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Terry’s story: No pain after new bunion procedure

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Terry Ehle, a children’s librarian from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, poses for a photo in front of a bookshelf of library books.

Terry Ehle lived with bunion pain for two years. When that pain in her left foot made her cringe at the thought of doing her daily workout, she knew it was time to do something about it.

“I’d been trying to get my 10,000 steps a day so I was kinda dreading at the end of the day if I still needed to go get steps, I’d be like, ‘Oh, God, I don’t want to go for a walk.’”

A bunion is a bony bump that develops on the inside of the foot at the big toe joint. It forms when the big toe pushes against the next toe, often the result of too-tight shoes, foot stress or arthritis.

Bunions often are marked by bone deformity, pain and stiffness.

“The bunion was right below my big toe and it was just causing me a lot of pain, a lot of burning sensation throughout the day,” she says. “There’d be times when I just wouldn’t really want to walk on it at all. A lot of times some of the shoes that I was wearing would really rub against it.”

Ehle, a children’s librarian in Two Rivers, wouldn’t allow herself to be slowed by the pain, even when it was exacerbated by a bone spur on top of her already sore left foot, she says.

A bone spur is a smooth, bony lump that grows off a bone. It can be painful as it often puts pressure on nearby nerves, rubs against other bones or tissues and can restrict movement.

“I’m a mother of five and I’ve got a busy life. I work full time. I cannot not be on my feet, so to speak,” she says, laughing. “And so I was walking through the pain.”

Her primary care physician referred her to Jason George DeVries, a foot and ankle surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic in Manitowoc.

DeVries suggested non-surgical remedies.

“We had tried putting some inserts in my shoes to see if that would just kinda help level my feet a little bit more while I was walking,” Ehle says. “I purchased some (better) shoes than the cheap ones that I had been wearing and it wasn’t really relieving the pain that I was having.”

Something more had to be done, especially when Ehle began feeling “twinges” in her knee and hip.

“I was worried that if I ignored it any longer, then those two issues would become more pronounced,” says Ehle, who is in her 40s. She suspected her occasional hip and knee twinges were the result of overcompensating for her foot pain.

“Dr. DeVries definitely agreed with me,” she says.

Diagnostic testing, including X-rays, revealed that surgery would be the best solution.

Ehle agreed but was concerned.

“I was worried about a long recovery and whether or not I’d have to be off work for a long time, but it sounded very manageable when he explained how it usually works,” she says.

DeVries performed a percutaneous bunionectomy, a new, minimally-invasive procedure. During the procedure, the surgeon makes multiple small incisions on the inside of the foot. Through these incisions, the surgeon can cut and shift the problematic bones. Pins and screws also can be used to maintain the corrections.

The procedure typically takes 20 to 40 minutes depending on the severity of the bunion.

Advantages of a percutaneous bunionectomy include lower complication rates and quicker recovery time.

“I also grow scar tissue very easily so I was a little concerned about that, so I kind of appreciated those smaller incisions on my foot,” Ehle says.

Ehle was DeVries’ first percutaneous bunionectomy patient, but that didn’t dissuade her from undergoing the procedure.

“I’m not a squeamish person overall. I trust doctors, so I just said, ‘Go for it,’ and he did,” she says, laughing. “He presented himself as very confident that this was the best option and he mentioned that moving forward this is how they’re always going to do it.”

The procedure was a success.

“I had it, like, on a Wednesday, and I actually went back to work on Monday,” Ehle says. She initially used a knee scooter to get around but switched to a walking boot just two weeks later.

Ehle raved about the procedure to family and friends.

“It worked. It did what it was supposed to do,” she says. “I’m not having that pain anymore. I have another one on my other side of my foot. If it does get to that point where it hurts again, I would definitely do it again.”

Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Author: Femi Cole