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Home |  Patient Stories |  Back to A New Normal After Ski Accident: Peter’s Story

Back to A New Normal After Ski Accident: Peter’s Story

Vacations are a great opportunity to have fun and create new memories. Unfortunately, Peter McKernan’s memory of a family ski trip in Park City, Utah, included an unforgettable injury.

On his third day on the mountain, Peter was skiing downhill when he came across a patch of snow that had hidden ice beneath it. When he travelled across it, the edges of his skis couldn’t dig into the snow when turning,

Peter McKernan completing the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ironman Triathlon in September 2019.

leading him to slip, hit the ground, and slide down the mountain.

As Peter awaited ski patrol, he self-assessed his injuries. He knew something was wrong because his left hip was in pain and he could not move his leg. “I thought someone hit me from behind. It felt like I had the life taken out of me,” Peter reflects.

Once transported to the patrol clinic in a toboggan, on-site medical staff took X-rays to determine that Peter had sustained a fractured pelvis and sacrum. This diagnosis was of immediate concern because of the arteries and veins in the location of the injury, which can be life threatening.

Understanding the severity of the injury, Peter was transported by ambulance to the nearest emergency room in Salt Lake City and had surgery the next day, where they placed one screw in his pelvis and two in his sacrum.

Upon returning home, Peter needed to find a local orthopedist for follow-up care. Though not previously familiar with Illinois Bone & Joint Institute (IBJI), Peter was seeking an experienced and trustworthy physician who specialized in pelvic trauma. This search led him to IBJI’s David Beigler, MD. Dr. Beigler is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement, hip arthroscopy and the treatment of trauma, particularly severe and atypical injuries.

Peter saw Dr. Beigler at IBJI’s Glenview location where he was instructed to stay off his leg for eight weeks to allow for proper healing and recovery, then he could start physical therapy.

During these eight weeks, Dr. Beigler monitored Peter’s recovery and took X-rays to make sure his bones were strong enough to start physical therapy. Throughout this time, he depended on his spouse for support and assistance, as he was unable to work and perform daily tasks, such as driving. “My spouse took care of me. I had limited physical movement and was restricted in what I could do and where I could go. I felt trapped in my own home. I kept myself busy by doing laps inside the house on my crutches.

At the end of eight weeks, Peter started physical therapy with IBJI’s Lake Bluff team. Justin Bond, PT, DPT, and Jackie Stahl, PTA, were a part of his journey to restoring his hip and leg’s mobility. “I remember my first day at physical therapy, I was laying sideways on the table and could not move my leg at all,” recalls Peter. “This was my starting point and I just wanted to physically get back to where I was before the accident. I knew re-building strength would take some time. I used my journal to record my progress daily and set weekly goals. Each day I would accomplish or overcome one small thing that I was unable to do or do differently than the day before. This really helped my sanity. I went [to physical therapy] multiple times a week and sometimes they became marathon sessions but I loved it and looked forward to them. I knew every ounce I put in no matter how small would pay me dividends. I can’t say enough about the PT team, they are like family. They knew how to channel my energy and challenge me,  They got me on the right path to recovery, they were so knowledgeable, understood where I wanted to go and they had a plan. They just knew my situation at points in time”

After four and half months of physical therapy, Peter is ‘back to a new normal.’ “I feel outstanding, I’m able to do everything I could before the accident. I’m very thankful for that,” he says. He continues to utilize what he learned in physical therapy to train, stretch and build strength. “It’s now just another part of my routine. Setting goals gets me to exercise, like signing up for triathlons. I really enjoy the journey leading-up to these events. The commitment is my motivation fuel to overcome all the life complexities that can and do happen along the way, and with the healthy side benefits to take care of myself.”

In September 2019, Peter successfully finished the Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ironman Triathlon. It was a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, ending with a 26.2-mile run. “There is no way I could have completed this Ironman let alone get across the finish line without IBJI’s support, collective knowledge, individual skill and spirit of optimism. You set me up for success. You made my road to recovery possible and I owe you a heart full of gratitude. I don’t know how or if I would have recovered to this degree without you. Thank you oh so much. You gave me the chance, you believed in me and guided my way so that I can continue with my life passions however crazy they may be—skiing, running, biking, hiking, paddle boarding, sailing, swimming and of course triathlons. Maybe this time around a little bit safer.”

David Beigler, MD is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in joint replacement, hip arthroscopy and the treatment of trauma, particularly severe and atypical injuries.