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Steve Carter

Steve Carter

OrthoIllinois physician consults from Rockford on man’s hip fracture in Spain

Steve Carter’s trip earlier this year to Spain took an unexpected and painful turn when he injured his hip and had to stay in the country for treatment.

Back in February, the 68-year-old was in Barcelona with his wife, Lisa, for a business meeting. Steve is the president of Ingenium Aerospace in Rockford and sits on the board for Hollister Inc., an international developer and manufacturer of medical equipment.

Steve and Lisa were walking around the night before they were supposed to fly home when Steve stepped wrong off a curb. He fell, putting full weight on his right hip “like a ton of bricks.”

“It was the most painful thing that had ever happened to me,” he recalled.

“The great thing is that we were immediately surrounded by a dozen people, one who spoke English, and they were all so concerned and trying to help Steve get up,” Lisa explained.

Luckily, Steve and Lisa were with people who had medical experience. Anytime Steve tried to move, he would scream in pain. He’s also 6-foot-8-inches tall, so being loaded into the ambulance was also a painfully uncomfortable experience.

Once they got their bearings at the hospital, Lisa texted OrthoIllinois’ Dr. John Bottros, who had replaced Steve’s right knee in 2017. The couple said working with Dr. Bottros had been a fantastic experience, so they wanted to consult with him immediately – even if he was more than 4,000 miles away.

‘A Spanish hip’

Steve had a femoral hip fracture – essentially, the head of his hip jammed into the socket, causing the hip to fracture. Initially, there was talk of airlifting Steve to Rockford. Dr. Bottros returned Lisa’s text right away.

“He wanted to see the X-rays. After viewing the texted S-rays, he said absolutely do not let them do plates and screws – make sure they do a full replacement.”

Steve was then transferred to a private hospital in Barcelona with an orthopedic subspeciality group. His fall happened at about 7 p.m. and by 4 a.m. the next morning, he was finally settled in a room. When the topic of plates and screws came up with one of the doctors, Steve and Lisa felt confident to push back because of Dr. Bottros’ consultation.

Steve with Dr. Pacha, his Spanish surgeon.

Two days later, Steve had a full hip replacement. There was still an offer on the table to fly him the 10 hours home for the operation, but “the pain was so great, I don’t how I would have done it,” he said.

“Some people bring back extravagant souvenirs from their trips. I have a Spanish hip,” Steve joked.

Back in his hospital room after surgery, Steve could feel that the pain was gone. Lisa kept Dr. Bottros informed about the process, which helped provide some comfort from home.

“I was making the decisions because Steve was in so much pain,” Lisa recalled. “Dr. Bottros told me he’d been involved in a case where someone was transferred from Switzerland, and that person would have been better off to have had the surgery in Europe because the trip did so much to him. Him telling us that story made me feel like we made a good decision, and I appreciated that.”

“We developed such a trust in him, in his capabilities,” Steve said. “When I had my first knee done, I had such a good result. Getting his blessing on this was important.”

Post-surgery, Steve had bleeding under his skin, or a hematoma, caused by the trauma of the fall. When he first saw himself after surgery, “I thought they put the hip in backward because (the hematoma) stuck out so far.”

Recovery and returning home

Steve learning to navigate stairs with his Spanish physical therapist in Barcelona.

Physical therapy in the U.S. often starts shortly after surgery, but Steve didn’t get up to walk until Sunday after a Friday surgery. He said walking around half the bed “was one of the hardest things I’d ever done in my life.”

He recovered in the hospital for seven days after surgery before being released back to his hotel. Hollister outfitted the hotel room with some medical equipment so he could keep rehabbing there. Among the challenges was finding crutches and other equipment that would accommodate his height.

The hospital didn’t have outpatient PT, so Steve’s therapy was walking the four blocks around his hotel. At an appointment the following week, he had his staples removed and received clearance to travel home. Dr. Bottros was prepared to take over care once they returned to Rockford.

“We got back, and he told me the surgery looked good and everything had been done well,” Steve noted. “The main thing was for him to be comfortable with the surgery.”

Steve engaging in self physical therapy by walking in Barcelona before he could return home.

Steve started PT at OrthoIllinois and took things slow, per Dr. Bottros. He brought back paperwork and serial numbers for all the surgery implants used during his operation so Dr. Bottros could research them.

Reflecting on the experience now, Steve is so thankful for all the help he and Lisa received during “every world traveler’s worst nightmare come true.” Hollister and its partner company International SOS, a medical and travel security services firm, helped negotiate the health care services and provided so many resources for the couple.

 

“They truly took care of me and us,” he said. “It’s amazing that Lisa thought about Dr. Bottros and that we got an immediate response from him. It was such a reassurance. I couldn’t have done this without Lisa.”

It’s quite the vacation story that also lives on in Steve’s phone – in a photo album titled “Barcelona 2019 Hip” that includes photos of medical and hotel staff, and the Hollister team that helped in his journey.

Steve recovered well and was back overseas for Hollister meetings in June and September. Dr. Bottros even replaced Steve’s left knee in October – the surgery had originally been scheduled in March but was delayed because of the hip injury.