September 28, 2023

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Back on her feet | Health Beat


Udona Love, 46, enjoys nothing more than time with her four grandchildren.

They can spend hours playing together in the backyard of her Kentwood, Michigan, home.

But not long ago, two painful bunions got in her way.

One on each foot.

“I was wearing my shoes and they seemed to keep getting tighter,” she said.

She felt discomfort in the inner part of her shoe and noticed her big toe would even point in the opposite direction.

“It was very painful to walk and you couldn’t wear particular shoes,” she said. “It would even bother me in my sleep. And certain activities like running and playing with my grandkids became a challenge.”

She knew the problem wouldn’t take care of itself.

Love sought out Garett Pangrazzi, MD, section chief of foot and ankle surgery at Spectrum Health.

“At first I was very nervous,” Love said. “But Dr. Pangrazzi made me feel really assured and explained every step of the way.”

Dr. Pangrazzi met with Love prior to surgery and talked about what she could expect in terms of recovery. He showed her X-rays and pictures to help illustrate the problem.

“He explained it so we could understand,” Love said.

To correct the bunions, Love had to undergo two separate surgeries, one for each side.

“She had a large bony prominence at her foot and her big toe was pointing in the wrong direction. This made shoe wearing difficult,” Dr. Pangrazzi said. “We had to help her out with this pain.”

He performed the surgeries about a year apart, the most recent completed as a minimally invasive procedure.

“I knew that Udona would likely have difficulty healing (after) another maximally invasive type of surgery,” Dr. Pangrazzi said.

She was a perfect candidate for a minimally invasive surgery.

“I was able to use small keyhole incisions to correct her bunion, limiting soft tissue damage, preserving blood supply to healing bone and limiting scarring.”

Minimally invasive foot and ankle surgeries are growing in popularity and Dr. Pangrazzi is one of a few orthopedic surgeons in West Michigan who offer this surgical technique.

The shorter recovery time is the biggest bonus, and it also involves a smaller surgery incision, which results in less scarring.

Rest and recovery

The last thing Love remembered before surgery was rolling down the hall in a hospital bed and one of her team members asking if she wanted a general anesthesia.

“I laughed and said, ‘Yes,’” she said. “Then I woke up in a bandage. And in no pain whatsoever.”

She said her feet look much better now.

“If you saw them before you would be shocked,” Love said.

Her full recovery took just eight weeks.

“At first I spent a bit of time in bed with my ‘toes to nose,’ as they called it,” she said. “You had to elevate above your heart.”

Immediately after surgery, she could put weight on her heel, using a specialized shoe. This is much shorter than the traditional maximally invasive approach, where six weeks of non-weight bearing is common.

“I learned when to wear (the shoe) and how to use it,” she said. “And I got one of those knee scooters, too.”

She soon transitioned to walking with crutches in regular shoes and quickly got a sense for what it felt like to put her foot down again.

“I trained my brain into what everything would feel like,” she said.

At her eight-week follow-up appointment, Dr. Pangrazzi told her everything looked great.

“I was finally back on my feet and back to wearing shoes,” she said.

Best of all, she’s now back to her favorite pastime.

“Dr. Pangrazzi said, ‘Before you know it, you’ll be back on your feet and back in your shoes, playing with your grandkids,’” Love said. “And that’s exactly how it went.”

Bunions are a common ailment, but they’re not something patients should ignore.

If you’re struggling with foot pain, reach out to your primary care provider for help, Dr. Pangrazzi said.


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