Next Steps Toward Ankle Replacement Surgery

After my decision to have total ankle replacement surgery performed by Dr. Thomas Clanton, the foot and ankle specialist at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, he gave me a prescription for the special CAT scan of my ankle and lower leg that would be used to fabricate the implant and guides particular to my ankle and tibia. This is one of the essential next steps toward total ankle replacement surgery using the Inbone 2 device.

Vail’s and America’s ski racing great, Lindsey Vonn, has relied upon The Steadman Clinic to keep her racing after some horrendous crashes. She remains the world’s greatest female ski racer in history and America’s winningest skier, period! She

I’d never had a CAT scan but after a painless few minutes in the machine it was over. Hoping for the best resolution I tried to remain perfectly still during the 10-15 seconds of the scan. I knew though, my toes inadvertently moved. I mentioned this to the technician. He assured me that he’d gotten a good scan. Reassured, the next step was setting the date for my ankle replacement surgery.

Determining a Date for the Surgery

I’m a photographer. Perhaps this is one reason for my deteriorated ankle. When working either shooting architecture or corporate events, I’m on my feet for hours upon hours. When shooting a corporate event lasting from a couple days to a week, I’ll be on my feet for as many as 12-14 hours,, no exaggeration pretty much straight each day. Nobody said photography was an easy profession. 

Photos and jerseys of famous athlete/patients adorn the walls of The Steadman Clinic. Here, the great 7’6″ Chinese basketball player, Yao Ming, whom Dr. Clanton treated several times
during their tenure with the Houston Rockets.

I had a couple of clients with events spaced over the next few months at different ends of the country. As a friend pointed out, I’m a bi-coastal photographer. If hired, this would rule out any surgery until mid-November at the earliest. Living in the mountains of Colorado, I wasn’t anxious to be recovering from ankle replacement surgery while ambling around on crutches with snow and ice on the ground.

Unfortunately, or fortunate for my ankle, this time my clients ended up trying to save money by hiring someone local. To me, always a bad idea; when you have an experienced professional who knows your organization and its members and who you can trust completely to always produce excellent work on time, saving a few thousand dollars is short-sighted.

Though disappointed, this freed me up to schedule the ankle replacement surgery ASAP. Dr. Clanton’s first availability was October 2nd, only a few short weeks away. Done deal.

The Steadman Clinic required that I see one of the internal medicine docs and have and EKG before approving me for surgery. Being cautious, they want to make certain a patient is in good enough health to undergo the procedure and avoid any complications or surprises. Fortunately, I passed with flying colors which left one more visit with Dr. Clanton immediately prior to surgery.

A few more testimonials to Dr. Clanton from the walls of the examination rooms.

Some Things to Consider Before Surgery

Now commited, there were a number of things to take care of. And these are things you should consider before your ankle replacement surgery let alone any surgery:

Make sure your last will and testament is up to date. It’s highly unlikely but you just might not wake up from anestheisia or you could get a life threatening infection.

Do you have and Advanced Medical Directive or Living Will? If you do then make certain it reflects your current desires. I know I would not want to persist as a vegetable for years on end but this could be your reality without making your wishes legally known. Remember, do no harm also means do everything possible to extend life unless there’s a clear directive from the patient to do otherwise.

If you haven’t already, give to someone you trust your Medical Power of Attorney. If for some reason you should become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself, you need someone who is empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf.

Make a list of all the passwords you use on websites and for all your devices. The worst thing you could do to your loved ones is make it impossible for them to access your bank or brokerage accounts and your online assets. I use the excellent application 1password to manage access to all our bank accounts, credit cards, trusts, apple id’s, Quicken, Turbo Tax, travel websites, apps, health records etc. etc..

If you died unexpectedly, without the master password, your family would have a very difficult time gaining access to your financial, online and digital assets. You don’t want to do this to anyone let alone those closest to you especially while they are grieving.

On the more mundane side, buy crutches and PRACTICE with them, get a raised toilet seat WITH HANDLES and install it, buy a shower chair preferably also with handles and perhaps a shower wall handle. Those stick-on kind, no matter how sophisticated looking, aren’t necessarily safe. Test it thoroughly before trusting it.

Stock food, get someone to help you, you’re going to need it! And get some books and dvds, whatever you need to entertain yourself because you’re going to be flat on your back for at least a couple weeks.

Final Steps

Another thing I had to do was winterize our cabin in western Colorado. Yolanda and I spent the week before the surgery doing all the big and little tasks it takes to protect everything for the winter; covering up the outdoor sink, emptying the cistern, taking down the tarps that cover part of the deck, stocking firewood, covering the deck furniture, putting away the bird feeders, setting up the trail cameras so we can see what animals are hanging around, and setting up the bear fence, (yes, we have bears and an electric fence keeps them off the decks and away from the cabin). As I mentioned in a previous post, with my end stage ankle arthritis, this was not easy.

While we were there closing things up, it was close to peak color along my creek in western Colorado.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy the fall color much this year.

Next time: Final preparations and a meeting with the doctor that almost nixed the surgery.

By Dennis Jones / Dreamcatcher Imaging

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