Foot surgery success for Turtle Lake woman

December 22, 2014

jeanie_bruner_verticalA recent foot surgery has helped put the pep back in Jeanie Bruner’s step.

“I can walk. I can be outside. I can do anything now,” the energetic Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, woman declares proudly. “The only thing I can’t do in my life is wear high heels.”

“That’s my only dilemma out of all of this — how am I going to look high fashion in low heels?” Bruner, 64, jokingly chuckles.

Bruner, a retired nurse, recognizes that sporting fashionably challenged footwear is a small price to pay for the pain relief she’s gotten from her July 30 surgery.

Bruner’s problems began about three weeks earlier while painting her grandson’s bedroom. She didn’t realize it at the time, but the repeated trips up and down the stool had taken a toll on her body.

“By the end of the second day, I had so much pain in my foot that that afternoon I left my son’s house in pain, went home and ended up going to the Barron ER in pain off the charts,” she says. “The pain was going up my hip. I had pain up everything — intense pain. It persisted until they could get me in for surgery with Dr. Schumaker.”

Mark Schumaker, D.P.M., a podiatrist at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire who also sees patients in Barron and Rice Lake, evaluated Bruner and determined that a bunion — a bony bump that had formed on the joint near her big toe — had set things in motion by causing uneven joint wear. 

“Normally, you should have a nice layer of cushion and cartilage, and she completely eroded that away,” Dr. Schumaker explains. “So the more active she was, the more pain she got.”

In most cases, patients are encouraged to try more conservative measures before surgery, such as supportive shoe layers and anti-inflammatory drugs, but Dr. Schumaker realized that those options wouldn’t work in Bruner’s case, because she had a structural problem in her foot that wasn’t going to go away. So the conversation turned to surgery, and, a few weeks later, Dr. Schumaker performed an outpatient procedure in which he fused together the two bones forming Bruner’s metatarsal phalangeal joint.

“The whole purpose of the surgery is when we fuse those two bones together, she doesn’t get the grinding anymore, and then the pain is gone,” he says. “You’re left with a very stiff joint, but we fuse it in such a way that they can still take essentially a normal heel-toe walking pattern.”

Bruner faced a lengthy seven-week recovery period after the surgery but gradually transitioned from being nonweight-bearing to now fully functional. Aside from a brief swelling episode, which Dr. Schumaker helped her manage and work through, Bruner’s rehabilitation otherwise was smooth. 

“Some people do struggle with swelling post-operatively for a while,” Dr. Schumaker says. “It’s as far as you get from the heart, so the more you’re on your feet, the more you swell.”

To this day, Bruner continues to do well, and her latest X-rays show a complete fusion, Dr. Schumaker says.

Bruner is grateful for the care she received at Mayo Clinic Health System – Northland in Barron and feels indebted to Dr. Schumaker, in particular.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better surgeon and doctor and person to have handled this whole situation,” she says.

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