Posted on September 25, 2020

A Runner’s Serious Injury is Set Straight by Dr. Kevin Choo

Like many young people, 24-year old Katie Tyler left New York City to wait out the Covid-19 pandemic at her parent’s home in Westchester County.

Pre-Covid, Katie would run in the city every morning before heading to her job as a management consultant. She continued this routine after her move, accompanied by her father, Paul, an avid runner who has competed in marathon and Ironman events.  The pair started with a daily 5-mile loop to a local college campus and back.  Over time, they would run longer distances, as far as 14 miles and they incorporated excursions through local hiking trails.  By mid-August, the father and daughter team had covered more than 600 miles. Then came the accident.

A Small Misstep Becomes a Very Big Deal

On a Saturday morning, three quarters of the way through a rocky 5-mile trail, Katie tripped. She tried to steady herself by planting her right foot forward but unfortunately, that foot landed on the edge of large rock.  She fell to the ground in an unnatural twist and broke her thighbone (femur), one of the strongest bones in the body.

“I instantly felt my leg snap and heard a crack. I knew immediately that it was broken because my leg felt like rubber,” Katie recalled.  Her dad called 911 and ran the rest of the trail to meet the emergency medical team in the parking lot. A family friend who had joined the morning’s run, held Katie’s leg in alignment as they waited 30 agonizing minutes for her father to lead the EMTs on foot the quarter mile to Katie’s location.  They administered pain medication and carried Katie on a stretcher to the waiting ambulance at the end of the trail.

They took her to the Greenwich Hospital Emergency Department, where X-rays confirmed a spiral fracture of Katie’s right femur. A spiral fracture occurs when severe rotational force breaks the bone diagonally in a corkscrew type of pattern.

Gait-Saving Surgery

ONS Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. Kevin Choo knew at soon as he saw the X-ray that Intramedullary nailing was the only way to repair that kind of an injury. During the procedure, Dr. Choo implanted a titanium rod through the center of Katie’s femur, starting at the hip and ending above the knee. He inserted screws along the bone to help keep the rod in place. “Intramedullary nailing was the only way stabilize the entire length of the femur and give Katie the best chance to walk properly again,” he said.

From the first time she met Dr. Choo in the ER, Katie knew she was in good hands. She was struck by his kindness and confidence and the care he took to explain the procedure in detail.

“Dr. Choo was great.  He was empathetic and took the time to explain what to expect from the surgery, the risks, and the recovery process,” Katie said.

The surgery went according to plan. Katie was able to walk with crutches and minimal pain the next day and returned home less than 24 hours after first arriving in the ER. “I couldn’t believe I had so little pain from the surgery. I really wanted to avoid opioid pain medication, but I didn’t need it. I just used Tylenol.”

The Path to Recovery

According to Dr. Choo, Katie should be back to her daily activities, including some light jogging, between 2 – 3 months after surgery. However, activities such as strenuous trail running may take as long as 6 – 8 months for her to build strength and endurance.

Dr. Choo regularly assesses Katie’s progress and is in close contact with the ONS physical therapists working with her to regain strength and mobility.  She has made tremendous progress by closely following her physical therapy program, doing specific exercises at home, and celebrating each achievement, such as graduating to one crutch from two.

“My physical therapists helped me understand the small steps it takes to get through the recovery process,” she said, “You never realize what a big deal it is to walk until you can’t.”

Katie is highly motivated to get her life back to normal and has every confidence she will with the team at ONS behind her.  Most of all, she credits Dr. Choo for making a full recovery possible.

“I owe my quick recovery to Dr. Choo’s skills as a surgeon.  I’m telling everyone to go to ONS,” she said.