Patient stories: Pioneering ankle surgery gets Katie fighting fit for a new career
A quick jog to clear her head the night before a friend’s wedding turned out to be life-changing for super-fit professional engineer Katie Evans.
A bad trip during her run resulted in a broken ankle and years of agony until a pioneering new procedure performed at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital helped get her back on her feet and starting a new career as a Radiographer.
“It was a bit like falling off a cliff,” recalls Katie, whose physically active career was put on hold after her accident.
“I couldn’t work and my social life ground to a halt completely. My friends used to call me ‘superwoman’ as I was always doing exercise whether it was martial arts, swimming or walking. I was training for my Black Belt, but all that had to stop when I broke my ankle. All I could do was sit on the sofa. I was utterly depressed.”
Katie had broken her ankle badly, and when the pain didn’t stop after three months neither she nor her consultant at the time were happy with the way it was healing. The consultant then carried out the first of two operations with the second being keyhole surgery following a year later.
Six months after the keyhole surgery Katie managed to go back to work, but not as an engineer. She knew her ankle wasn’t strong enough to return to her previous role so she sought alternative work. She found work as a healthcare assistant at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital, building up gradually from part-time to full-time.
Sadly, Katie’s ankle slowly deteriorated and three years, two operations, and two further Consultants after the initial break, the pain had returned and Katie learned she had secondary arthritis. Fusing her ankle seemed her only option.
“I knew that fusing the ankle meant it would be immobilised and I really didn’t want to contemplate that at 37. I felt almost like it was my fault things had got so bad but I wasn’t ready to give in yet.”
“From here it deteriorated until I was unable to carry out my normal job and was on amended duties and I was struggling to manage even with that. I was at the point I thought I actually had to give up work. I had no money, and the weight had piled on as I couldn’t do any exercise. I was living off takeaways and ready meals, as even cooking was painful. I really wasn’t in a good place at all.”
Working at the Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital turned out to be the best decision Katie ever made, giving her access to a breadth of Consultants and new surgical interventions and procedures.
“I started looking for surgeons who might be able to help me with my predicament. One of the consultants at the hospital had fresh ideas so I went to see him and, after he explained that I’d done irreversible damage to my ankle, he gave me hope that there was an alternative to it being fused.”
The surgeon in question is Mr Jason Eyre, a Yorkshire trained orthopaedic surgeon with a special interest in disorders of the foot and ankle. He carries out an innovative new procedure using MaioRegen equine patches that integrate into the ankle to reduce or remove pain and delay fusion or replacement. It is believed he has the largest experience of this technique in the ankle in Yorkshire.
The equine patches are made with equine (horse) collagen, its properties conform well for ankle surgical treatment. During surgery, the surgeon removes the damaged tissue, creates a lodging to host the equine patch. The patch is a flexible and porous, so once the surgeon installs the patch it integrates into the ankle aiding optimum recovery.
Mr Eyre explains; “Ankle arthritis can follow on from relatively minor ankle sprains and injuries. Evidence suggests that more than 50% of ankle sprains can result in damage to the joint surface, which then wears more quickly or becomes unstable. These injuries can rapidly become the source of instability, pain and dysfunction.”
“Conventionally ankle arthritis can be tidied up with arthroscopy (key hole surgery), but ultimately surgery often falls back to fusion surgery or replacement. Whilst I regularly perform all three of these procedures, it was a pleasure to be able to remove Katie’s pain and keep her ankle function with biological techniques that are now emerging in my field."
Katie was over the moon with the proposed alternative. “If I hadn’t found Mr Eyre I don’t know what I would have done. I couldn’t envisage a future where I didn’t work, but the pain in my ankle continued to make me feel so down about everything. I had even contemplated replacing it with a prosthetic blade. Thankfully I didn’t give up and in the end I did find a way to get back on my feet.”
Following her operation, and after a fortnight of “tea and toast” recuperation Katie was indeed back on her feet.
“After a couple of months the arthritic pain was gone and I slowly started increasing my activity levels. Now I’m confident that my ankle will support me every day I’ve even gone back to university to study to be a radiographer. I’ll never run again, but I have started my martial arts training and I’m even thinking about kickboxing. “A couple of years ago I didn’t recognise the person I had become as a result of breaking my ankle. My personality and my life changed. Now I feel myself again and I’m excited for my future and loving my new career.”
Mr Jason Eyre commented: “These techniques, such as the MaioRegen patch, combine stem cell and biological research to offer an alternative to replacing lost joint surface with scar tissue. We are seeing impressive and reproducible results; these have clearly been a game changer for Katie after multiple simple but unsuccessful procedures. I wish her well on her new University studies and on a successful return to sport”.
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