James Knoblett was a happy, rambunctious and playful seven-year-old. The end of the school year grew near, and he was excited for summer to begin. James was outside playing while his older brother was mowing the yard. When his mother looked out the window to check on them, everything was fine. Seconds later, every parent’s worst fear happened. James had slipped on the grass and his left foot was trapped underneath the riding lawnmower.
“James was completely silent; he was just so shocked,” said his mother, Jan.
Lawn mower injuries
The young boy was air-lifted to a local hospital with a partially severed left foot. The rusty lawnmower blade was still in his foot when he was taken into the trauma bay. The on-call physician told the family that James had an incomplete amputation of his left foot and that the probability of saving James’ foot was grim. If it could be saved, he would never be able to run, and he would most likely walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
Many people forget that lawn mowers are very powerful tools, and lawn mower injuries account for a large percentage of accidental partial or complete amputations. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 253,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in 2010. Children under 19 account for about 17,000 of these injuries.
James went through several blood transfusions, a reconstructive surgery, had external fixators, a growth plate removed and many irrigation and debridement treatments on his left foot. Over the years, there was only one physician James and his family trusted with this difficult case: Dr. David Brokaw.
Dr. Brokaw is an OrthoIndy surgeon who specializes in trauma and foot and ankle orthopedics. He made the James’ family feel calm during a hectic time in their lives.
Fast forward to July 2013, when James went toOrthoIndy to have an arthroscopy and Achilles lengthening surgery performed by Dr. Brokaw. James had a growth plate injury when he was a child, which caused a growth arrest at his ankle joint. He developed arthritis in his ankle and needed the arthroscopy to smooth out the joint. His ankle became very stiff because of this and needed an Achilles lengthening surgery to fix it.
“It amazes me how James overcame this injury,” said Dr. Brokaw. “It never stopped him from doing anything he ever wanted to do in life. He sent me a photo of him playing baseball about a year after his injury with a thank you letter; I have it framed and displayed in my office.”
“Dr. Brokaw was the one person who allowed me the opportunity to live an active and normal life after such a gruesome injury,” said James. “Out of all the surgeries I’ve endured, OrthoIndy and Dr. Brokaw were the only ones who made all my nerves go away. I knew I was in excellent hands.”
James has never used his injury as an excuse for anything in his life.
“My life has been full of both pain and personal accomplishments,” said James. “I’ve dealt with years of surgeries along with the aches and pains that come with my particular injury, but I’ve also managed to accomplish many things and activities that I wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be able to do. I was told after my first few major surgeries that I wouldn’t be able to run or play any active sports and that I’d probably walk with a noticeable limp for good. I ended up playing basketball from sixth grade through my senior year and also ran two years of track in high school.”
James was able to live the happy and active lifestyle of a young boy and is still going strong in his 20s. He is able to take long walks with his family and even plays the occasional pick-up game, of football or basketball with friends.
James had an ankle fusion surgery December 2013 and moved to River Walls, Wisconsin in February for a new job opportunity. Before leaving, he stopped by OrthoIndy to see Dr. Brokaw and everything looked great on his X-ray. James is on his feet 12 hours a day but is feeling good. Even though James lives in Wisconsin he continues to see Dr. Brokaw as his physician.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Brokaw please call 317.917.4388. or learn more about foot and ankle treatment options at OrthoIndy.
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