Chris’ Story

In 1978, 6 weeks before I was to report to military flight school, I fell into a hole and fractured my right ankle during an infantry training exercise.

So as not to miss my flight school start date, a non-cast therapy was applied while I convalesced from my injury. While I reported for training on time, my ankle never fully reconstituted itself correctly. The following year was agonizing while I completed flight training, hiding the daily pain of a compromised ankle joint. Being 22 years old, the pain diminished over time but never completely went away as my body adapted to a misaligned ankle joint. I learned to live with this disability hiding this condition from the flight surgeons who would have labeled my condition as a disability and classified me NPQ (not physically qualified) to continue flying.

Dressed in army gear

As the years went on, I transitioned from active duty to the reserves at a KC-135 Wing at Fairchild AFB, Spokane Washington. In 1984 I joined a NW transport category aircraft manufacturer. I enjoyed a variety of assignments in aircraft development, flight test, and pilot training.

Throughout the next 35 years I was required to pass flight physicals. For the same reasons that I didn’t disclose my disability in 1978, I never revealed my condition until I retired in 2018. I learned to live with the pain and physical limitations that went along with anything greater than a sedentary lifestyle. The picture below from 1984 was typical of my frequent treatment for ankle pain.

As the years went by the pain became progressively worse with each birthday. Recreational activities such as running, cycling, and officiating high school basketball were painful to continue. For decades there were no corrective procedures available to undo my 1978 injury until I met Dr Dujela who is a nationally recognized foot and ankle surgeon.

In 2017 I met Dr Michael Dujela at Washington Orthopedic Center. By this time the pain in my ankle was both daily & severe. Dr Dujela accurately evaluated my condition and recommended a corrective surgical procedure to correct the 40-year injury & alleviate my ankle pain. Since I was still on flying status in 2017, we agreed to postpone surgery in favor of a cortisone therapy which provided temporary relief. The happy ending to this story concludes in 2020 with a successful technical surgery that has totally eliminated my right ankle pain and returned mobility to the activities that I love.

I have since returned to officiating Lewis County High School student athletics. This past summer has been a rebirth in my ability to do whatever I would like to …. Like heavy construction projects.

Every day I thank God for the skilled hands he bestowed upon Michael … and the relief of not being in agony after spending a day on my feet. Seems so simple yet so huge given my pre-surgery daily pain. Most importantly, for now, I can once again out run my grandchildren! I love you doc & think of you every day … because of you I am pain free … something I never thought possible. WOC’s care and sensitivity along with Dr Dujela’s surgical skills and caring manner are both a blessing and a gift to this community. I’m grateful the WOC doctors and staff are dedicating their lives to healing people like me.