When I first consulted Dr. Ellis, he described the mobility of the salto talus ankle and finished with a list of activities I could expect to be able to be able to enjoy with it. I couldn’t resist laughing when he said I could ski. “That would be a miraculous ankle,” I said and my husband supplied the old punch line. “She hasn’t ever skied before.” Remembering this, I was delighted to find myself learning to downhill ski this past winter. The new ankle was a complete success, allowing me to ski with all the confidence I could muster at 64 years of age.
An old injury had led to osteoarthritis in my right ankle and by 2010 I could no longer run, hike with my family, ride my bicycle, or even walk more than a block. I had begun to use a cane to lighten the load on that ankle. Still, it would become too stiff to bear weight at times and it woke me most nights whenever I moved. At 58 years of age, I felt that my mobility was seriously limited and began to look for surgical alternatives.
In Michigan, I was advised to have the ankle fused but I hesitated. I had read that fused ankles could be problematic when used heavily. And I wanted to be able to do all the things I missed doing. At that point, I found Hospital for Special Surgery and Dr. Scott Ellis.
Dr. Ellis is a surgeon with rare and special gifts. He listens closely and considers information carefully and then he explains his conclusions clearly and with plenty of data to help me follow his reasoning. After my surgery, in particular, Dr. Ellis treated every question and worry patiently. He is deliberative in listening yet decisive with treatment plans. Dr. Ellis was also able to provide guidance and medication that made travel possible during recovery and he was available to answer questions even after I returned to Michigan. I don’t think I confronted any difficulties that he hadn’t foreseen and prepared me for.
I was grateful for Dr. Ellis’ approach in particular at the one-year mark when I was hesitating to increase my activity due to some continued discomfort. He listened carefully to my complaint but explained that the pain was not from problems with alignment or the implant itself and did not indicate overuse. I went home reassured and able to sharply increase my activity and expectations. Amazingly, the increased activity lessened the pain! I’m not sure I would have gotten past my hesitation with a less skilled or patient doctor. I might have overprotected the ankle and continued to feel unnecessary discomfort.
My experience with HSS and the nursing staff was exactly what I hoped and expected from the highest rated orthopedic hospital. It was clear to me that their vast experience resulted in detailed protocols and well-researched best practices for every part of my hospitalization.
Since the surgery, I have been able to increase my use of the ankle to the point that I do everything I hoped to do. I am again walking 4 miles at a time without swelling. I can hike all day or ride my bicycle. I can dance at weddings and, yes, downhill ski. I can’t wear stiletto heels and I have been warned not to run, though the ankle feels secure enough that I sometimes have to stop myself. The ankle feels at least as stable as the other ankle and is only mildly uncomfortable after long hikes or city walks.
I’m tremendously grateful to Dr. Ellis and HSS for the best medical care possible and for the chance to learn to ski.