Jade Ortiz, 17, has been dancing as long as she remembers. She performed in the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker Suite at age 12 and competes all over the country each month. “I’ve been dancing competitively since age 6 – classical ballet, jazz, tap, pointe and contemporary. January through July, I’m dancing at least five days a week. I love it.”
Dance is Jade’s passion, but cheerleading nearly ended her dreams of a dance career. In her sophomore year of high school, Jade, a “flyer” – the one tossed in the air in breath-catching routines – was dropped. The fall caused serious damage, rupturing tendons and ligaments in her left ankle - an ankle that had been fractured once before in a dance competition.
Jade received care from an orthopedist in Racine, Wisconsin where she lives and spent months in a cast, then a boot, then in physical therapy. She says, “After six months, my ankle was still not right. I couldn’t dance and I even fell down in the hallway at school a few times because my ankle would just roll.”
Her mom, Heather, remembers, “It was devastating for her when the ankle hadn’t improved. Jade was so active and it was a long year sitting on the sidelines.” When orthopedists recommended casting her again, Jade and her mom made an appointment with Dr. Ari Kaz, a foot and ankle specialist at IBJI’s Chicago location. Heather says, “We’d heard about him from friends in Chicago who said he was one of the best foot and ankle doctors in the area. We had no problem driving to see him.”
After an MRI, Dr. Kaz determined that the ligament was still torn and that the bone was beginning to invert due to Jade’s activities. Jade says, “When we met Dr. Kaz, we finally got a clear picture on what was happening. He explained what the MRI showed and how he would fix my ankle."
He says, “Dance is a high demand sport. Being able to stand on tiptoes or balance on one leg takes great strength, dexterity and stability of the foot and ankle. Jade had already tried conservative healing methods – being in the cast and getting PT – and they hadn’t worked. After trying those things without success, surgery is a reasonable option.”
Says Heather, “Dr. Kaz was very honest. He said he would have to reconnect tendons and that there was always a chance they would be too tight or too loose. But Jade was ready, and we had faith in him.” One of Dr. Kaz’s residency mentors, Indianapolis Colts’ team physician, David Porter, had innovated the surgery Jade needed. Dr. Kaz had studied with him and was experienced in the technique. Says Dr. Kaz, “Jade had beautiful dancer’s feet with excellent arch and flexibility and I wanted to preserve that. I was confident she would do well.”
In August 2011, Dr. Kaz performed the lateral ankle ligament reconstruction at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Chicago using minimally invasive techniques. He also used arthroscopy to remove scar tissue from her previous injuries.“To scope the ankle, we make a small incision and insert a small camera inside the ankle allowing us to see inside. Another small incision enables the ligament repair.” Says Jade, “Dr. Kaz did a fantastic job. I have the full strength and flexibility I had before and just a tiny scar that barely shows.”
After surgery, Jade spent six weeks in a cast, then received physical therapy at IBJI’s Gurnee location, closer to her Racine home. IBJI physical therapist, Candace Szymanski, worked with her for two months over 13 sessions. Says Heather, “We could have done physical therapy in Racine, but I wanted to stay within IBJI so Dr. Kaz could monitor Jade’s progress closely. We had evaluations a couple of times during the healing stage and Dr. Kaz kept us on the right recovery pace.”
“I was doing more in PT than I had ever done before,” says Jade. “Candace really worked me hard, but was super encouraging. She was building my strength for dance especially ballet pointe which takes a lot of stability and flexibility.” Heather says, “Six months after surgery, her ankle is perfect. There’s nothing she can’t do.”
” Less than two years after her surgery, Jade auditioned for and was accepted into dance programs at University of Minnesota/Twin Cities and University of Wisconsin/Madison. She started at Madison as a dance and psychology major in September 2013. Says Jade, “I’m so thankful for Dr. Kaz. Of all my doctors over the years, he made me feel the most comfortable, the way he talked to me and my mom and had a solution.” Heather says, “Everyone at IBJI was so great to us. Doing this right was very important and we made the right choice in Dr. Kaz. Jade is proof of it.” “Jade and her mom were a pleasure for our team to work with,” says Dr. Kaz. “We’re thrilled she’s doing so well.