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January 8, 2015
Four years ago, in November 2010, I fell off a ladder and fractured both of my ankles. The emergency room doctor told me my ankles were severely broken or more specifically they were “bi-lateral pilon” fractures. The doctor described the fractured ankles as “impressive” (or doctorese as terrible breaks but repairable). The doctor further explained that a pilon fracture is where the break is caused by vertical pressure similar to stepping on a pop can from the top and causing the bones to be crushed. But, my original orthopedic surgeon “patched” me up with 4 plates and 30 screws and restored my ability to walk again. But the loss of the cartilage in my ankle joints caused me to hobble through life. In addition the loss of the range of motion in my ankle restricted the distances and the pace that I could travel.
Prior to my accident, I was active with a keen sense of adventure. My wife and I love to travel and have a special love for the area north of Ely, MN known as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). Although following the accident, my mantra was “Staying home is not an option…”, but I now had physical limits to what I could achieve.
As it turned out, the brother of a dear friend recently had ankle replacement surgery performed by Dr. Coetzee. She gave glowing reports of how his life had returned to normal following his surgery and how he resumed his passion for long distance bike rides. So, on July 5th, 2012, I hobbled into Twin Cities Orthopedics with my wife to meet with Dr. Coetzee. After what seemed like a “bazillion” questions, we agreed to schedule surgery to replace my right ankle in September 2012 followed by surgery to replace my left ankle in March 2013.
Day by day, step by step, PT by PT my ability to walk returned and the hobble was replaced with a normal gait! …and best of all, I could now resume my sense of adventure and travel. Although I understood that I still needed to make wise decisions about which adventures to choose.
To illustrate how far I have come, here is a photograph of me hiking the Path of the Gods trail (Sentiero Degli Dei) that is located on the Amalfi coast just east of Positano Italy with my wife and special friends. The section of the trail that we hiked was moderately rugged along a 4 mile path 1500 feet above the Bay of Salerno with sweeping views of the Amalfi coast. Jaw dropping beautiful! The island of Capri is visible 15 miles away. Experiencing this “bucket list” adventure was only possible with my new ankles.
Every day and every step is a blessing and a miracle…so much to be thankful for!