Doug’s story: ‘Zero pain’ after ankle fusion
Friday, August 5, 2016
It’s hard to run a neighborhood tavern when you can’t walk. Doug DeValk knows all too well.
An arthritic, progressively deformed right ankle made that difficult.
Yet when ankle fusion surgery was suggested, “I said no,” says DeValk, 54, who runs Kamps Bar & Grill in Combined Locks. “I was mostly in pain, but I could still do my job.”
Until he couldn’t do his job.
“I went from working 9-hour days to 2- to 3-hour days. I wasn’t working all that much because of the ankle,” he says. “My customers could tell I was in pain.”
DeValk’s ankle was turned inward at a 25-degree angle, the result of dozens of rolled ankles from years of playing volleyball, softball and basketball. His ankle ligaments eventually gave out. He walked on the outside of his foot. It hurt all the time.
“It was a dull, aching pain. It takes a lot out of you. It’s exhausting,” he says.
DeValk eventually sought a second opinion. Dr. Brandon M. Scharer, a foot and ankle surgeon with Orthopedic & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic, also recommended fusing the ankle. Fusion was DeValk’s only option because of the deformity. This time, he agreed.
In January 2016, Scharer removed cartilage from the front of DeValk’s ankle and inserted a plate and several screws to pull the bone together, fusing the ankle joint.
DeValk wore a cast, then a boot, for three months. When the boot came off, he did no therapy. He simply went back to work, handling the day shift at the bar. “7, 8, 9 hours a day. I’m on my feet a lot,” he says. Within six weeks, he went rock climbing.
“Zero pain,” DeValk says. “I’m thrilled with the outcome.”
So is his family.
“My wife and daughters did a lot of hiking and camping without me” before the surgery, DeValk says. “I quit going places and doing things because of the pain.”
Now, he says, “I’m doing all the stuff I hadn’t done in years and years,” all without a limp.
“He’s doing great,” Scharer says. “He’s fully rehabbed.”
DeValk hikes at High Cliff State Park, climbs the rocks at Dave’s Falls in Marinette County and coaches rec softball in Kaukauna with one of his three daughters. He’s even tried paddleboarding, though he gleefully concedes he’s not a natural.
“I’m a part of it again,” he says softly, meaning family life, and meaning life.
Dr. Brandon M. Scharer, a board-certified and fellowship-trained foot and ankle surgeon, sees patients in Kaukauna, Green Bay and Marinette. To request an appointment, call 877-229-2273 or do so online.