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January 31, 2017 - TCO

Decade after motorcycle crash, TCO patient calls walking a ‘gift’

Matt Huuki is grateful to be walking nearly 10 years after a devastating motorcycle crash left him with a pair of shattered ankles. He also appreciates the care he received at Twin Cities Orthopedics that allows him to move without limits.

Huuki, of Atlantic Mine, Mich., was in Minnesota for a motocross competition in August 2007. A long day of racing had sapped his energy, but he couldn’t pass up another chance to ride when someone with a different bike asked Huuki to show him what he could do on it.

“It was a technical track, and I had no business jumping on a strange bike,” Huuki said.

A spot on the track with three consecutive jumps was approaching, and, when shifting, Huuki missed the gear necessary to clear it and slammed on top of one of the jumps while still holding on to the bike. Upon impact, he said, he felt relieved to be alive but like his feet had exploded.

When he finally came to a stop, he removed his boots to take inventory of the damage.

On his left leg, Huuki had dislocated and broken the talus bone – connecting the heel to the tibia and fibula – and bottom of the tibia into a number of pieces called a Pilon fracture. He broke the tibia and fibula on his right leg.

Receiving care

Huuki, now 39, said the extent of the injuries was too great for the hospital where he initially was taken, so he was referred to Dr. Paul Cammack, an orthopedic ankle and foot surgeon at TCO.

“With Dr. Cammack, he was very positive from the get-go. He reassured me and my wife that everything was going to be OK,” said Huuki, who said he was told by a previous physician that he would never walk normally again. “A lot of angst was taken away because of him. That kind of approach was a big help.”

Huuki’s injuries were so severe that one of the pieces of his ankle joint was turned 180 degrees from where it was supposed to be.

“We had to turn it around and piece all of the parts of his ankle back together,” Dr. Cammack said.

He was able to rebuild the ankle joint, and the bone healed “amazingly well,” Huuki said. Plates, two on the tibia and one on the fibula, were put in his right leg.

Recovery and getting back to life

After recovery and rehabilitation, Huuki, who owns and operates an auto glass and body shop, returned to doing the activities he loves and said his ankle joints and muscles get stronger and better with each passing year.

“I have realized walking is a gift,” he said.

Huuki remains active today with auto racing, mountain biking, triathlons and skate skiing. He may have left motocross racing in the rearview, but he has acquired a new pastime – getting his private pilot’s license and building a replica P-51 Mustang plane.

Huuki credits his busy lifestyle to the professionals who put him back together, but Dr. Cammack insists it wasn’t just his team.

“Given the nature of that injury, people have a high risk of arthritis and stiffness of the ankle and lose some degree of pre-injury activity level,” Dr. Cammack said. “Matt has done an amazing job; it’s to his credit.”

Advice for others

Huuki’s advice for anyone in a similar situation is to get the best help they can and find a physician with a passion for the work.

“I was very fortunate to be where I was when I was hurt,” he said. “I strongly recommend seeing someone like Dr. Cammack, who is at the top of his game and has a lot of care for what he does. Look for that.”

Huuki and his wife, Janell, said they can’t say thank you enough for restoring him to a physical condition that allows him to remain active.

“It’s why we do what we do. It makes your job meaningful,” Dr. Cammack said. “It’s always satisfying to know someone got better because of something I was able to do to help them out.”

Whether you’ve sustained an injury during an accident, or are suffering as a result of normal wear and tear on your joints, Twin Cities Orthopedics offers the comprehensive surgical and nonsurgical orthopedic ankle care patients and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan community have trusted for more than seven decades.