Ashlee, 37, has to be able to run – fast – on dirt, grass, and artificial turf, even if it’s wet and slippery. She has to start in quick bursts, pivot and stop on a dime. She runs dashes often and trains frequently. But Ashlee isn’t your typical athlete.With her two German wirehaired pointer dogs, Spirit and Creek, she competes in dog agility events around the country. Her older dog, Spirit is a two-time Master Agility Champion – the highest titled male dog of his breed in Agility in the country. Creek is just beginning his career. Says Ashlee, “The more athletic you are the better, because to a degree, the dog can only go as fast as you can. On a typical course, you’ve got to get your dog through 18 to 20 obstacles – like jumps, tunnels and teeter totters – in under a minute with no mistakes and faster than everybody else.”
Unfortunately, an ankle injury in May 2012, nearly sidelined Ashlee from the life and activities she loves. Simply walking around at a competition in Rockford, she stepped on an uneven patch in the grass and her ankle rolled.
“It felt like a sprain, which I’d done dozens of times, but when I put my foot down a second time it gave and I felt a bunch of things pop. From the level of pops, I knew it was bad.”
Not in too much pain, she blithely said to friends, “Sorry guys, I just tore my ankle up,” and hopped down a steep ditch to get to the road for a ride back to the event staging area. Someone got her some ice, one of the judges taped her ankle with duct tape, and she proceeded to drive 90 minutes home and to a local hospital for X-rays. “The ER doctor called it a bad sprain. I got splinted, got crutches, got some anti-inflammatories and was sent home. I wasn’t even told to follow-up with an orthopedist.” But she did.
“The tendon that normally goes from the little toe to behind the ankle bone and up along the side of my leg was visibly passing over my ankle bone. I didn’t feel pain, but I knew that wasn’t right.”
Ashlee knew of IBJI from previous treatment for a knee problem and had met IBJI hand physician, Leon Benson, through dog training circles. He referred her to his IBJI Glenview colleague, Amy Jo Ptaszek, MD. Says Dr. Ptaszek, “Ashlee had a peroneal tendon dislocation and tear of the retinaculum, a band around tendons that holds them in place and provides stability. Based on the severity of her injury, Dr. Ptaszek recommended surgery.
Says Ashlee, “For me, there was no non-surgical option. I walk fast even in a grocery store, so I wanted the surgery. And it’s been great since I had it.” She adds, “Dr. Ptazsek was so calm, knowledgeable, and had such a good sense of humor. She gave me confidence and restored my ankle.”
After outpatient surgery, Ashlee was in a cast for several weeks, then a walking boot and finally, a brace. Physical therapy followed about ten weeks after surgery, two to three days a week for several weeks. Ashlee saw her therapist, Julie Van Domelen, DPT, close to home at IBJI-Des Plaines. Says Ashlee, “Julie was so upbeat and motivating. I showed her a pre-injury video and told her I wanted to restore my maneuverability. I wanted to do sharp pivot turns, to push off hard from a turn into a sprint, to run on uneven surfaces. She helped me get there. Not only that, I had just started a new job and didn’t want to miss work, so she met me for 7 a.m. appointments.”
Ashlee ran at a national competition in mid-December, her goal, and ran on uneven grass just four months later with no pain, just like before the injury.