On August 4, 2013, Annie Wiese, who was 14 years old at the time, was competing at the National Diving Championships in Minneapolis when she felt a monstrous amount of pain shoot through her right leg. She got on the diving board to compete thinking she was going to be one dive closer to becoming an Olympic athlete, when she crushed her tibial plateau. In that moment she could feel her Olympic dreams wither away.
“It was awful to stomach the crushing reality that I might be retiring from athletics when I was barely a teenager,” said now 16-year-old Annie.
Annie was rushed to a local hospital to get a diagnosis and numb the blistering pain she felt radiating from just below her shin. During her visit to the ER, she had an MRI and CAT scan performed; which concluded that she would need surgery immediately following her arrival back home.
Once the elite diver got back to her hometown of Carmel, Indiana, the Wiese family had a big decision to make. They had to find a doctor that would not only fix Annie’s tibial plateau fracture but also be sensitive to her dreams of diving competitively for the remainder of her teen years and for many years to come after.
Meeting OrthoIndy trauma surgeon
The Wiese family went to one other hospital facility before visiting OrthoIndy and deemed OrthoIndy’s facility to be a better fit for her predicament. The family met with Dr. Renn Crichlow, who specializes in trauma, hip and general orthopedics. “I chose Dr. Crichlow because I immediately felt like he understood what I was going through,” said Annie. “I was 14 years old and was already bitter because of what had happened to me. He didn’t downplay my injury or the effects of it and he knew how traumatic of an experience it was.”
Dr. Crichlow is a three time Olympic athlete himself and Annie explained, “he definitely understood the kind of heartbreak I was feeling about losing my sport.” She felt so comfortable with Dr. Crichlow because of his passion for sports and extensive knowledge on the surgery he would be preforming.
Annie and her family walked through the doors of OrthoIndy Hospital the day of her surgery with a handful of emotions. This was only the second time she had gotten surgery and this was her first surgery that posed a threat to her passion. She felt hopeful that Dr. Crichlow would be able to repair her fractured tibial plateau.
Upon preparing for surgery, it is normal for a patient to feel apprehensive and scared; especially when the patient has a passion to continue such a sport at an Olympic level, which requires a physically demanding lifestyle. Annie felt comfortable while the nurses on Dr. Crichlow’s team prepped her for surgery. “All of the nurses made sure I was really comfortable and they really went above and beyond in making sure I knew everything that was going to happen that day,” described Annie.
Annie’s family waited anxiously in the waiting room of OrthoIndy Hospital as she underwent a possibly life changing surgery. Once Annie awoke from surgery, family was allowed to go back in her room and visit. Dr. Crichlow explained that because Annie didn’t tear her meniscus or her ACL ligaments, which are two common tears that generally follow a tibial plateau fracture, he was able to insert metal screws and a cadaver bone supported by her ACL and meniscus. Her surgery went exceptionally well.
Leaving the hospital the next day, Annie felt optimistic that she would be able to carry out her dreams of diving competitively, but didn’t know if she would be able to perform at the level that she once yearned.
Recovery and a return to diving
While Annie knew the surgery went well, she was still waiting to hear the words that could potentially change her future. She was hoping Dr. Crichlow would tell her she would be able to dive again. As Annie’s mom wheeled her toward the doors of the hospital, Dr. Crichlow leaned over and said to her that if she worked hard enough in physical therapy she could be a competitive diver again. “Dr. Crichlow fixed my leg and saved my dreams,” said Annie.
As protocol for the type of surgery Annie received, she had to wait three months after surgery before she could start physical therapy. She went to physical therapy three times a week at the OrthoIndy outpatient center and used the AlterG® Anti-Gravity Treadmill®. With this treadmill she was able to increase the amount that she walked day by day without risk of further injury and increased mobility in her right leg, due to the unweighting technology.
A year after her surgery and recovery time, Annie was able to compete in the 2014 National Diving Championships. She competed in the ten meter platform synchro and earned a bronze medal with her synchro partner. Not only was Annie able to recover and perform well enough to earn a bronze medal, but she and her partner qualified for the Olympic trials in June 2016.
“Dr. Crichlow is the reason I can continue to dive and pursue my dreams; I cannot explain how much it means to me. I am eternally grateful for the wonderful experience I had at OrthoIndy and I am so appreciative to Dr. Crichlow,” said Annie.
Annie is a shining example to never lose hope. With her hard work and dedication to the sport she loves, Annie is now able to excel and grow as an athlete.