s what grandpa always said – I was extraordinarily skilled. The school years came and went and the closer the Matura year came, the clearer it became to me that I had to make a decision for my future. Very quickly, there were only two ideas left in my head: Either I choose the most beautiful of all apprenticeships and become a carpenter, or I take the path of an academic education – following the tradition of my family. And here there was only one option for me – if, then I wanted to become an orthopedic surgeon – in university-trained bone carpenter quasi.
The training years
I started my medical studies quickly and with a lot of energy. Between you and me, I didn’t go through with it quite that quickly. Long nights over difficult scripts, pages and pages of complicated subject matter. I got through the cramming – I got through it. But that was all, as far as my academic enthusiasm was concerned. It was always exciting when it came time to lend a hand somewhere. The first dissection course, the first time famulating in a hospital, the first hours as a young doctor in a practice. And so my training only became really interesting for me as it progressed. Entering residency, first assignments as a surgical assistant – my motivation increased the more I was allowed to do!
My great passion - sports
Soon after finishing my training, I started working as a knee specialist in a group practice. And many of our patients came to us with more or less severe injuries they had sustained during sports. An injured shoulder after an unfortunate fall while ice skating here, a torn ligament after deep powder skiing there. Sports injuries are classically cases for the orthopedist. From the very beginning, taking care of accomplished athletes suited my second great passion – my love for skiing. I really wanted to become a specialist in skiing and therefore knee injuries. Maybe not least because I spent my winters on Austria’s most beautiful slopes from a very young age and skiing meant absolute happiness then just as it does now. Obviously I developed well, because soon the opportunity came to work as a team doctor for the Austrian Ski Federation – the ÖSV – with the best ski racers in the world. I was allowed to be part of summer camps from South America to New Zealand and for more than half a decade I was chief physician of the ÖSV at probably the most famous ski spectacle in the world – the Hahnenkamm weekend in Kitzbühel. I was put in charge of some of the most successful knee joints in history. To this day, I think back to my time with Hermann Maier and Co. full of joy.
What has become of it
After my time in the group practice, I decided to take the biggest step in my career up to that point: ten years ago, I launched the Medizinzentrum Alserstraße (MZA) and there I fulfilled my dream of a structure for comprehensive, orthopedic treatment for my patients. When Quentin Tarantino says he makes movies he would like to see for himself, I asked myself the question when planning the MZA: How would I like to be treated as a patient? The result is my practice. There I work with other specialists or alone as needed. In addition, a team of highly trained physiotherapists is available to my patients. We have options for rehab and also accompany our patients after surgical procedures. In addition, we are equipped with the latest technology: from high-energy treatments to a glass counter-current pool for professional swimming lessons and individual swim training, from a weight room to a centrifuge for plasma injections, all the care and service you need to get fit again quickly is available in an area of around 300 m². The next question came half a decade later: What can I do to ensure that my patients not only get fit, but also stay fit in the long term? My answer was to found the Vienna Sports Hall. The sports hall is not only an architectural Gründerzeit jewel in the middle of Vienna, but also a state-of-the-art training center and fitness center. From computerized rehabilitation training to cutting-edge functional fitness, we offer the full spectrum in the gym for a naturally healthy agile and enduring body. To this day, I myself make an effort to come to the training at least twice a week and it does me good!
A cautious look into the future
Surgery never stands still: Even for me, after almost 8,000 operations, it is a constant learning and development. It is not only the technical possibilities – improved materials, new implants and, due to the progress in IT, more and more support by computers and robots – who wants to maintain a high standard must constantly improve. In addition to innovations in my field, a second thing is insanely important to me: experience. No knee on earth is like another. The tension ratios of the ligaments, the position of the bones and cartilage in relation to each other, bone density, musculature – knee surgery is always precision work and millimeter work. In addition to the “classic” knee surgeries such as cruciate ligaments and meniscus and cartilage damage, I have developed leg osteotomies – so-called conversion osteotomies – into a specialty. Although these interventions are technically complex, they have a very high chance of success and truly bring patients a new quality of life. In addition to visual aspects, above all, new sports ability, freedom from pain and new range of motion. Here I also see it as my task to create awareness – many people with knock knees or bow legs still do not know that surgery is possible and makes sense.
Having devoted the past decade very much to building state-of-the-art medical structures, because it still gives me the greatest pleasure, I am putting all my focus 100% on my opportunities as an orthopedic surgeon. I operate in two private hospitals in Vienna several days a week. For diagnosis and treatment discussions, I ordain in the MZA and those I can motivate I then gladly accompany to the gym to place them in the careful care of my team.