Joanie Sapienza placed second in a surfing contest last summer on Long Beach Island. It’s one of many trophies the 59-year-old lifelong competitive surfer has won. This honor was the sweetest, however, because it marked the Manasquan resident’s return to the sport she loves after a potentially life-altering injury.
Joanie, a critical care nurse practitioner at CentraState, had just finished a surfing session with friends. She then jumped on her skateboard but suddenly slipped off, twisting her foot. Despite the pain, Joanie went to work.
After her shift, she visited CentraState’s Emergency Department for treatment. An X-ray revealed a possible fracture, so podiatrist Alison DeWaters, DPM, ordered a CT scan for a better view. The scan confirmed that Joanie had six fractures and a tear of the Lisfranc ligament, one of three ligaments in the middle foot that helps keep the foot stable.
“It’s difficult to see mid-foot fractures on an X-ray,” Dr. DeWaters explains. “Roughly 20 percent are misdiagnosed each year. If they’re not treated, patients can develop severe arthritis later in life.”
A New Approach to a Common Injury
Traditionally, mid-foot fractures are repaired with metal screws that stabilize and fuse the bones back together. The screws are rigid, which limits movement, and they need to be surgically removed once the bones heal.
To reduce Joanie’s risk of arthritis and ensure she wouldn’t lose any function, Dr. DeWaters repaired the injury using a flexible approach called a mini-TightRope™. During this procedure, two buttons connected by fiber wire are placed across the affected bones and ligaments to stabilize them while they heal. Since the wire is flexible, it doesn’t need to be removed. In addition, patients can start physical therapy sooner and return to physical activity quicker with this technique.
“Dr. DeWaters knew I was eager to get back on my boards, so she researched each surgical option and consulted with her colleagues to find the best solution,” Joanie explains.
After surgery, Joanie used a knee scooter to get around and graduated to a walking boot a few weeks later. Physical therapy helped strengthen her muscles and improve her range of motion. Four months after surgery, Joanie was stand-up paddleboarding and getting used to using her feet again. Soon after, she leashed up and paddled out into the ocean.
“I don’t act like I’m in my 50s and I don’t want to,” Joanie says. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing until I can’t. Luckily, I’m back to what I love.”
For more information on podiatric surgery at CentraState, visit centrastate.com/podiatry or call 866-CENTRA7 (866-236-8727).
6 Tips for Healthy Summer Feet
Podiatrist Alison DeWaters, DPM, shares tips to keep your feet healthy this summer.
- Banish going barefoot. Shoes can protect you from hot sand, blacktop, bee stings, splinters, and more.
- Upgrade your footwear. Ditch low-cost flip flops for higher-end, sturdier versions with orthotic footbeds, like those by Vionic, Abeo, or OluKai. People with diabetes should opt for closed-toe sandals like fisherman-style leather shoes.
- Don’t forget sunscreen. Like the rest of your body, you can develop skin cancer on your feet. Be sure to apply sunscreen to your feet whenever you’re in the sun.
- Police your pedicures. If you get a spa pedicure, ensure clean, individually packaged tools are used. Clean plastic should line the water basin for each customer or it should be cleaned with antibacterial/antifungal cleansers between use.
- Don’t ignore swelling. If your feet begin to swell, drink clear fluids to hydrate your body and put on compression socks if you have them. Put your feet up at least to waist-level. If the swelling doesn’t go down in a few hours, call your doctor to rule out a medical condition.
- Heal your heels. If you’ve got dry, cracked heels, smooth callouses in the shower with a pumice stone, then apply moisturizing cream with urea when your feet are dry. Wearing moisturizing socks to bed can help cure cracks, too.