News Seth Stratton | 2 years ago

A Prosthetic Without the Amputation

A serious motorcycle wreck last year landed Fred Oates in the trauma center at Carolinas Medical Center with a crush injury to his left foot. The orthopedic trauma surgery team salvaged his foot, but Oates lay in his hospital bed thinking his active life of snowboarding, biking, marathon running and hiking were over.

“In the hospital, the future looks bleak and there’s no hope,” he said. “But I was not ready to sit on the couch the rest of my life nursing my foot.” Oates didn’t lack motivation. He knew he wanted his life back; he just didn’t know how to get it. Joseph Hsu, MD, approached Oates with the idea of being fitted for a type of brace usually available only to military personnel. Many of these soldiers have had shattered limbs from bomb blasts but have returned to active duty with the brace. Oates, 48, agreed, but the process has not been easy. He endured a year-and-a-half of intense physical therapy and three more surgeries with bone grafts. In February, he was custom-fitted for the brace shaped to fit the injured leg and foot up to his knee. He then completed five more months of physical therapy while wearing the device. “It’s like a prosthetic without the amputation,” Oates said. “It allows me to run, go hiking, jump, just about whatever I want to do." Helping Oates get accustomed to the brace was physical therapist Tarey Strickland, PT, DPT, ATC, of Carolinas Rehabilitation. Strickland made sure that Oates, in his drive to be as physically fit as he was before the accident, didn’t injure himself or put stress on a different part of his body. “It’s hard work and it’s intense,” Strickland said. “Fred needed different challenges in gaining strength and balance that he wouldn’t have gotten with regular exercise.” Because he had the motivation and was already physically fit, Oates was chosen as the first  civilian patient in the Southeast to participate in Carolinas HealthCare System’s pathway to help patients who have injuries similar to those experienced by military veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. The pathway is a companion to the Limb Lengthening and Deformity Service that opened this year at Carolinas Medical Center under the leadership of Dr. Hsu, and Brian Brighton, MD, MPH. The service provides advanced surgical treatments for the correction of upper- and lower-limb deformities in adults and children. By offering the high-tech brace, the nationally recognized orthopedic trauma program gives patients an alternative to other prosthetics. “Carolinas Medical Center is one of the first civilian centers to recreate this effort normally found only in some military hospitals around the country,” Dr. Hsu said. The orthopedic team is seeking funding to become part of a multi-center civilian research program and hopes Carolinas Medical Center will become home of the pilot program. Meanwhile, Oates is riding his bike almost 200 miles a week. While he is not ruling out a marathon in his future, for now he is concentrating on running a 5K later this summer.
Fred Oates snowboarding. Fred Oates snowboarding.
Fred Oates, an avid triathlete, said he 'was not ready to sit on the couch the rest of my life nursing my foot' after a devastating motorcycle accident last year. Fred Oates, an avid triathlete, said he 'was not ready to sit on the couch the rest of my life nursing my foot' after a devastating motorcycle accident last year.
Fred Oates participating in a triathlon. Fred Oates participating in a triathlon.
The IDEO device is being used to help severely injured patients, like Fred, get back to peak performance. The IDEO device is being used to help severely injured patients, like Fred, get back to peak performance.
Fred Oates' motorcycle following the crash. Fred Oates' motorcycle following the crash.
Fred Oates' foot was nearly amputated following an accident last year. Fred Oates' foot was nearly amputated following an accident last year.
Fred Oates endured a year-and-a-half of intense physical therapy following his motorcycle accident. Fred Oates endured a year-and-a-half of intense physical therapy following his motorcycle accident.
Fred Oates' motivation and level of fitness mad him the ideal candidate to use the IDEO device. Fred Oates' motivation and level of fitness made him the ideal candidate to use the IDEO device.