Special Report to Blowing Rock News. By Gillian Baker. July 4, 2015. BANNER ELK, NC – Apple Hill Farm in Banner Elk, NC, is one of the best kept secrets in the High Country. The picturesque 43 acre property, which overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to an assortment of animals including: alpacas, donkeys, horses, goats, chickens and a miniature pig named Mr. Pickles.
COVER IMAGE: Lee Rankin credits AppOrtho and Dr. Bill DeVault for her restored mobility after another orthopaedic physician said she was out of options. Photographic images courtesy of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
It all began in 2001, when Lee Rankin, 54, a budding author with a culinary background, decided to start a farm deep in the mountains of North Carolina.
…It is the tests that sometimes define what we become.
“I’ll never forget our first year on the farm,” said Rankin. “I was a single mother, raising a son, who was only two when we moved here. We faced many challenges while starting the farm. We lost four alpacas the first spring in a mountain lion attack. It was devastating, but we rebuilt our herd and recovered.”
No stranger to adversity, the breast cancer survivor, was able to overcome these early struggles and eventually open the farm up to the public. Looking back, Rankin said, “This farm wouldn’t be what it is today without those challenges, it is the tests that sometimes define what we become.”
Last year, her faith was put to the test, when she injured her knee while stepping into a goat pen. Unable to bear weight on her knee, she made an appointment with a local orthopedic office for help and an MRI. A week later, after reviewing the MRI of her knee, the doctor informed Rankin that surgery was not needed. Her knee had improved some, so she left hopeful that her knee would continue to improve with time.
Rankin stopped and bought three bags of frozen peas on the way home, her preferred method of icing her knee. Back at the farm she had good days and bad days with her knee, never getting back to being able to safely interact with the animals, lift a hay bale or carry a water bucket. Unwilling to give up, she was encouraged by a friend to get a second opinion at Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center (AppOrtho) in Boone.
I need to be able to move.
“I kept telling myself, I need to be able to move,” said Rankin. “After my friend told me that AppOrtho is the official sports medicine provider for App State athletics, I thought, surely they will be able to get me up and moving again.”
Determined, Rankin scheduled an appointment the following day with orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Bill DeVault (who she had already met twice at Boone Chamber Events.) After examining her knee, Dr. DeVault concluded that her pain was a result of inflammation which was preventing the healing process. He explained that she could choose between two treatment options, steroid pills or shots, to reduce her inflammation and improve her mobility. Rankin opted for the shots, which Dr. DeVault carefully administered during her appointment. Dr. DeVault went on to explain that the shot would not completely cure her knee pain but it would get her up and moving again.
“It was remarkable to go from one doctor who said I was out of options to another doctor who said there is hope,” said Rankin. “Dr. DeVault saw me as a person. He listened to my concerns and treated me with the utmost respect. It felt like I had a true partner in the health of my knee.”
I had a true partner in the health of my knee.
Within a few days, Rankin’s knee pain subsided and she noticed a significant improvement in her range of motion. For the first time in several weeks, she was able to walk without crutches and care for her animals. Two things she feared she might never be able to do again.
“Looking back, we may not understand every trial that comes into our lives but we have a choice to stay positive and believe,” said Rankin, a year after her injury. “In this case, I’m thankful I have Dr. DeVault, a doctor who is committed to keeping me moving.”
To learn more about Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center, call 828-386-BONE or visit www.apprhs.org.