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Tip on ankle replacement starts with an unlikely source

| Patient Stories | Healthy You

Before and after x-rays of Stephen Winn's ankle

After 43 years of hobbling on a mangled ankle, one man found the breakthrough that changed his life.

Stephen Winn’s hunt to relieve the excruciating pain in his ankle began with a tip from an unlikely source…a television crime drama.

“After watching an episode of ‘NCIS,’ my wife told me that someone on the show had been identified by an ankle replacement,” says Stephen.

That bit about “ankle replacement” inspired him to explore new ways to put an end to his 40+ years of ankle pain.

Poor healing after collision

When he was 15 years old, Stephen was severely injured in a head-on automobile collision. While his foot was spared, the poor healing of his ankle meant he developed early arthritis that only grew worse with age.

“My ankle after the accident was really deformed,” says Stephen. The outside ankle bone looked like a tennis ball—all swollen up. “I really couldn’t walk on it correctly. It felt like I was walking on shards of glass inside my ankle.”

In the years after the accident, he wore a jackboot-like brace strapped from knee to foot and he took prescription-strength pain medications just to get by every day.

Tired of half-measures

He was tired of using half measures and says it got so bad, he even considered amputation to find some relief. The only type of surgery offered to him over the years was bone-fusion, which wasn’t appealing to him.

Stephen earnestly began researching ankle replacement online and found possible options covered by his insurance plan. His search led him to Carter Kiesau, MD and Warren Taranow, DO, orthopedic surgeons with PeaceHealth in Bellingham, Washington.

Optimistic call

He saw a doctor near his home in Vancouver, Washington to have fresh x-rays taken of his ankle. After mailing the disk of x-ray images to Bellingham, he received a call from Dr. Kiesau that made him even more optimistic.

The doctor suggested an Inbone ankle replacement. “I said, YES! Anything that would save my ankle,” Stephen says.

A few road trips and train rides later, he had the surgery in 2012.

The procedure went well and three months after post-surgery rehabilitation, Stephen was walking without pain for the first time in nearly 45 years.

“I would say that Stephen’s particular case of badly deformed arthritis was one of the worst I’ve seen and treated with total ankle replacement,” said Dr. Kiesau. “But with careful preoperative planning and a long reconstructive surgery, he has also had one of the best overall outcomes one could ever hope for.”

One-year anniversary

On the one-year anniversary of his surgery, Stephen and his wife realized one of his retirement dreams when they took a trip to Australia where he walked across the famous Sydney Bridge, a mile straight up. He wrote to his surgeons, “1,400+ stairs to climb and my ankle handled it wonderfully. Thanks again to both of you.”Handwritten note by Stephen Winn to PeaceHealth surgeons

It’s been nearly 10 years since Stephen’s wife shared what might then have seemed like a small detail from a popular TV program.

It started something much bigger.

“The ankle replacement surgery at PeaceHealth gave me my life back,” says Stephen. “I couldn’t be happier. Now, I can move around like it never happened. This literally changed my life around.”

His doctor also felt grateful after all these years. “I’m glad we could make such a positive impact on someone’s life,” said Dr. Kiesau.