When Stephanie Chisholm of Easton, Conn. woke up one morning to find that her foot was so swollen that she couldn't get out of bed, she felt like she was having a nightmare. She recalls, "I thought to myself, 'I just turned 40, how can this be happening?'" She went to a local hospital, where a physician told her, "It's just a torn tendon. If you were a professional athlete, we would have you in the operating room tomorrow. But since you are just a mother, you don’t need to do things like rollerblade, ski, play tennis, or go to the gym.” He gave her crutches and a foot brace, to immobilize her foot from the toe to the knee, with instructions to stay off of her foot.
When Ms. Chisholm told her father about the doctor's reaction, he was outraged. Her father said, "You have the rest of your life ahead of you. Don't let someone tell you that you are never going to be able to do all of the things that you love!" Her father recommended that she go to Hospital for Special Surgery and see Jonathan Deland, MD, for a second opinion.
Upon meeting Dr. Deland, Ms. Chisholm noticed a vast difference in his approach right away. "Instead of just reading a report, Dr. Deland showed me the MRI films and explained in detail what we were looking at," she says. It turned out that the damage to Ms. Chisholm's foot was much worse than she had anticipated – she had two torn tendons, a damaged ligament, and two bones that needed to be operated on. Ms. Chisholm says that she wasn't nervous about the procedure because of the confidence Dr. Deland instilled when he diagnosed her. However, he had warned her that performing the surgery would not guarantee that she would completely regain her mobility.
Ms. Chisholm knew that the road to recovery would be a long and difficult one following the surgery. After leaving the hospital, she remained in a wheelchair for six weeks and then wore a cast, followed by a weight-bearing boot. Essentially, she had to protect her foot for five months, while still caring for four children under the age of nine. She returned to HSS one year later to have the hardware removed from her foot, at which point she began physical therapy. When she returned to Dr. Deland the following year, he told her that the outcome was the best they could have hoped for – she had regained 100% of her strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
Despite her young age, Ms. Chisholm has already made a bequest to the Hospital in her will to express her gratitude to those who helped turn her life around. "I feel so incredibly grateful to Dr. Deland and everyone at Hospital for Special Surgery," she says. "Everyone was so kind and funny – from the guys in the cast room to the nurses. Dr. Deland’s office staff – Rosie, Mardee, and Kristine – became like a family to me, and I looked forward to my visits." Over time, Ms. Chisholm came to meet many other patients of Dr. Deland, all of whom agree that the Hospital is in a league of its own. "One of my friends told me that for the rest of my life, I would be happy I went there," says Ms. Chisholm.
Ms. Chisholm's recovery process gave her a small glimpse of what it would be like to lose her mobility. "Being immobile gave me an entirely new outlook on life and such an appreciation for just plain walking on my own two feet," she says. "I didn’t want to be 42 and sitting on the sidelines. I am often the only parent out there rollerblading with the kids - but I am truly blessed to be there."