East Government teacher Ron Stallard and his daughter were in their backyard celebrating spring break with a bonfire and karate session. With a whole spring break ahead, Stallard was looking forward to as many rounds of golf as he could possibly play along with spending plenty of time with family and friends. But fate had other plans.
Using some of the wood from the fire, Stallard showed his daughter how to break a board. It was going smoothly until one board just wouldn’t bend. As he collided with the board, his foot stopped, but his tibia continued into his ankle. His ankle exploded in pain. As soon as it happened, he went right down to the ground.
Having broken his ankle several times, Stallard was used to ankle injuries, yet none of this magnitude.
“I’ve never fallen down before,” Stallard said. “When you feel an ankle go, you can recover. This time, it just felt like it exploded.”
When Stallard went to urgent care the next day, three fractures were discovered in the initial diagnosis. Stallard was put in a boot and crutches until June.
In June, a specialist told Stallard that in addition to his fractures, he had a calcified chunk of bone loose in his ankle and two torn ligaments. Given the newfound severity of his injury, the doctor told Stallard he needed surgery. Initially the procedure would be arthroscopic, a minimally invasive surgery he had previously had on his knee.
“When they did my knee, I was back running again after three weeks,” Stallard said. “So going into surgery on the ankle, I was thinking it would be easy.”
But the surgery was much different than expected. Even Stallard’s specialist had not realized how bad his injury was.
When Stallard got out of surgery, he didn’t notice how big the incisions were until two weeks later, after the splint was off. The doctor who performed the surgery had to cut Stallard’s ankle entirely open and perform a different surgery for the ligaments.
But Stallard’s greatest pain of the surgery was not in his ankle. It was from the tourniquet on his leg which blocked blood flow to his lower leg so they could carry out the surgery.
“I came out of surgery with just screaming pain in [my] upper thigh,” Stallard said. “Then, after 48 hours the nerve block in my lower leg wore off and so then my ankle started hurting.”
Stallard was prescribed one painkiller, Hydrocodone. The powerful narcotic was stronger on his brain than the pain in his ankle. He took only a few doses before he stopped taking the medication.
“What scared me more than anything was the fact that I could actually feel, in my leg, specifically the ligaments I had torn,” Stallard said. “That’s how I knew I had messed it up worse than in the past.”
After two weeks, the splint was taken off and the stitches were removed. Special super glue was put in the incisions, and a cast over that. Again, after a two-week period, the cast was taken off. Stallard was then put in a boot and crutches for five weeks after that.
“Nine weeks post-op I was able to walk without the boot,” Stallard said. “At the start of physical therapy, the therapist said to try to get it moving.”
It has been a slow process, but Stallard is now able to play golf and other mild activities as long as he wears his doctor prescribed brace. Math teacher Jamie Kelly had plans with Stallard to play golf the day after his injury happened. But because of the injury, Stallard was unable to participate.
Stallard’s injury and his recovery have affected his life in many ways. When the injury first occurred, he did not expect it to be nearly this bad, nor did he think it would take this long to heal. His summer plans of golf and other activities were completely changed. It was much more difficult to get around the house and to places he needed to be. He was not able to drive, while in the boot or cast.
“The most notable effect on him was the limp,” Kelly said. “You could definitely tell that he was in pain, especially at his age.”
Stallard’s attitude has not changed since the injury occurred.
“He has had a very positive attitude about it,” Kelly said. “But you could tell he was disappointed that he couldn’t do normal activities like golf. Especially in the beginning, when he had to rely on other people to do things for him.”
Along with golf, Stallard competes in an over-40 division for track and field when healthy. If he had not gotten the surgery, he would not be able to compete again.
“I still want to coach and go play basketball and go to track meets and participate,” Stallard said.
Stallard will be able to start doing more exercises such as jumping and running at 12 weeks post-op, which is in the middle of September.
“Full recovery could take anywhere from six months to a year,” Stallard said. “The focus now is just getting it back in shape.”