Eighteen-year-old Makenzie Gwaltney didn’t know if she would ever be able to cheer, let alone walk again after being involved in a car accident.
On a typical Sunday morning, Makenzie was driving home from work when she was involved in a horrific head-on car accident that caused her foot to go through the floorboard of her vehicle.
Right after the accident, Makenzie remembers looking down at her foot and thinking it was a “mangled mess.” Fear and pain overtook her body.
After the accident, Makenzie was rushed to St.Vincent Indianapolis Level I Trauma Center where she first saw OrthoIndy trauma surgeon, Dr. Dean Maar.
A million thoughts were running through her head before she heard her diagnosis. She was wondering what her future would look like and the thought of giving up cheerleading devastated her.
Dr. Maar determined she had an open fracture in her talus and tibia. This caused extreme pain to overtake her ankle and lower leg. In order for Makenzie to walk again, she would need three separate surgeries.
The first two surgeries were done by Dr. Maar. Once he realized the third surgery needed to be done by a foot and ankle specialist, he asked fellow OrthoIndy trauma surgeon, Dr. Timothy Weber to do the surgery.
However, there was hope. Brian, Makenzie’s dad said, “Dr. Weber and all of the OrthoIndy staff were very caring and eager to explain what was going on during the whole process and always comforted us.”
According to Dr. Weber, Makenzie’s injury was unlike anything else he had treated before and it was going to require a very uncommon surgical procedure. It was the only procedure he could perform that would give Makenzie the chance to walk or cheer again.
Foot and ankle surgery
After the first surgery, it was clear Makenzie’s injury was more extensive than they originally thought. The first two surgeries were washouts to clean and close the open wound. It was during those first two surgeries they discovered most of her talus, the large bone in the ankle, was missing.
Dr. Weber said, “In the third surgery, I performed an osteotomy, cutting the bone in order to use the joint surface of the calcaneus, or heel bone, as the new joint of the ankle.”
Makenzie put her trust in Dr. Weber. “When Dr. Weber told me that there was a way that I could walk normally again, I knew that what they were going to do was going to be interesting, but worth it,” said Makenzie.
Brian appreciated Dr. Weber’s effort to try such a unique surgery. “I was glad to hear Dr. Weber’s idea and happy to know that he was thinking outside the box to come up with the idea that he did,” said Brian. “It showed me and my family that he wanted this 18-year-old girl to live the most normal life possible.”
Recovery after the third surgery
Makenzie’s positive mindset helped her get back to her daily activities. “I’m definitely feeling better now,” said Makenzie. “It’s been four and a half months since my last surgery and I’m already walking. It’s a miracle. You have to push through it to get better!”
Dr. Weber was pleased with the results of the surgery. “Makenzie was awesome! She did everything that was asked of her,” said Dr. Weber. “I just tried to be supportive and explain everything in detail and remained hopeful for her.”
Brian can’t thank Dr. Weber enough. “It means the world to me to see her walk again and get back to a normal life,” said Brian.
Makenzie is filled with determination. After being able to walk again, her next goal is to get back to cheerleading. “I want to be a collegiate cheerleader, so I’m hoping I can get back to where I was,” said Makenzie.
She is very confident in Dr. Weber and OrthoIndy. “I would suggest this surgery to anyone,” said Makenzie. “If a patient were given the same options I was, they should choose OrthoIndy! I feel like it was the best option for me as an athlete to continue to do what I love.”
Makenzie was thankful for her outcome. “I want to say a huge thank you to my surgical team,” said Makenzie. “They were so kind, comforting and just all-around amazing. Without them, I would not be walking the same and enjoying my daily life. I never had to wait long to get to my appointments so a huge thank you to OrthoIndy and St.Vincent for everything that they have done to get me back to normal!”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Weber please call 317.917.4369 or learn more about foot and ankle treatment at OrthoIndy.
Schedule an appointment
Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.