Every May, Indianapolis receives an influx of visitors to witness the greatest spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500. In 2016, New Zealand native Craig Wallen decided to travel to the United States for the 100th running of the race.
Craig and his friend were invited by Chip Ganassi racecar driver and fellow New Zealander, Scott Dixon and were looking forward to a weekend full of IndyCar racing. After arriving in Indianapolis, they attended a few practice sessions at the track and took part in cheering on the drivers as they practiced for race day.
On the Friday before the race, they left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway excited to return on Sunday to watch the Indy 500; the reason for their trip. However, when they were driving on the interstate, the GPS started to dysfunction and Craig and his friend became lost.
Frustrated and trying to figure out the correct route, they exited the interstate and tried to correct their path. In a quick flash, they were suddenly struck on the side by another car, trapping Craig in his vehicle.
Seeking trauma care
Craig was rushed to St.Vincent Trauma Center where Dr. Timothy Weber, OrthoIndy trauma surgeon was on-call. Dr. Weber determined that Craig had a pilon fracture, which is typically very difficult to treat.
“When I first met Craig, he was very easygoing while enduring a great deal of pain,” said Dr. Weber. “After discussing the details of the procedure that would be required to ultimately fix his leg, including that it would require two separate operations, Craig was confident to proceed.”
A pilon fracture is a type of break that occurs at the bottom of the tibia (shinbone) and involves the weight-bearing surface of the ankle joint. With this type of injury, the other bone in the lower leg, the fibula, is frequently broken as well.
“Dr. Weber and his team were the silver lining of being in another country while suffering an accident,” said Craig. “They are true professionals and are very caring in everything they did from caring for myself on the operating table to helping my wife deal with what was basically unknown at the time.”
Craig considers himself lucky that he was taken to St.Vincent Trauma Center to see Dr. Weber that day.
“I did not choose OrthoIndy, I was taken to the hospital by EMS and am very lucky to have had such a dedicated team of professionals fix my leg, and help me back to being able to walk again,” said Craig. “If I had a choice, I now know it would be OrthoIndy as I feel they are a dependable bunch of surgeons who are well respected across the world for the surgical repairs they performed on my pylon fractured left leg.”
Life after trauma care
Soon Craig returned to New Zealand. He was unable to put any weight on his left leg for three months. He couldn’t walk, which meant no work or exercise. However, he was not alone in the recovery process. Brent Ambler, Dr. Weber’s physician assistant continued keeping in touch with Craig by email to make sure Craig was on the road to recovery.
“I would like to give a special mention to Brent Ambler for his continued support to check on my progress even as I am on the other side of the world,” said Craig, “Also, I want to thank the staff and the nurses for the level of care shown to me, my wife and my entire family.”
The bond Craig felt to the people at OrthoIndy was mutual.
“Craig and I bonded quickly by sharing a love for racing and the sport of rugby,” said Dr. Weber. “When I told him that my favorite rugby team was the All Blacks, the national team of New Zealand, I had his full trust. I think he only half believed me until the next day when I showed up wearing my All Blacks rugby jersey; from that point on, a very strong friendship was forged. After he returned to his home in New Zealand, he sent Brent and I each a new All Blacks jersey because he thought mine was too old.”
As Craig continues his recovery, he looks forward to returning to work and a normal life of playing sports with his son and taking walks with his wife. Craig also hopes to make another trip to Indianapolis to see the Indianapolis 500.
To make an appointment with Dr. Weber please call 317.917.4369 or learn more about OrthoIndy Trauma.