Patient Stories

Ankle Surgeon Fixes Complex Injury Mom Sustains at Son's Baseball Game

Dec. 1, 2020

Jacqui Foust, a Cincinnati native, had gone 39 years without breaking a single bone in her body – until she broke three in one day.

For the past several years, Jacqui was balancing life as a wife and mother of three teenagers, on her journey to becoming a licensed hair stylist. In April 2020, she graduated from Aveda Frederic’s Institute and then went on to prepare for the state board exam in order to get her official cosmetology license.

With a new career just on the horizon, it all came to a halt two months later.

The first phase of Ohio’s COVID-19 Responsible Return plan was underway, allowing limited-contact sports to return. Excited to get back to a sense of normalcy, Jacqui was eager to attend her son Nicholas’s baseball game at Armco Park in Lebanon, Ohio.

While relaxing in her chair and flip flops kicked off, she was ready to cheer on her son as he came up to bat. Nicholas hit a pop-up fly ball, and it was heading in Jacqui’s direction.

“I thought it was going to hit me, so I jumped out of my chair, barefoot, and tried to get out of the way,” recalled Jacqui. “While looking up, I stepped on a curb and heard a loud ‘pop, pop’ and fell to the ground.”

It wasn’t until later she learned that her foot rotated so much that it broke her tibia (shinbone), fibula (runs parallel to the shinbone) and ankle.

With only 15 minutes left in the game, Jacqui insisted that the paramedics not be called until the game was over.

In a true motherly fashion, she said, “I just wanted to make sure my son was taken care of, and odds and ends were figured out like my car, chair and other belongings.”

When the paramedics arrived, they stabilized Jacqui and prepared her for transportation. Having never broken a bone before, Jacqui was confused, scared and had no idea what to expect next.

“I was taken by ambulance to UC Health’s West Chester Hospital where I learned exactly what had broken,” Jacqui said.

The emergency medicine staff immediately took X-rays, and it was clear that due to the severity of the breaks in her lower leg and ankle, Jacqui would undoubtedly need surgery.

“Learning that I needed surgery only intensified my fear,” Jacqui said. “I was told by the emergency staff that the doctor would come see me in a minute to explain everything, and all I could think about is how a stranger was going to put me under anesthesia and operate on me.”

Moments later, panic turned to relief when Tonya L. Dixon, MD, UC Health orthopaedic surgeon and assistant professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, walked in the door.

“Dr. Dixon walked in the room and immediately I recognized her,” said Jacqui.

Ironically, about two years earlier, Jacqui’s husband, Mike, broke his ankle, and Dr. Dixon did his surgery.

Dr. Dixon, the only female African-American orthopaedic surgeon in Cincinnati, is fellowship-trained, meaning she has achieved the highest level of training needed in order to subspecialize in the surgical and non-surgical care of the foot and ankle, one of the most complex structures of the human body.

While in the waiting room during Mike’s surgery, Jacqui recalled Dr. Dixon bringing her back to a private room to tell her how everything had gone.

“She put me completely at ease, didn’t rush what she was saying and explained everything better than any doctor I had ever spoken with,” Jacqui said. “I was so comforted and grateful to her for the time she spent with me.”

When Dr. Dixon walked into Jacqui’s room, she exclaimed, “Oh, my gosh! I am so happy to see you!”

Jacqui immediately recalled feeling more at ease than being afraid of the pain. “Dr. Dixon explained everything perfectly – not in a hurry – and put me at as much ease that could be possible in that moment.”

It was Dr. Dixon’s familiar face, expertise and compassionate bedside manner that prepared and got Jacqui though surgery. She spent three days in the hospital and began the road to recovery soon after.

Given the severity of her injuries, it was no surprise that her recovery was difficult – both mentally and physically.

“Jacqui’s injury was severe because not only was it a break at her ankle that needed surgery, but she also broke her tibia which made her leg unstable,” Dr. Dixon explained. “She required a nail that was placed inside her tibia to fix the leg, and then plates and screws to stabilize her ankle.”

Physically, Jacqui was prohibited from bearing any weight on her leg for six weeks. Her world essentially turned upside down, as she quickly transitioned from being an independent mom, to having to rely on her husband and kids for what felt like everything.

“Mentally, I was frustrated being completely unable to care for myself,” Jacqui said. “It was difficult going to the bathroom, getting out of the house – it was a total adjustment.”

Finally, after six weeks, she was cleared to start physical therapy, which she still attends twice a week.

In reference to her follow-up appointments, Jacqui said, “Dr. Dixon has been the same every single time I have seen her – patient, articulate and comforting – she is a star.”

Fast forward a couple of months into recovery, Jacqui attended a family gathering in which she began discussing her injury with an extended member of the family who also had a lower leg break that required surgery. Come to find out, that family member also had Dr. Dixon as their surgeon.

“Like me, she went on and on about how wonderful Dr. Dixon is and how great it was working with her,” Jacqui recalled.

Today, Jacqui continues to build strength in her leg. She currently has an injured tendon that she is working through, but she successfully received her cosmetology license in July and is back to working six to eight hours a day on her feet, which she credits to the support of her family and, of course, Dr. Dixon’s expertise.

“I have a good range of motion and my bones are healing well,” said Jacqui. “My only complaint is that I can’t have Dr. Dixon as my primary care doctor.”