In September 2017, Jo Gath walked over to Ellenberger Park in Indianapolis to do some shopping at Irvington’s farmer’s market. During the walk, her right foot was unexpectedly caught by an exposed tree root and sent her tumbling to the ground.
A woman who witnessed Jo fall used to be a medic and is now a nurse. Fortunately, she was able to provide Jo with immediate emergency care. Jo thought she had a badly broken leg.
“All I can say is thank God for going into shock because I don’t recall any of the pain,” said Jo. “The next few hours of X-rays, MRIs and CAT scans at a local hospital were a blur. I was told that my injury was very bad and that the orthopedic surgeons at this hospital were taking a pass on me because of the severity of my injuries.”
A simple trip and fall turned out to be somewhat of a freak accident and would require a long road to recovery for Jo.
Fortunately, Jo and her husband Neill are good friends with OrthoIndy orthopedic specialist Dr. David Brokaw. Dr. Brokaw also specializes in trauma injuries so Neil made the call and asked Dr. Brokaw what to do next.
Dr. Brokaw saw Jo the next morning. After reviewing her X-rays and MRIs, he immediately determined that Jo needed emergency surgery to stabilize her leg with an external fixator.
After stabilizing her leg in surgery that very same day, Dr. Brokaw recommended Jo follow-up with Dr. Renn Crichlow, OrthoIndy trauma surgeon.
Jo didn’t just have a broken leg. Her right knee was dislocated and compressed. She also had a fracture of the medial tibia plateau and avulsion of the right hamstring. She would need a second, more complex, surgery if she wanted to be active again.
“Jo had an extremely complex set of injuries,” said Dr. Crichlow. “Not only did she have fractures, she had also torn two of her three knee ligaments. This is a rare combination.”
Recovery after traumatic surgery
Because Jo lives in an older two-story home, she was not able to go home for a month after her injury. This was primarily due to the stairs and her inability to do anything on her own. She had to stay at a respite care facility after the initial stabilizing operation and then go to a rehabilitation facility following the second surgery.
Even when Jo returned home after her month away, she was non-weight bearing for eight more weeks. Jo was unable to walk, drive, work, practice yoga, cook, clean or maintain her home.
“Our shower and bedrooms are located upstairs, so a bed was moved into our dining room. After two weeks, I learned how to crawl up the stairs and get into the bathtub or shower. My first shower in six weeks felt amazing,” said Jo. “Five months of healing and physical therapy enabled me to start driving again and return to my job as a dental hygienist.”
Although Jo has come a long way since her initial injury, she is still focusing on strengthening the muscles involved in the injury.
“Jo is one of those patients that you look forward to seeing in the clinic,” said Dr. Crichlow. “She always had a positive attitude and made excellent progress.”
Now, Jo is back to yoga and walking short distances. She recently participated in Race for the Cure and walked the entire 5k.
“Now that I am feeling better, I am hoping to be able to get back in my flower garden. I’m sure I won’t be able to kneel very well at the beginning but I am hopeful,” said Jo. “With continued practice I want to be able to get back to my previous level of yoga and to take up Pilates.”