A just-in-time recovery | Health Beat

Health & Wellbeing


Benjaman Bennetts, 31, and his wife, Michelle Rizor, joined an ultimate frisbee league hoping to stay active while spending time with friends.

Bennetts was going after the frisbee when suddenly it felt like someone had kicked him right in the calf.

“I assumed I had bruised something from impact, but within just a few hours the pain became increasingly worse,” Bennetts said.

The first thing on his mind? The wedding he and Rizor were planning just three months out.

“Would I be able to dance at my wedding, and how serious is this injury?” Bennetts said.

He went to Spectrum Health Orthopedics Urgent Care first thing the next morning.

“I had torn my Achilles tendon right in half,” he said. “It was the last thing I had ever expected.”

He had an MRI within hours and then spoke with the physician who would perform surgery the next day.

“Within 24 hours of the exam, we were able to get a game plan in place,” Bennetts said. “The most important thing we did was go directly to the ortho urgent care. The timing of our wedding wouldn’t have worked out had I waited.”

‘I was very determined’

Bennetts was introduced to Garett Pangrazzi MD, section chief of foot and ankle surgery at Spectrum Health.

“He had completely torn his Achilles tendon and arrived with pain and swelling and inability to push off,” Dr. Pangrazzi said.

The traditional way of fixing this injury requires a long incision that could be almost 8 to 10 centimeters in length. And it requires using thick suture material to repair the tendon, Dr. Pangrazzi said.

But with new modern techniques, a much more minimally invasive technique was a possibility, requiring just a 2-centimeter incision.

“This restores strength and limits the risk of wound-healing complications,” Dr. Pangrazzi said. “There is always concern when someone is trying to rehab such a difficult injury. But I knew if anyone was motivated and determined enough it would be Benjaman.”

Surgery went exactly as planned. And it looked like Bennetts would beat the average curve of repair.

“You aren’t supposed to walk on it for four to six weeks,” Bennetts said. “So that left only six weeks to walk and do rehab before the wedding. I was very determined.”

Bennetts said that coming out of surgery, the first 48 hours were rather challenging.

“You spend about two weeks in bed with your leg elevated, and this happened in July, which was really hard,” Bennetts said.

In just a day he no longer needed medication for the pain. He starting gaining mobility while living with restrictions.

“Every day was a new thing,” he said. “Eventually you can start lowering your leg and then by the end of week two you are out of your cast and in a walking boot.”

‘At the front of the curve’

Bennetts stuck with every checkup and physical therapy appointment. And every day was a step in the right direction.

Gradually, he began walking and doing steps. He even started a bit of jumping exercise.

“We were cutting it so close to the wedding,” he said. “If I were making projections based on typical recovery data, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

Bennetts said some recovery timelines showed three to six months while others were even longer.

He would recover in just three months.

“I was at the very front of the curve,” he said. “And that was due to my diligence and the amazing care team at Spectrum Health.”

And when the wedding rolled around, Bennetts found a nice pair of boots. He could dance to his heart’s desire.

“I was able to dance all night. It was amazing,” he said.

Sage advice

Bennetts is now up and running again. He’s staying healthy and active and he’s back on his feet doing what he loves.

He has met several people who have had this same surgery on their Achilles tendon, too.

And after researching surgery and recovery timelines, he feels extremely pleased with his outcome.

“I took my bandage off and my scar was very small,” he said. “I know if I had been that average stubborn man who waits a few days or a week, this outcome wouldn’t have been possible.”

His advice for others?

“If you have an injury concern, go to ortho urgent care right away. We have quick access to experts right here in Grand Rapids, so use it. Don’t be that stubborn guy who sits and waits.”





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