April 20th, 2018, coming down a roof access ladder, my foot slipped; I fall 18-20 feet onto a hard-concrete floor, barely missing a scissor lift. I completely crush my tibia bone above my ankle. It is believed my right leg is now about two inches shorter than the left from the impact. I am told I have a pilon fracture in my right leg, broken tibia in the right leg and crushed heel on the left. I also have torn up most of the cartilage; in other words, my legs are a mess!
Because we are now many, many miles from home at the time of the accident, we start the calls to find a doctor closer to home. Luckily, my mom has a friend that has been seeing an orthopedic doctor at Twin Cities Orthopedics. We are referred to Dr. Bryan Den Hartog. Even while he is on vacation with his family, he reviews pictures of my scans and is willing and able to take my case! I have one more surgery in St. Cloud (where the accident happened) to put a plate and screws on my fibula and start learning how to transfer from location to location using a board and without using my legs. I need to learn how to use a wheelchair, how to get in and out of a car, how to put on my clothes and do the simplest of tasks we all take for granted every day.
Over the next couple of weeks, I have surgery to start “fixing” me up! Surgery #3, I have my fixator removed and more plates and screws put in. Bone fragments and pieces of cartilage are removed. Bone grafts are done. I have screws put into my left heel to fuse it together. I spend another four days in the hospital, I can leave for home to start the new way of doing things while I heal.
During this healing process, I was completely wheel chair bound. Many modifications needed to be made at home so I could get around and attempt to do things on my own. Unfortunately, my incision is not healing properly and I have surgery #4 to pull my skin together on my shin so it can heal; I am also back in a cast.
July 23rd, 2019 is the first time since the accident, I can start to put any weight on my legs. Being able to stand upright for the first time in three months was the best! I still cannot walk, but I can now use my left leg to help me get around a little easier in the wheelchair.
July 30th, I start physical therapy and can stand up for short periods of time! I even take a couple steps this day, but I am still in the wheelchair, as I cannot put my whole body weight on my feet quite yet.
August 17th, I start walking down the hallway at physical therapy – things are starting to move better. At the end of August, I have small set back as a screw has started to work its way out; surgery #5 is scheduled. Luckily, this only delays physical therapy for about a week and I am back at it.
Beginning of September, I am walking around in physical therapy quite a bit. By the end of September, five long months later, I no longer need the wheelchair to get around and have graduated to using the walker! Being able to walk out of the physical therapy door was the best. From that point on, I work to get stronger and work on my walking. It is still somewhat painful, and I am limping, but no more wheelchair. Within a month or so, I am no longer using the walker either. Freedom at last!
In February 2019, the hardware in my leg is starting to bother me so I have another surgery #6 to remove the plate on my fibula and screws in my left heel. We venture to Eagan during a blizzard, but we get there and have my surgery. Recovery from this surgery was a slow and painful process and I am back to using the walker or crutches to help keep me stable as I walk for a couple of weeks. At my follow-up appointment though, things look great so I do not need to come back until May; longest in between appointments since my accident.
Things will never be the same for me, but from where I started April 20th, 2018 to today, is huge. We knew the outcome was ok/good for me to walk again, but you will never know for sure until you get there. I will need additional surgeries on my right leg that could be as extensive as a complete ankle replacement, but from having completely shattered bones and not being able to walk to where I am today, I will take it. I am so grateful for Dr. Den Hartog and Lindsey Ortlip for all they have done and will continue to do for me. Because of the two of them, I am walking today, even if it is with a limp. The hundreds of miles and hours in the car driving to the cities for appointments and surgeries have all been worth it. Thank you to Dr. Den Hartog, Lindsey and the numerous other TCO staff for helping me and my family through this. But, most importantly, THANK YOU for allowing me the chance to walk once again. I have a step daughter and a daughter on the way in June. Because of you, I will be able to WALK them down the aisle some day.