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Jeanette Zwart

New York, NY

In December 2012, I slipped off a ladder while painting the kitchen ceiling of the new apartment I'd just moved into, and shattered my heel bone.

I'm not an elite athlete. I was a single middle-aged woman actively engaged in my life, walking and cycling everywhere, loving New York City for all the things it offers.

The intense and immediate pain was a tip-off that I couldn't just get up, dust myself off, limp for a few hours, and carry on. A friend nearby came with me to the emergency room, and the man I'd just recently started seeing took over later that day. The emergency room doctors, x-ray technicians and attending nurses repeated some version of "when you injure yourself, you really do the job," a line that was not quite reassuring. The prescribed treatment was surgery to reconstruct the heel and subtalar joint, six months in a boot, and the inevitable physical therapy plan.

A fractured calcaneus is not the worst injury one can sustain, of course; people live with much worse. But it's serious enough, with a fairly high rate of some compromised long-term functioning from arthritis pain or other mobility limitations. I'm never going to run a marathon, but being active is part of who I am, and I was determined to find a surgeon where I could be confident I'd done everything to ensure the best outcome. It was an easy decision, for example, to keep looking when the doctor at one of the city's top hospital talked of fusing the subtalar joint immediately to prevent arthritis, while the physician's assistant warned me to have an advocate to make the doctor wrote a prescription for pain relief after the surgery. Further research led me to HSS, with its international reputation, patient-first approach, and doctors with experience treating my specific injury. I'm very grateful for it.

Of course, I did the prescribed exercises and physical therapy, and got on my bicycle as soon as the boot was off. Mostly, I think I remained confident that I had best-in-class surgery and was not going to be limited. And not least, my wonderful guy kept alive the promise of future adventures while providing as much support as I could want. Seven months after the fracture we completed a strenuous 6-mile hike in the Adirondacks and was riding my bike 12 to 15 miles a day to work and back. Now, despite occasional discomfort and a new shoe wardrobe, thanks to my somewhat oddly shaped heel, I'm as fit and active as ever. And the best news: last month, I married my lovely guy (in heels, of course), and given work schedules, our honeymoon/vacation is still to come. At the top of the list is a bicycle tour through Europe - bring it on!