Two years ago, Jim Ashwell couldn't walk without pain. Years of ankle injuries and wear-and-tear left no joint space in his ankles, causing bone to rub against bone. Today, after double total ankle replacements, Ashwell, 59, is dancing again.
Ashwell and his brother-in-law stand at the top of Sharp Top Mountain, pointing out spots they recognized around their hometown of Bedford, VA. Today, Ashwell climbs the steps to the peak with ease, a task he wouldn't have been able to accomplish two years ago. "If I tried to walk at all I was in tremendous pain," he said.
Ashwell said he got to the point where he just needed help. He traveled to Duke, where foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon Mark Easley, MD, performed a total ankle replacement of Ashwell's left ankle. Fifteen months later, after seeing how well Ashwell did with the first surgery, Dr. Easley replaced the right ankle as well.
Dr. Easley explained that an ankle replacement allows for more mobility than the alternative of ankle fusion. He said Ashwell's ability to go back to activities he enjoyed in the past -- such as dancing and playing tennis -- is a typical outcome of ankle replacements.
But as you watch Ashwell twist and turn on the dance floor with his wife of 22 years, you would hardly believe he's the same man who two years ago was close to needing a wheelchair. "I have no pain in my ankles," Ashwell said. "No pain at all."