Not just a new ankle….

Yorkshire businessman, Mick Fogarty, doesn’t just have a new ankle; he also has a new lease of life.

Mick has done more exercise in the last few months than he has for many years. Having lost 20 kgs in weight, completed two rigorous boot camps in Spain and regularly walking 12.5 kilometres, he has come a long way from his situation last year, when he had such difficulty walking that he piled on the weight.

Mick’s problem was severe arthritis, which affects around eight million people in the UK. He played rugby for his infantry battalion in the Army in Staffordshire in the 1980’s and sustained a broken ankle whilst playing. He said his ankle felt painful in the years afterwards and after retiring from the Army in 1992 it gradually started to worsen until around five years ago the pain spurred him to see a NHS consultant.

Mick: “Doctors I saw at the time suggested having it fused but I was concerned the lack of flexibility would mean I couldn’t swim so I decided not to go ahead. However, the lack of exercise due to the pain meant I gained weight.” The diagnosis was post-traumatic ankle arthritis. Mick’s walking distance was significantly restricted and he needed regular analgesia to manage the pain.

A total right ankle replacement under the care of Professor Nick Harris, foot and ankle surgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital, has transformed Mick’s life.

“I feel like the clock has been turned back 20 years in terms of age. I decided it was worth funding the operation privately to regain years of pain-free mobility and get my life back. I decided to research ankle replacement and found that Professor Harris was one of the top guys for this procedure.” A referral to Professor Harris from Mick’s GP was all it took. The operation took place in October 2020.

“The whole experience was fantastic. The anaesthetist was brilliant and gave me a nerve-block to help with the pain post-operatively. All the staff were amazing – and all in the middle of a pandemic. I felt no pain when I woke up, or later. Ten days later the cast was removed, it healed really well and I was still pain free,” said Mick, who continued to work from his hospital bed with team meetings on MS Teams.

Professor Harris said, “Without surgery his pain and restrictions in activity such as walking would have deteriorated. We discussed the pros and cons of both an ankle fusion and a total ankle replacement. Mr Fogarty still had good movement in his ankle, despite the arthritis, and was keen to try and keep this. An ankle fusion sacrifices ankle movement which can have some functional effects. An ankle replacement preserves ankle movement which can have some functional advantages.”

During an ankle replacement procedure, the end of the tibia and the top of the talus (ankle bone) are replaced with two metal components with a polyethylene (plastic) between them. Recovery from an ankle replacement is much quicker than with a fusion. Patients are able to start weight-bearing in a walker boot after two weeks. Approximately 80% of ankle replacements will last 10-15 years, which is improving with newer designs.

Mick: “I followed Professor Harris’s instructions to the letter. I had to elevate my leg as much as possible and did mobility exercises at home and gradually started to build up my walking distance. The only downside during this period was that I continued to gain weight due to lack of exercise. So, in June 2021 I decided to do a three-week stint at a boot camp in Spain. It was brutal! My ankle was fine, but everything else hurt. I lost 12 kgs and soon after returned for another three weeks where I lost more weight. I’m hoping to go back again soon.

I feel like having the operation has given me a new lease of life. I’m pain-free. I walk, swim, do spin classes and go to a gym for strength training and toning. I want to stay as active as I can and none of it could have happened without this operation. I cannot thank Professor Harris enough for what he has done for me.”

Mick plans to eventually move to Spain and enjoy an active lifestyle which includes joining a sailing club.

However, his immediate plans are a little closer to home. “My goal is to reach 96kg by next May so I can walk my daughter down the aisle in a nicely fitting suit.”

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