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Making Strides With an Ankle Fusion: November 25, 2013

“It started when I had a motorcycle accident when I was 18 years,” says Robert Werschky.

Now 67, Werschky still felt the results almost 50 years later. The catastrophic crash left him with 23 breaks below his knee. This is an x-ray of his ankle taken last year.

“The ankle was more or less crushed. And the 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.

An active guy, an avid golfer, walking was always a pain. When it became uncontrollable Werschky took steps to fix the problem.

“That’s when I called Dr. Nemitz and he came forth with the only permanent solution: to have my ankle fused. You know, a patient really doesn’t want to hear that. They really don’t,” says Werschky.

“When they’re getting to the point of needing a fusion to begin with, they have lost so much of their motion. They may have a few degrees left but it’s mostly painful motion. And what I tell them is ‘I’m going to take away the pain and maybe stiffen the joint a little bit more’,” says Dr. Jason Nemitz, foot and ankle orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

There is a lot of misconception surrounding ankle fusion. People fear a total loss of mobility in the foot. Fact is, there are three joints that affect motion. The other ones will compensate and provide some flexibility.

“So the foot can go up and down around that joint as well as side to side,” says Dr. Nemitz.

Here’s a view of Werschky ankle as it looks today.

“You fix the two joints with a series of screws. If you compress those two joints together, you’re trying to convince those two surfaces that they’re actually a broken bone, that they’re going to heal to each other,” says Dr. Nemitz.

And that’s exactly what happened. In the months since, Werschky has made great strides. Now he walks for the pure pleasure.

“Just simply going for a walk in the morning with my wife.  I could actually walk 18 holes of golf now. It’s just changed my life tremendously,” says Werschky.

Once he got over the stumbling block.