Anyone who works in a physically demanding profession knows that a serious injury can pose a significant threat to your livelihood.
That was the situation facing firefighter Jeremy Stiver last year.
“I was carrying a full-size mattress down the stairs and I missed a step,” he recalled. “My right leg caught the next step down and it bent back and I basically slammed it onto the hardwood floors. When I rolled over, I noticed my kneecap was not where it was supposed to be, it was up in my quad area. I thought it was a simple dislocation, not knowing dislocations are more side to side and not top to bottom.”
His wife, Nicole, immediately called the Adena Orthopedic and Spine Institute and was able to get Jeremy an appointment for the next day – a Friday – with Dr. Neel Patel. Then, with the pain growing in intensity, rushed to the emergency department.
Going into the visit with Patel, the couple did so with troubled minds that the injury might be serious enough to jeopardize Jeremy’s ability to do his job with Washington Township Fire & EMS in Dublin.
“Just on a standard call for a basic fire alarm, we’re wearing about 60 pounds of gear and carrying between 15 to 40 pounds of equipment,” he said. “If it’s a multi-story building, we need to be able to wear that and carry that up however many flights of stairs that the alarm came from to investigate. If it’s a working fire, we have to carry that same equipment and wear that same gear and maneuver a heavy hose line.”
In responding to auto accidents, even without necessarily needing to wear an air tank, there’s often a need to carry even heavier tools and crouch, kneel and turn their bodies in awkward positions. In providing EMS services, nearly every run involves carrying somebody on a stretcher.
“One of the thoughts that probably occurred most often was what if I have to do CPR?” he said. “What if I have to kneel down and manage somebody’s airways? I’m going to have to be down on my knees.”
He had other practical concerns for the health of the family, worries shared by his wife, who is a caregiver with Adena.
“I’m half the income for the household,” Jeremy said. “Obviously, health is first, but as a married couple with three children, we also have to be able to know that if something like that happens, we have to have a game plan for getting better first, but then also how we are going to sustain ourselves or, if we can’t, what modifications we need to make in terms of lifestyle.”
Those concerns weren’t calmed after an X-ray and follow-up MRI revealed the fall had ruptured the patellar tendon in a multidirectional tear. While a standard tear would take about 90 minutes in surgery to address, the severity of Jeremy’s injury was going to take about three hours to repair. In getting the surgery scheduled just a couple days later, Patel proved a calming force.
“Dr. Patel really set us at ease, right at our very first appointment,” Jeremy said. “He was able to quickly identify the problem and knew the sense of urgency that it required with getting the surgery scheduled. We were looking at it like it could have been a career-ender, but he was looking at like an opportunity to get somebody back to their normal functioning. His ability to keep the situation calm and knowing that he could do it is a big deal as a patient.”
The surgery went well, but that didn’t end Patel’s involvement. Jeremy said he set the tone for the months of rehabilitation to come.
“He’s almost like talking to a person in your family you can trust and lean on in setting realistic goals and getting encouragement,” Jeremy said. “He definitely takes the time to explain things. He told me his expectations and he helped me kind of adjust mine, all in a way that was agreeable to both of us.”
Patel laid out the groundwork for rehabilitation, and Jeremy praised the hard work of Adena’s physical therapy team for keeping his recovery on track — work he would then try to duplicate at home as a way of pushing himself within the bounds of a safe rehab to get back to work more quickly.
Slightly more than five months after his injury, he was fully cleared to return to work.
“Everything medically I’ve had done before has been at Adena, so it seemed like the right option to choose,” Jeremy said. “That extra bit of kindness and attention that Dr. Patel gave really justified our decision that this was the right person to go to for something this important.”
Submitted by Jason Gilham, manager external communications, Adena Health System.