In 1997, at the age of 27, I blew out my left ankle playing basketball. After several surgeries and years of continued abuse, including 5 Ironman triathlons, my ankle was so arthritic that it hurt to get out of bed in the morning and it hurt to go to sleep at night. By 2014, at the age of 44, I was walking with a limp.
My surgeon told me that there was nothing left for him to do and that I should not have any more surgeries. I went for a second opinion from another ankle specialist in South Florida. He told me that the only option left for me was to fuse my ankle.
I had tears in my eyes. My wife and I had two boys already (Max 9 and Mason 6) and a third boy on the way. My first thought was how am I going to run around with my boys if I fuse my ankle? As I was driving home, I said to myself, “I am 44. There is no way that I am fusing my ankle.”
That night, I got on my computer and started researching ankle injuries. As luck would have it, I found an article about a mountain climber who had been injured in a climbing accident. He saw Dr. Rozbruch a few years earlier and had an ankle distraction surgery which fixed his problem.
After reading the article, it seemed too good to be true. I started researching Dr. Rozbruch, stem cells, ankle distraction, and the Ilizarov method, but there wasn’t too much information available on the internet. I said to myself, “I’ve got to speak with the mountain climber.” On September 29, 2014, I sent an email to climbing company that he worked for explaining my injury and requesting a return call.
On October 1, 2014, I received an email from him saying, “I am in Thailand. What’s the best time to call?” I spoke with him and the rest is history. Two weeks later, I flew to New York to see Dr. Rozbruch. In December 2014, I had my ankle distraction surgery (78 days of external fixation).
While I was recovering in bed, I started watching this cool reality TV show called Ultimate Survival Alaska. To my amazement, the narrator of the show starts talking about the mountain climber I spoke with. The next thing I know, they zoom in on him and he is running through the Alaskan wilderness. I yelled to my wife, "That’s my guy!"
A week after my fixator was removed, my wife had our third son, Brody. My recovery was slow and the rehab was arduous, but it was the best thing that I have ever done for myself and my family. One day, I got out of bed and my ankle did not hurt anymore.
My HSS journey was not over. After many years of favoring my left foot, my right big toe became arthritic and hardly moved. My toe was constantly throbbing. I was starting to walk with a limp again because my “good foot” was now my bad foot.
I called Dr. R. and asked if he could fix my big toe. He said, “Sure”. In April of 2019, Dr. Rozbruch performed a distraction surgery on my right big toe. I am not going to lie, it was not fun having an external fixator on my big toe for two months, but it was definitely worth it.
Thanks to Dr. R. and HSS, I am now 50 years young. I am running routes for my son Max, who is a high school QB and playing one-on-one with my son Mason, who is a middle school basketball player. I am not sure what sport Brody will play, but I know that I will be ready when he figures it out. I am back!
On behalf of my family and myself, thank you Dr. R. You are the best!