Theresa O'Keefe - Midland, MI
"If I hadn't been properly diagnosed and treated, and followed my doctor's advice, my foot could have given out on me."
Expert Surgery and Care Kept an Ordinary Fall From Changing Her Life
After walking her dog in Midland City Forest in January, Theresa O'Keefe took off her shoes and slipped down two steps in her wet socks. She knew immediately that she'd hurt her right foot, but didn't realize she had a rare type of break called a Lisfranc injury.
O'Keefe, who is a registered nurse, was scheduled to work the next day and then go on vacation. Fortunately, she did not put off a visit to her doctor's office. She saw Physician Assistant Blair Unruh, P.A.-C., who works in the office of Family Medicine Physician Jerry Ferrell, M.D.
"It was a miracle that Blair was there in Dr. Ferrell’s office," O'Keefe said. "I am truly thankful for him." Before becoming a Physician Assistant, Unruh was a Certified Athletic Trainer for several years. Lisfranc breaks are more common among athletes, so Unruh knew what to look for, and his experience paid off for O'Keefe.
"He told me that you usually can't see the break on an X-ray unless the patient puts pressure on the foot," O'Keefe said. But Unruh recognized the indications on the X-ray along with another telltale sign: dark bruising that had developed on the bottom of her foot.
"Right away he told me, 'Do not stand on your foot. Do not put any pressure on it,'" O’Keefe said. "He told me I had broken two bones and would need surgery. I later learned that if I hadn't been properly diagnosed and treated, and followed my doctor's advice, my foot could have given out permanently. I would not have been able to work, play with my grandkids or walk my dog."
Unruh referred O'Keefe to Orthopedic Surgeon Kent Biddinger, M.D., a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon. "If you need foot surgery, Dr. Biddinger is the guy," O'Keefe said. "I had my appointment on Monday and surgery the following day."
Dr. Biddinger described to O'Keefe exactly how everything would go. "He was friendly, matter-of-fact and direct, and he really knew his stuff," she said. "When I heard I'd need 16 to 17 weeks of recovery, I thought, 'Oh my gosh!' I couldn't process it. Dr. Biddinger told me to hang in there."
O'Keefe's surgery took place at MyMichigan Medical Center Midland and she stayed overnight. "I got right in. I didn't have to wait. Dr. Biddinger performed the surgery to insert a pin in my foot and everything went perfectly," she said. "During the surgery, I knew he was there and I talked to him, but I don't remember hearing anything."
During her 16 weeks of recovery, O'Keefe wore various devices as she gradually bore more weight on her right foot. "I got a plaster cast a week after surgery, but still could not put any pressure on my foot. I used crutches or a knee walker. I had 11 weeks with no weight bearing, then partial weight bearing for a month," she said.
"I was a good patient. Being a nurse, I know that some people don't follow the doctor's orders, but I realize how important my feet are. I wanted to make sure I healed properly and didn’t have long-term pain."
O'Keefe said Dr. Biddinger was very professional and caring for her as a patient, and his staff was always helpful. "I went to their office six or seven times, and each time he would do an X-ray, check out my foot and answer all my questions. One day my cast got a hole in it, and his nurse came from home to repair it. She was off that day, but she opened up the office and fixed my cast for me."
O'Keefe said that her life is now back to normal. "My foot works well. I can walk my dog in City Forest again, and that was a major thing. I can do everything I could do before, and I have no pain. I really listened to Dr. Biddinger!"
Those who would like more information about Blair Unruh, P.A.-C., may contact Family Medicine Associates of Midland, P.C., at (989) 631-9515.