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Dr. Ciminiello and the Achilles Comeback!

I’ve long believed that everyone has 11 skills in life. Whether it be gardening, running, navigating an estate sale or finding a new shortcut we all have a few identifiable things that we’re just better at than most other people. Along with those skills, however, is the other side of the coin where we either just don’t get it or aren’t built to be as good at something as other people. Personally, a few of my skills are working a grill, hitting long irons out of the rough, and public speaking. On the other side, my Achilles heel is…well, my Achilles heel.

I’ve played basketball my entire life and have easily logged thousands of hours on a basketball court. In 2002 I was in a game that was completely indistinguishable from any other, except at one point I pivoted and collapsed, blowing out my right Achilles tendon. The full tear was the complete “window shade” effect - a description as accurate as it is wince-inducing. I had surgery a few days later, and an incision was made at my heel and then they simply cut up the back of my leg until they found the other, rolled-up piece of the tendon. It was pulled it down, the two pieces were tied back together and I was stitched back up. The cast and staples were removed from the 10” incision several weeks later, and after a few months of medication and rehab I was back to 70% of my old self in about 8 months and was happy with the progress. I was careful to avoid any quick-twitch or explosive activities (tennis, basketball, etc.) for at least another year as much out of fear as anything else. There’s no doubt that between the injury, the rehab and the length of time it took to recover the it was both the most physically painful and emotionally frustrating thing I'd ever experienced….

Which made it exceptionally difficult when I blew out my other Achilles tendon 16 years later. For better or worse I was a very informed patient and knew the road ahead, so when I visited the team at OrthoConnecticut I could be as conversational as I was curious. I had the accidental pleasure of meeting Dr. Angelo Ciminiello in February when he confirmed the full tendon tear and that surgery would be the best remedy, both of which I knew were coming. But somehow that’s also when everything completely changed. He described a new procedure for Achilles repair - "percutaneous surgery” - and that it was significantly different than the process I went through previously. He described a small lateral incision and a couple anchors in my heel. The wounded area wouldn’t be invaded and everything would be done under the skin (“percutaneous”). I agreed and had the surgery on March 1 with the goal of walking comfortably on my own by June 15.

I was walking on my own by April 20. On May 8 I was hitting golf balls - 9 weeks from scalpel to sand wedge. With my previous surgery I was immediately given (and needed) Percocet and then Vicoden and took every last one. Following the new procedure I took a total of 3 pain pills, just one each the first 3 nights. On my walking goal date of June 15th I played 18 holes - my 3rd round of the season. Unfortunately I’ve blown out two Achilles tendons and have had surgeries on both; there's really no way to adequately describe the difference in procedures and experiences.

Rehab and diligence is certainly a critical component to recovery for this procedure or any other. But I can’t say enough about different and how much of an improvement this procedure was than the previous alternative. Dr. Ciminiello and his staff were - and continue to be - a complete delight to interact with during what’s an undeniably difficult thing for patients to face as they contemplate and prepare for an unanticipated road ahead.

I hope my small story is helpful for anyone considering the same choices I had just a short time ago.

Will Bacas, Brand Manager, canoos.com