Orthopedic Patient Stories
A teacher and facilities director at Maclay School, 51-year-old Scott Eagen is always on his feet. In addition to his career, Scott spends his personal time being active. However, over the years of running and playing basketball regularly, he eventually wore out his medial meniscus.
“I was fine when I would run a few miles a day or play ball, but the next morning getting out of bed was awful,” said Scott. “My knees were achy and swollen. I had finally had it when I was having a hard time going up and down the stairs to see my children.”
After meeting with his primary care doctor, they decided he needed surgery.
“One thing led to another and I actually ended up having eight surgeries over a period of four to five years. The problem was there, there just wasn’t any cartilage left.”
It was time to fix his knees for good so Scott was referred to Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic and met with William Thompson, MD, who performed the previous scopes. They decided to move forward with total knee replacement surgery.
“Dr. Thompson would always listen carefully to diagnose the issue and offer suggestions and advice on how to get the most from my body with minimal pain or damage,” said Scott. “I trust his judgment 100 percent.”
On July 24, 2012, Scott moved forward with bilateral knee replacement surgery in both legs. His surgery was performed by David Bellamy, MD at Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic.
“Dr. Bellamy is the best knee replacement doctor in the region,” said Scott. “I appreciated his professionalism. He called from his personal phone the night of the surgery to check on me. The nurses at the hospital had me up and walking with a walker the same day.”
Following his recovery, Scott went to Tallahassee Memorial’s Rehabilitation Center for inpatient care for a couple of days to learn how to walk again.
After a week of laying low around the house and going to rehab, Scott was able to return to work. “The rehab was tough but we got through it with hard work and a good attitude,” said Scott. “Throughout this process, TMH really made me feel like a person, not a number. They took great care of me.”
“I went to outpatient rehab at the Tallahassee Memorial Rehabilitation Center for orthopedic and sports physical therapy twice a week for about six weeks,” recalled Scott. “I also did a lot of my own rehab at home and at the gym.”
In just 10 days, Scott was back in the full swing of things at home and at work. He began light jogging four months after surgery and was fully recovered after 10 months. Currently, Scott is enjoying his active lifestyle and spending time with his wife, Michelle, their daughter Amber and son Logan.
“I feel like I have added years onto my life,” said Scott. “It’s important for other people to know that anything is possible. I believe you have to have a positive attitude and you can overcome anything. Now instead of acting my age, I can go out and enjoy sports like I’m in my 30s. I run 8-15 miles a week and play and officiate basketball regularly. I even went snow skiing just five and a half months after surgery. Life is good!”
All at once human life can be both delicate and indestructible. The human body is an almost unbelievable network of tiny valves, strong bones and electrical impulses that can literally heal itself, yet potentially succumb so easily.
This vulnerability and strength is what makes life so precious – constant risk tempered with the sheer willingness to persevere. This juxtaposition shows itself throughout life – physically, mentally and emotionally – for us all. But for Clary Bateman, the last four years of her life have been a constant reminder of how far we can be pushed and the strength we’re capable of.
She was 14, an 8th grader at W.R. Tolar K-8 School in Bristol, Fla. An athlete competing in track, softball and basketball. A straight A student. But on February 28, 2011, out riding 4-wheelers with a friend, Clary came face-to-face with the thin line between life and death. Caught in a dust cloud, she didn’t see a stop sign and inadvertently pulled out onto a highway – she was hit by a truck going 60 miles per hour.
Arriving at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) via life flight with a severe open skull traumatic brain injury, Clary’s prognosis was bleak. Her body was broken – arm, legs, pelvis, jaw, skull – and she had physically lost part of her brain.
“She arrived neurologically devastated,” said Christopher Rumana, MD, former neurosurgeon at Tallahassee Memorial. “Her skull was open and she suffered a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. The damage was significant, but we remained positive and worked to incorporate her family into her care, keeping them informed and involved.”
Clary also had emergency orthopedic surgery to, quite literally, put her back together.
“Clary had left femoral and tibial shaft fractures and they both required surgical stabilization with titanium rods,” said Hank Hutchinson, MD, orthopedic trauma surgeon at Tallahassee Memorial. “The tibia fracture had several associated wounds that were repaired with multiple surgeries and skin grafts.”
After 20 or more surgeries, Clary was alive, but in a coma. She stayed at Tallahassee Memorial for three-and-a-half months, fighting to stay alive and slowly healing.
And then, two months after returning home and without any notice, Clary woke up.
“It was the middle of the night, around 1 a.m.,” remembers Edie Ethridge, Clary’s mom. “She’d been in a coma for five-and-a-half months and then, all of a sudden, she was awake and making noise. She fought her way back.”
With Clary now awake, against the odds, the path to rehabilitation started to come into focus.
“We started some rehabilitation while Clary was still in her coma,” said Edie. “We were vigilant about moving her body and working to engage her however we could, but now that she was awake she worked in earnest to make positive steps towards recovery.”
In December 2011, almost ten months after her accident, Clary began working with therapists at the Neurological Rehabilitation Outpatient Unit at the Tallahassee Memorial Rehabilitation Center (TMRC).
“For me, meeting patients with traumatic brain injuries and their families is a magical moment,” said Sheree Porter, MS, CCC-SLP, TMRC’s Rehabilitation Program Manager. “Clary’s family did’t realize it at the time, but I knew that we are forming a very close bond that would transcend Clary’s situation. We become united, a type of family, with a laser focus on making positive steps towards her recovery.”
Clary’s therapy care team, Rebecca Greenhill, a TMH speech language pathologist, Patricia Quinsey, a TMH physical therapist and Helene Bennitt, a TMH occupational therapist, have seen Clary make drastic progress since her first days in therapy.
“At first, Clary only communicated with gestures and facial expressions,” said Rebecca. “Our therapy began with making sounds, just creating noise. Clary’s brain damage effected her temporal lobe, the area of the brain that is responsible for language and speech, so she lost the building blocks of communication – she’s not only relearning everything, she’s having to find new ways to learn it.”
After almost 4 years in weekly therapy, Clary has moved far beyond simple noises and gestures. She now has a vocabulary of words that is growing with each therapy session. Her mobility is also improving through her work with Patricia and Helene, as well as the help of a baclofen pump that was implanted in her stomach by Dr. Rumana. The constant flow of baclofen helps improve her mobility by creating the right balance of flexibility and rigidness in her musculoskeletal system.
“Clary’s having to learn new ways to tell her body to move,” said Helene. “Particularly in her right arm, she has very limited movement. We’ve come a long way in increasing the function of her arm, but also in creating new ways of completing activities for daily living despite her reduced mobility.”
Maybe most importantly, Clary’s spunky personality is shining through again. Thanks in part to her relationship with a very special part of her therapy team, Bogey. A Boykin Spaniel from Tallahassee Memorial’s Animal Therapy program, Bogey has a special relationship with Clary that has helped her progress in her rehabilitation. Rebecca, Patricia and Helene incorporate Bogey into every facet of Clary’s therapy, having her give voice commands and use a leash to walk Bogey with assistance. This unique approach interconnects her therapies and helps to facilitate memory and communication.
“Clary’s a miracle,” said Richard Gardner, Bogey’s handler and a volunteer in the Tallahassee Memorial Animal Therapy program. “One of the biggest moments we’ve had was around Thanksgiving 2014, we watched as Clary stroked Bogey from head to tail with her right hand. It was a huge achievement for Clary – we were all thrilled!”
While Clary has made amazing strides, and is sassier than ever, she’s still fighting every day to take another step forward.
“In every aspect of her care, TMH has taken Clary’s injury and recovery personally,” said Edie. “They truly want Clary to get better. As much as they’ve helped Clary, they’ve helped us, her family, equally.”
In May of 2015, Clary graduated from Blountstown High School, receiving two standing ovations. She accepted her diploma and celebrated with family and friends – including her TMH therapists and, of course, Bogey.
“I feel lucky to have had access to a place like TMH, but even more lucky to have a daughter who is as strong as Clary,” said Edie. “We call her ‘Clary strong’ – she’s living proof of something most of us never see, how strong a person can really be.”
Even a hip fracture could barely slow down Sally Rosser. An energetic mother of two college-aged daughters, she reached the eighth mile of the Seaside Half Marathon before excruciating pain led her to the sidelines.
Having spent months training for the event with friends, she had attributed some recent discomfort in her leg to arthritis or a pulled muscle. However, as the race progressed she began throwing her hip and had to tell her friends to run ahead.
Eventually, the pain proved unbearable even at a slower pace.
“It was the first half-marathon I had ever run in,” Sally says. “Fortunately, my husband decided to surprise us on the race course.”
In another fortunate turn of events, a friend of the family and orthopedist at Tallahassee Memorial, Hank Hutchinson, MD, was also on the course. At his advice, Sally and her husband returned home and visited the Tallahassee Memorial Bixler Trauma & Emergency Center, where an x-ray and MRI confirmed a fracture in Sally’s right hip.
Two days later, Dr. Hutchinson performed surgery to bolster the fractured bones with a metal rod and pins. Sally was able to walk with crutches and leave the hospital within only 24 hours. Before being discharged, she agreed to participate in the “Own the Bone” quality improvement project. This project educates patients with fragility fractures and provides guidelines to prevent future broken bones.
“TMH was a great hospital for me. I felt like, if I had a question, I could ask,” says Sally.
After the surgery, Sally recuperated with the assistance of home health services for three weeks. She also is following a regimen of daily injections of Forteo, a bone-building osteoporosis medicine. Along with an increased intake of vitamin D and calcium, regular exercise continues to help rebuild the strength in Sally’s bones.
While Sally has traded running for walking, horseback riding and exercising on an elliptical machine, she remains incredibly active. And, courtesy of her friends and fellow runners, her car proudly displays a custom bumper sticker that reads, “8.0 with a Broken Hip.”
Sally also traveled to Guatemala for a mission trip and is headed to South Africa on an 18-day safari with her family. At only 56 years old, she is taking care of her health without letting it hold her back.
“I can’t stop life,” she says.