A catastrophic crash when he was 18 nearly cost Robert Werschky his leg. He suffered 23 breaks below the knee.
“The ankle was more or less crushed with the foot,” says Werschky.
His foot was rebuilt, but things would never be the same.
“Doctors at the time told me I would have a lot of problems later on in life, and sure enough it came true,” says Werschky.
After suffering for decades under the weight of his injury, his ankle joint almost disintegrated.
“It became impossible to walk because the pain was so severe. And that’s when I called Dr. Nemetz.”
After considering his options, he decided to go with the mother-of-all ankle surgeries.
“The gold standard is ankle fusion for the vast majority of patients,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jason Nemitz. He is on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
Fusing the joint is a permanent solution. It intimidates many people because it takes away some degrees of motion. But the procedure is often the right fix because it also takes away pain.
“You strip the joint of all its cartilage and then you're convincing the joint that it’s almost more like a broken bone rather than a joint anymore,” says Dr. Nemitz.
Several screws compress the bones together and they eventually fuse. While that joint is no longer functional, two neighboring joints offer some range of motion.
“The foot can go up and down around that joint as well as side to side. So most people only lose about 5 to 10 degrees of motion after this type of surgery,” says Dr. Nemitz.
“See…this is normal and this is what it’s like when it’s fused. There is movement,” Werschky says as he demonstrates his new ankle.
Finally fixing his ankle gave him a flexibility he hadn’t felt in years- the freedom to move without pain.