Anthony, a freshman goalie on his high school soccer team, and his cousin were driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) in April 2019, when they lost control of the vehicle. Anthony was trapped beneath the ATV when it flipped and landed on him. Because such severe accidents carry a high risk of internal injury, he was quickly transported by helicopter to a nearby emergency room. There, doctors determined his injuries required Level 1 pediatric trauma care, and he was immediately transferred to Children's Medical Center Dallas.
The bones of his right ankle were broken, and the skin and muscle of Anthony's left ankle had been torn away in the accident, exposing the bones and joints. Doctors would either have to perform a free flap surgery to replace the missing tissue – or amputate the foot.
A pediatric orthopedic surgeon placed a plate and nine screws into Anthony's right ankle to stabilize it as it healed. Purushottam Nagarkar, M.D., Pediatric Plastic Surgeon at Children's Health℠ and Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern, reconstructed the left ankle, transferring skin, fat and blood vessels from Anthony's thigh to cover the exposed structures.
Anthony remained in the hospital for the next two weeks while he recovered from surgery. Understandably, his wounds made it hard for him to get around, but Child Life Specialists kept him busy.
"The entire team at Children's Health was awesome," Anthony says. "They kept my hopes up and made it feel like such a family environment."
Soon after Anthony was discharged, he began physical therapy three times a week at the Children's Health Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine to regain strength and mobility in his ankles. Though his first few weeks were focused on the basics of getting in and out of a chair and how to walk again, he was eventually able to begin hydrotherapy using an underwater treadmill which allowed him to focus on more sport-specific activities and dynamic movements as his stability improved as well.
"Anytime we have an injury as severe as Anthony's, it's important that we work together as a team to develop an appropriate treatment plan," says Stephen LaPlante, MS, PT, ATC, Physical Therapist at the Children's Health℠ Andrews Institute. "It was clear to me from the start that Anthony was highly motivated and committed to getting back to normal so that he could return to soccer, and I can still remember the smile on his face the first day we went outside to run on the field. It was a pleasure for all of our team to see a patient who was bound to a wheelchair for so long be able to return to the sport he loved."
As a dedicated soccer player, it was hard not to dwell on what his injuries might mean for the upcoming season, but Anthony tried to maintain a healthy perspective.
"When I would see people out practicing, a part of me wanted to just put a jersey on and get out there to start playing," Anthony says. "But I tried to be smart about it and listened to my doctors and physical therapist so I could stay healthy."
Four months later, Anthony graduated from physical therapy and was cleared to gradually resume activities. With his sophomore soccer season only a few months away, Anthony is optimistic that he will be ready to join his team for another successful season thanks to the multidisciplinary support he received at Children's Health.
"I'm feeling good," Anthony says. "I can jump and run and am slowly getting back to where I need to be. I think I'll be back at 100% by the time the season starts."
The Pediatric Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery team provides state-of-the-art care at every stage of your child's treatment, working collaboratively with other specialists to provide comprehensive care. Learn more about our program.