Because of my orthopaedic care, I know I can overcome anything.
Ginger suffered a complex tibia-fibula fracture with substantial soft tissue loss. Dr. Michael Clare (a foot and ankle surgeon with the department at the time) took Ginger on as a patient, consulting with his partner Dr. Matthew Mormino. The physicians faced a tough decision: attempt to save the leg, or amputate it and immediately move Ginger toward rehabilitation with a prosthesis.
“You don’t have the opportunity to know the patient very well; they show up one day and you have to make a choice,” Dr. Mormino said. “A lot of things go into determining whether or not to amputate, including the severity of the injury itself, but also their ability to tolerate undergoing multiple surgeries and the mental aspects of ‘living for your leg’ for a long period of time.”
After the initial inspection, Dr. Clare and Dr. Mormino made the choice most medical centers wouldn’t have. Ginger underwent a series of surgeries during a monthlong hospitalization to clean up the wound and stabilize the bone with a metal rod from the knee to the ankle. Dr. Perry Johnson performed plastic surgery to help cover the bone defect by rotating muscle over it, and the soft tissue envelope healed without infection or consequential systemic illness.
Prior to this trauma, Ginger was at peak fitness – playing tennis, running marathons and competing in triathlons. With the bone stabilized, Ginger set out to regain strength with two years of arduous daily physical therapy.
Although stabilized, Ginger’s bone took quite a bit of work to heal. Based on x-rays after the initial surgery, Dr. Clare and Dr. Mormino collaboratively decided to perform an exchange rodding of her tibia (replacing the existing rod with a larger one). “The doctors would meet as a group, to discuss case studies and the best way to proceed. You feel like you’re getting the best overall care when you know they’re discussing options,” Ginger remembered.
In the meantime, Ginger returned to life as usual, largely due to her own resolve.
Roughly 18 months into intensive physical therapy, she was able to put weight on her leg again and began to play tennis. Before long, she improved from a 3.0 to a 4.5 amateur ranking – quite unlikely for a player who hasn’t been trained since childhood, much less one without a healed bone. (Professional tennis players start ranking at a 5.0.)