Romano Robert Vanderbes, New York, NY – tendon transfer and ankle distraction
In 1954, I was 16 years old and living in Amsterdam where I was attending secondary school. I was diagnosed with a reuscel tumor (a benign soft tissue tumor just below the knee). The tumor was removed but the surgery resulted in a drop foot. For a number of years, I managed with a variety of devices: braces, booties, cowboy boots. Here, creativity was definitely rewarded.
Some years later in 1958, I was living in New York and consulted a neurologist. From that quarter came little hope, but he referred me to Dr. Wilson at HSS. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Rolla Campbell suggested a two-part procedure: 1) a triple arthrodesis (a partial ankle fusion) for ankle stability and 2) a tendon rerouting procedure; tendons from the side of the ankle were to be rerouted through the internal membrane to the top of the foot to provide a measure of dorsiflexion (up and down movement). This would correct the drop foot condition. Both procedures were done and I healed like I had visited Lourdes.
For the next forty years I could run, play tennis, even play surf bum in Hawaii for a brief interlude and drink in the best bars. This was my HSS triumph #1.
Unfortunately, as karma has it, a price had to be paid at some point. The left ankle trauma of the fifties resulted in gradual arthritis which developed in my tibia-ankle joint. At the time, artificial replacement ankle joints available in the US had a reputation of being only slightly better than used bicycle parts.
I then did some late night internet research and came across 'distraction therapy' which was developed in my old home country, The Netherlands, by a group of orthopedic specialists using a non-invasive procedure called the Ilizarov frame.
About eight years ago, I spoke with Dr. Figgie (an HSS top ankle specialist) and asked him about 'distraction therapy' for ankle arthritis. He replied that he had no direct experience with distraction, but should I wish to explore that topic, the man to be contacted was Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch.
A few calls were made and a week later I saw Dr. Rozbruch at HSS. I realized he might be the answer to my problem and we scheduled the completely non-invasive procedure - left ankle distraction arthroplasty. Six months later, I was walking around London not feeling any ankle joint pain.
Delusional ideas of auditioning for the Sadler Wells Ballet did drift through my subconscious, forgive me. In seven years I've not felt the old ankle joint. This was my HSS Triumph #2.
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