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Michaela Soules

Camden, NY

The last thing on your mind when you are 10 years old is having a life changing event. Well, at the time I didn’t know it would be life changing, but God works in mysterious ways. It was August 13, 2005 and what a perfect day it was to play soccer. I remember everything about that day. During my first game of the tournament; my teammate passed me a through ball, I ran onto it, and for some reason I still don’t understand I slid to get the ball, and as I did the other teams keeper came out to get the ball, and we collided. Here I was 65 pounds soaking wet, going up against someone who was twice my size, so you can bet the outcome wasn’t very good.

After the collision, I went to get up and I happened to look down at my leg. I started screaming, I had never hurt anything before in my life, so this was scary for me. The ambulance came to get me off the field, and they took me to Hamilton Orthopedics. It turns out, I had broken my femur bone, and I was going to need surgery to screw it back into place. The doctor’s were very concerned that the break had hit my epiphyseal (growth) plate, but after many times of looking at X-rays they decided that it hadn’t affected my growth plate. So after that, I was out of soccer for a few months, working on rehabilitating my knee and muscles surrounding it, and I eventually got my screws taken out about 6 months later.

Within a few months I was back on the soccer field doing what I loved. Flash forward about 5 years to my sophomore year in high school. I was a 3 year veteran on the Varsity Soccer team, still awaiting my breakout season. There was no doubt that I worked hard every day, but I had a constant knee pain in my right knee when I was playing. I had the trainer tape it every game, but that didn’t seem to help. So after the season ended, I went and visited Hamilton Orthopedics for a follow up. When I got there they took X-rays. Looking at the x-ray, I could tell something was wrong but I didn’t know what. Dr. Gowan told my mom and I that the distal end of my femur had a flexion deformity, which was the cause of my break five years ago (surprise) actually hitting half of the growth plate, causing half of my femur to grow at an abnormal rate. He said the words surgery and after that everything was kind of a blur, but then he said with confidence how he has seen a few cases like this that have been successful with a specific surgery.

He referred me down to Manhattan, NYC where there was a hospital the specialized in surgeries like this; The Hospital for Special Surgery. To be honest, I did not know how to react to this. It deeply saddened me to think that I may need surgery, but I don’t think I knew the half of it until my visit in February of 2011 to HSS. Walking into the office, I had no idea what to expect. I mean yeah, I figured they would talk to me about my options for surgery, but that was it; I thought I had options. I remember picking up one of the Taylor Frame External Fixator frames and saying to my mom, “I am not getting this on my leg!” First they took x-rays, then I waited. And waited. Then I met Doctor Rozbruch. He introduced himself, then got right to business. When he pulled up the bi-pedal x-ray of my legs my jaw instantly dropped. He explained that I had not one but three areas or deformity, valgus, flexion, and leg length discrepancy of 1.5 inches or 4 cm. He said the only way to correct this was with surgery, and the insertion of a monolateral external fixator. I could not believe it, I had my junior year of soccer coming up just around the corner, the most crucial year for colleges to recruit you, and I was in desperate need of major leg surgery. The odds really weren’t in my favor. Doctor Rozbruch explained to me that the more wear and tear I put on my leg without getting the surgery, the worse off I will be. He had promised me, and I won’t ever forget this, that after the surgery I would be “better, faster, stronger than ever.” I left that appointment with a lot to think about... After weighing out the options, I finally decided that it was in my best interest to get the surgery sooner rather than later. It was scheduled for May 4, 2011.

On May 4th, I had the same feeling that I would get before every big track meet. The biggest fear I think anyone could have is not knowing. I had no idea what having an external fixator sticking out of my leg would feel like. Man did I underestimate it. Eventually you get used to having six pins going into your skin, and pin care becomes as easy as brushing your teeth, you eventually get used to the stares, and you definitely perfect your story from all the questions people ask you. One thing I never get used to though is the work it takes at physical therapy, and how discouraging it is not being able to run and play soccer with all of your friends. I remember during my junior year of soccer season, I would go to games with my fixator and at that point I didn’t have crutches, so I would just be walking, and after every game we lost I would walk away from the field crying. I told myself that when I came back I was going to make sure that I did everything in my power to make sure we didn’t lose. Nothing was ever really easy when I had my fixator, at about my 6 week checkup Dr. Rozbruch noticed that the end of my fixator was turning outwards, causing the bottom part of my bone to turn with it. So now I had to do lateral and vertical turns with my key. This problem was an easy fix, thank the Lord, but there was an extra piece of bone growing on the outside of my leg now because of where the pins were. In addition to the bottom pins moving, the pin sites became very “exuberant” towards the end of my time with the fixator. What that means is my soft tissue starting coming out of my leg and formed pretty high up on my pin sites, this was very frustrating for doing pin care, but other than that it just looked funny. After these minor complications with the fixator, my removal date was pushed back about a month, so I ended up having the fixator on for a total of 5 and a half months. This wasn’t that bad because some people have to have them for a year, so I wasn’t upset about that. After the removal I continued with physical therapy, which became much easier after the fixator was off. My pin sites were definitely not the prettiest things in the world, but they were battle wounds.

I got my fixator removed at the end of September, and then I had one final surgery in December to remove the extra bone that formed, and I had my scars cleaned up by my knee so now they are barely visible. It took me what seemed like eternity to come back from this life changing surgery. Emotionally, it was a learning experience that helped me grow and mature so much. Physically it was one of the most challenging setbacks that could happen to a 16 year old. Spiritually I grew so much, and I have come so far from where I was 2 1/2 years ago. What I learned is that everything happens for a reason, and we may not know those reasons, but God does and He is sovereign through it all. … I am now 18 and living a full, healthy life! I am playing soccer at the college level (pain free!!!), thanks to Dr. Rozbruch and his team! They truly are amazing people, and are always professional and reassuring. After everything I went through, I developed a heart for healing. I am currently in the physical therapy program at my college, and the plan is in 6 years I will have my doctorate in PT. I am so beyond blessed to have been treated by one of the best doctors in the nation. Thank you Dr. Rozbruch and staff.