A New Year, A New Ankle and New Lease of Life

A New Year, A New Ankle and New Lease of Life

Bradford businessman, Mick Fogarty is celebrating a fresh start to
the New Year along with a new lease of life. He says he has done more
exercise in the last few months than he has for many years, has lost
20 kgs in weight, completed two rigorous boot camps in Spain and
regularly walks 12.5 kilometres.

Yet 18 months ago it was a very different story. His right ankle had
become so painful he had difficulty walking and lack of exercise led to
him piling on the pounds.

The problem was severe arthritis, which affects around eight million
people in the UK. Mick fractured his right ankle playing rugby for his
infantry battalion in the Army in Staffordshire in the 1980’s. He said his
ankle felt painful in the years afterwards and after retiring from the Army
in 1992 it gradually started to worsen until around five years ago the pain
spurred him to see an NHS consultant.

Mick said, “Doctors I saw at the time suggested having it fused but I was concerned the lack of flexibility would mean I couldn’t swim so I decided not to go ahead. However, the lack of exercise due to the pain meant I gained weight.” He was diagnosed with post-traumatic ankle arthritis. His walking distance was significantly restricted and he needed regular analgesia to manage the pain.

Today, Mick’s life has been transformed following a total right ankle
replacement under the care of Professor Nick Harris, consultant foot and
ankle surgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital.

“I feel like the clock has been turned back 20 years in terms of age,”
said Mick, 64, who is married with one daughter and owns a home care
company after retiring from the Army in 1992. “I decided it was worth
funding the operation privately to regain years of pain-free mobility and
get my life back.”

“I decided to research ankle replacement and found that Professor Harris
was one of the top guys for this procedure,” said Mick who asked his GP
for a referral and contacted him straight away. Following a consultation
he decided to go ahead. He underwent a total ankle replacement in
September 2020.

“The whole experience was fantastic. The anaesthetist was brilliant and
gave me a nerve-block to help with the pain post-operatively. All the staff
were amazing – and all in the middle of a pandemic. I felt no pain when
I woke up or later. Ten days later the cast was removed, it healed really
well and I was still pain free,” said Mick who continued to work from his
hospital bed with team meetings on MS Teams.

Professor Harris said, “Without surgery his pain and restrictions in
activity such as walking would have deteriorated. We discussed the pros
and cons of both an ankle fusion and a total ankle replacement. Mr Fogarty
still had good movement in his ankle despite the arthritis and was keen
to try and keep this. An ankle fusion sacrifices ankle movement which
can have some functional effects. An ankle replacement preserves ankle
movement which can have some functional advantages.”

During an ankle replacement procedure, the end of the tibia and the
top of the talus (ankle bone) are replaced with two metal components
with a polyethylene (plastic) between them. Recovery from an ankle
replacement is much quicker than with a fusion. Patients are able to start
weight-bearing in a walker boot after two weeks. Approximately 80% of
ankle replacements will last 10-15 years which is improving with newer

Mick used crutches for the first fortnight and wore a special boot for
the following six weeks. “I followed Professor Harris’s instructions to
the letter. I had to elevate my leg as much as possible and did mobility
exercises at home and gradually started to build up my walking distance.
He said, “The only downside during this period was that I continued
to gain weight due to lack of exercise. So, in June 2021 I decided to do a
three-week stint at a boot camp in Spain. It was brutal! My ankle was fine,
but everything else hurt. I lost 12 kgs and soon after returned for another
three weeks where I lost more weight. I’m hoping to go back again soon.

“I feel like having the operation has given me a new lease of life. I’m
pain-free. I walk, swim, do spin classes and go to a gym for strength
training and toning. I want to stay as active as I can and none of it could
have happened without this operation. I cannot thank Professor Harris
enough for what he has done for me.”

Mick plans to eventually move to Spain and enjoy an active lifestyle
which includes joining a sailing club. However, his immediate plans are a little closer to home. “My goal is to reach 96kg by May this year so I can walk my daughter down the aisle in a nicely fitting suit.”