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Brazilian Given New Perspective on Life

October 1, 2014

Man turns to orthopedic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital for ankle replacement

While the eyes of the world were on Brazil for the World Cup, Ronaldo Martins’ eyes were on St. Louis.

The southern Brazil native turned to Gary Schmidt, MD, orthopedic surgeon, and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital for ankle replacement and to get his life back.

In 2009, this husband and father of two began feeling intense pain in his ankles and was diagnosed with advanced arthrosis — degenerative joint disease.

“I’m an agronomist (scientist who works to improve soil productivity, seed quality and nutritional value of crops), but my ankles made it impossible to practice my profession because agronomists need to walk a lot and on uneven terrain,” he says. “I now work in leasing and property management.”

Martins had three unsuccessful surgeries in Brazil, and his pain worsened. He says that in Brazil, a patient’s ankles must be fully aligned for replacement to be performed, and his were not. “I had no hope of treatment with good results,” he says.

A friend told Martin about a friend in the United States whose daughter needed ankle surgery, and they told him about Dr. Schmidt.

Dr. Schmidt has performed more than 400 ankle replacements at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital. Total ankle replacement surgery is similar to other joint replacements like knees and hips because it’s done with the use of a prosthesis made of similar material. “It’s a difficult joint to replace because it’s so small and the ankle often takes more force than a knee,” Dr. Schmidt says. “But it’s a procedure that works.”

Dr. Schmidt uses a system with computer-aided design (CAD) technology to make an exact model of the ankle, helping the patient maintain motion and minimize pain. His ankle replacement surgery patients have ranged in age from 28 to 92. Patients are commonly in their 50s, 60s or 70s, have suffered a previous ankle injury, and are often suffering from arthritis.

“Each case is unique, but we’ve seen great success with this surgery,” he says. “It’s so gratifying to have a patient say, ‘You changed my life.’”

Martins emailed Dr. Schmidt and sent his X-rays. “From the first contact by email, Dr. Schmidt was very helpful, unlike other doctors who didn’t even answer my request for help,” he says. “Dr. Schmidt showed me that there was a solution when I was losing hope.”

On April 14, Martins came to St. Louis to see Dr. Schmidt, who agreed to perform his ankle replacement. “His ankles were in bad shape,” Dr. Schmidt says. “He used to play soccer, but couldn’t any more, and he couldn’t do the activities he wanted with his sons.”

Martins returned to St. Louis for surgery June 3. “I spent 54 days in the United States, and it was very enjoyable,” Martins says. “I learned more about your beautiful country and its culture. I loved St. Louis, the people are polite and the city is beautiful. I also loved the Arch.”

His ankle replacement was successful. “I have no pain,” Martins says. “Dr. Schmidt gave me a new perspective on life. I still need a total replacement of my left ankle. But with the improvement in my right ankle, I can visualize new opportunities in all aspects of life, with my family, professionally and with leisure activities.”

He hopes to return to Dr. Schmidt and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital for the left ankle replacement in spring 2015. “The care at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital was wonderful,” he says. “Everyone was attentive, kind and worked hard to break through the language barrier. Thank you to everyone who participated in my care — I was impressed.”    

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Schmidt, call 314.542.WEST (9378) or 1.800.392.0936.

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