Marie Heinecke patiently and painfully waited for medical science to catch up with her.

Her odyssey began in 2000 when she fell off of a 12 foot ladder, breaking both ankles. The injury to the left ankle was particularly devastating. The orthopedic surgeon who treated Marie 20 years ago said, “I have never seen a bone shatter the way yours did.”

Over the next two decades Marie’s pain and disability grew as the arthritis in her ankle joint became more advanced due to the injury. Eventually Marie was no longer able to move her left ankle, causing significant pain, changing the way she walked, and prevented her from doing things she enjoys.

“I would fall over all the time,” the 54-year-old said. “Shopping was a huge chore. It got to a point where I could not go anymore. My daughter had to shop for me. I could not bend over and pick something up off the floor.”

Marie eventually had to leave her job in home health care.

After nearly 7,000 days of patience and pain, medical science advanced and Mark Wavrunek, DPM, a fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon with Blessing Physician Services, proposed a treatment for Marie’s suffering.

Total Ankle Replacement

“When she came to me her ankle had bone-on-bone arthritis, really no cartilage left,” Dr. Wavrunek said of Marie’s left ankle.

“She had done many types of conservative therapies - including physical therapy, bracing, various anti-inflammatories and steroid injections – nothing improved her pain,” he continued. “She was even told by physical therapy there was no reason to continue therapy because her condition could not be improved any further due to the level of osteoarthritis.”

“Marie was not able to play with her grandchildren. That was something that was important to her, to have that lifestyle back, to be able to keep up with the kiddoes,” Dr. Wavrunek added.

“I had only heard about total ankle replacement being done in Columbia, MO, and I did not want to go out of town,” Marie stated. “Dr. Wavrunek told me he does ankle replacement right here at Blessing.”

Dr. Wavrunek developed his skills during his surgical residency that was followed up by an additional fellowship year of foot and ankle reconstructive surgery that focused on total ankle replacements and advanced deformity correction of the lower extremity at American Health Network in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The ankle joint is made up of the three bones of the lower leg and foot. During an ankle replacement, the arthritic portion of the ankle is removed and replaced with prosthesis the functions very similar to that of the original joint.

Patients that receive an ankle joint replacement should have an expectation of gaining some range of motion back. Although, the goal is to reduce pain and improve function. 

“If you’ve been suffering with ankle pain for an extended period of time, an ankle joint replacement is a good option for some people to get back to living life pain free,” Dr. Wavrunek explained.

That is exactly the outcome experienced by Marie. In fact, she is considering a return to her career in home health care.

“The most significant improvement is that Marie has pain-free range of motion. She’s back to playing with her grandchildren.”

Marie and her husband, Kevin, recommend the care of Dr. Wavrunek.

“We are thrilled with the outcome and the way Dr. Wavrunek and his staff treated us,” Marie said. “He genuinely cares and we truly mattered.”

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or refer a patient, please call (217) 214-3823.