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Roger’s story: New ankle, new life

Monday, October 31, 2016

By: Jeff Ash

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Roger Griinke’s ankles bothered him for a long time. They’d bothered him since Vietnam. Especially his left ankle.


But now, he says, “my ankle is back like it was 50 years ago,” thanks to ankle replacement surgery by Dr. Jason George DeVries, a foot and ankle surgeon with Orthopedics & Sports Medicine BayCare Clinic.


“I sprained my left ankle on a regular basis, hundreds of times, over the last 50 years,” said Griinke, who’s semi-retired but runs a boat storage business in Woodruff in northern Wisconsin.


Drafted into the Army in 1966, Griinke trained as a pole climber, installing electrical and communications wiring. He was sent to Vietnam, where he climbed poles and rubber trees.


“I was about 20 when I had my first ankle problems,” Griinke said of his pole-climbing days. “I spent hours and hours on that equipment.”


When Griinke came home, his ankle problems came with him. Ligament damage from all those sprains eventually slowed his life considerably.


“I would think about how far it was to walk. I was walking less and less. By the end of the day, I could hardly walk,” he said.


Griinke turned to the Veterans Administration health care system – and he makes it clear he was satisfied with VA care – and received cortisone injections in both ankles.


“Ahhhh! I’d get instant relief,” he said, expressing that feeling of relief. “But it was only temporary.”


When his Rhinelander doctor recommended ankle replacement surgery, Griinke turned to DeVries, who is fellowship trained in reconstructive foot and ankle surgery.


Dr. Jason DeVries and patient


“Roger had a pretty significant amount of arthritis in both ankles,” said DeVries, who replaced Griinke’s left ankle.


“We cut out the bad parts of the joint and replaced it. We cut out a large piece of bone and replaced it with cobalt chromium components and plastic spacers.”


Thanks to advances in ankle replacement surgery, there are few surprises along the way.


“It’s an open operation, but by using X-rays and CT scans, we can do virtual surgery ahead of time,” DeVries said.


The best candidates for ankle replacement surgery, he says, are people who are 55 and older, are lighter and have less deformity in the joint.


“Roger was a tough case, kind of borderline, because of the amount of deformity in the joint,” DeVries said.


Griinke had surgery in January 2016, a day after his 69th birthday. Recovery was slow but sure.


“For the first two months, I couldn’t walk on it at all. For the next two months, it was only light weight-bearing but walkable,” Griinke said.


“After six months, it was like I got a brand new ankle, like nothing ever happened.”


Now he can walk distances, and walk up and down stairs, two things he couldn’t do before the surgery.


Griinke’s right ankle, though also bothersome, is less complicated to treat. The joint isn’t deformed, so DeVries plans simply to clean up bone spurs.


“Consult your own doctor to see if you’re a candidate for something like this,” Griinke says of ankle replacement surgery. “Definitely, do it.”


Dr. Jason George DeVries sees patients at the Foot & Ankle Center at 2020 Riverside Drive in Green Bay. He also sees patients in Manitowoc and Chilton. For information, call 920-288-5555 or 877-884-8796 in Green Bay or 920-682-6376 in Manitowoc or request an appointment online.

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