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A 14-year-old athlete gets a major knee overhaul

Pediatric orthopaedic patient, Emma Voorhies, in the UC Davis Children's Surgery Center.

Emma Voorhies' looks forward to being sidelined no more.

(SACRAMENTO) — The Voorhies family had tried everything. Physical therapy. Cortisone shots. Multiple X-rays and MRIs to determine the extent of Emma Voorhies’ knee injury. The teen was in so much pain, coupled with the anxiety of what the future would hold. Emma’s mom, Sherie Voorhies, was desperate to help her child.


Pediatric orthopaedic patient, Emma Voorhies, in the UC Davis Children's Surgery Center.

“Emma wasn’t just sore, she was in absolute agony,” Voorhies said. “Her pain kept getting worse. I knew we were missing something.”

The Voorhies family was not giving up. A dedicated athlete at Oakridge High School in El Dorado Hills, Emma saw the handwriting on the wall. How could she continue to play sports if she could barely walk? What would this mean for her future?

A referral to UC Davis Health and Brian Haus, a highly recommended pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, was an “awesome blessing.”

“Within the span of three minutes, Dr. Haus knew exactly what Emma was dealing with,” Voorhies said. “We finally had a place to start.”

Emma Voorhies was full of questions and Haus answered each and every one of them. “Dr. Haus was insanely patient and even thanked Emma for being so prepared,” Voorhies said. “It took Emma eight months of varied failed treatments and incorrect diagnoses before she hit the doctor lottery jackpot!”


UC Davis Children's Hospital ranked 8th nationally in pediatric orthopedics in the 2019-2020 US News & World Report "Best Children's Hospitals" rankings.

The initial diagnosis, patella plica syndrome, required arthroscopic surgery. The procedure date was set but it meant more waiting. A cancellation paved the way for Emma Voorhies to finally have her pain addressed. Or so the family thought.

“Emma’s injured knee was finally getting the help it needed,” Voorhies said. “But then during scoping, Dr. Haus found something else. Something that required more that just a scope and two-week recovery.”

Haus was incredibly thorough in examining Emma’s knee beyond her plica repair, said Voorhies. It was then that he discovered that Emma had an osteochondral fracture. The repair of an injury like this was more complicated than a scope. Emma was about to get an overhaul of her 14-year-old left knee.

One of the most unique attributes to Emma’s treatment plan was that her very own cartilage was grafted to a porcine (pig) membrane for implantation six weeks after harvest. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“I knew how detrimental it would be to Emma’s well-being if they put the surgery off. She was already struggling with the pain and it had taken an emotional toll,” Voorhies said. “We were thrilled when Dr. Haus said that Emma wouldn’t and shouldn’t have to wait.”

The operation proceeded as scheduled. The UC Davis Children’s Surgery Center was exactly where the Voorhies wanted to be, even amid the health crisis. “The hospital is the most sterile place to be during something like this,” Voorhies said. “The staff was very professional and there was no lack of passion.”

Emma Voorhies is on the long road to recovery. Rigorous physical therapy and icing each day will eventually alleviate her pain and lead Emma back to her beloved sports. For that, she’s willing to wait.

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults with primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as a level I children’s surgery center. The 129-bed children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit