Lauren Wagner and her daughter are lucky to be alive. On May 30, 2020, they were hit head on by a drunk driver in Downingtown. Immediately following the accident, she checked on her daughter who was relatively unharmed, then started assessing her situation. She was alive and breathing… a good start! After some good Samaritans helped her from her vehicle, she did notice something was wrong.
“When I looked down, I saw that my foot was no longer lined up,” she recalled.
“The ambulance took me to Paoli hospital. At that point, I still had no idea what was wrong with my foot. I thought maybe it was broken. Still unaware of what was going on, I was taken to surgery and when I woke up, I had an external fixator on my foot/leg.”
Aleksandr Emerel, DPM, was the surgeon on-call that night. He told Wagner that she had a Hawkins 3/Hawkins 4 compound fracture of her right talus bone and subluxation of the peroneal tendon. The external fixator was drilled through her heel bone and into her shin to stabilize her foot. He also stitched up where the talus bone broke through the skin. After two days of recovery Wagner was released from the hospital.
Two weeks later, Dr. Emerel went back in to remove external fixator and insert a plate over the broken bone. At that point, the stitches where the bone broke the skin were kept in-place.
Two weeks after that, he removed all the stitches and staples and put her in a boot. She was non-weight bearing for about 12 weeks. Dr. Emerel discussed the possibility of the bone dying and needing to replace it. At that time, the bone did not show any signs of that happening.
“After 12 weeks, I started physical therapy at Premier in Downingtown with Kaitlyn and was showing improvement for about three weeks,” said Wagner.
“Then I started having a lot of pain and Dr. Emerel requested a CT scan, which showed that the bone was in fact dying and needed to be replaced.”
In late October 2020, Dr. Emerel removed the dying talus bone and replaced it with a titanium implant. Wagner’s recovery time was much shorter than the first two surgeries. Within a month she was back in the boot and putting weight on the foot. She graduated to just an ankle brace, then a compression sleeve which she still wears today when walking long distances.
“This injury greatly affected my life and the lives of those around me,” said Wagner.
“Prior to this injury, I was very active with running, mountain biking, hiking and spin class. Being non-weight bearing for three months caused me to lose almost all the muscle in my right leg. I was not able to drive, I needed a walker or crutches to move around anywhere and was in quite a bit of pain. However, I am so grateful that Dr. Emerel was on-call the day of my accident. He saved my foot and gave me the best chance possible at recovery. I am still not where I was before the accident, but I am not sure if I ever will be.”
“A few months ago, I spoke with the man that helped me out of the car. He is a volunteer fireman and has seen quite a bit over the course of his volunteering. He was surprised to see me walking at all as he thought I was going to lose my foot. But not with Dr. Emerel on call! He was the silver lining in a really bad day. I am grateful he was able to help.”