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“Jennifer is back doing the things she wants to do”

Jennifer Wolin, 41, of Plainfield is back to work as a Wal-Mart customer service representative and walking around pain-free, thanks to the ankle replacement she received in July 2010 at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.


It is only the second time an ankle replacement has been performed there. The first was in the spring of 2010. Both were performed by Dr. Joe Mathew George, a podiatric surgeon who treats patients at Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital. An ankle replacement is a good alternative for active patients whose mobility is significantly hampered by pain.


Wolin had severe degeneration of her ankle joint, along with cartilage loss and “bone on bone” wear and tear of her joints from continuous use, despite her discomfort. A fusion, George said, was her only other option, but the ankle replacement was the best choice for Wolin.


“Since the ankle replacement, Jennifer is back to doing the things she wants to do, including working,” George said. “It’s rewarding to provide this for patients that are hurting.”


Still, ankle replacements are not common. George estimates that, in the last six years, he’s performed between 35 and 40 of them, including those procedures that were part of his training. Like any joint replacement, the implant itself will eventually need replacing, although a patient should expect 10 years use from it.


An ankle replacement is not for every patient with ankle pain, but it is a good option for individuals who are able to carry out daily living activities. Ankle replacements have been on the market for many years, but until recently, only one implant was available.


“Previously, you had to cut out a lot of bone,” George said. “Also, the replacement joint didn’t last very long, about five to 7 years. We like them last about twice as long as that.”


Thanks to George, Wolin had no anxiety about the surgery. George explained everything in advance, so she knew what to expect. The entire process went as planned, she said.


A nerve block from her knee to her ankle meant she was pain-free after the procedure, although Wolin was not allowed step on her new ankle for several weeks. She could use either a walker or crutches to move about her house, but decided a walker had more stability. She returned to work three months after her surgery.


“Because I couldn’t bear weight on my ankle for nine weeks, the therapist showed me how to bend and stretch my foot to keep the ankle moving,” Wolin said. “Once I stood up, I had to relearn how to walk, but everything went smoothly. I have about 93 percent of the range I used to have and no pain. If I had to do it all over again, I would. Everyone at the hospital was great. I can’t say enough about the nurses. They were so observant. They knew if I needed an ice pack and they always answered their call buttons right away. The day after I came home, I had a therapist at my house. Dr. Joe had made certain of that. He is a very encouraging and knowledgeable doctor.”


George is board-qualified in forefoot as well as rearfoot and ankle reconstruction. He completed a fellowship in foot and ankle trauma and reconstructive surgery in Germany. His specialty areas also include peripheral nerve decompression, charcot reconstruction, arthroscopic surgery, sports medicine and limb salvage.