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I say YES to life for the first time! I can walk again. It’s been a major success. – Arthritis

I have had rheumatoid arthritis since I was 5 years old, which led to serious ankle deformities and problems with my hands. I learned to live with it, to adjust to the pain, and live my life as best I could. There were a lot of things I couldn’t do.

After living my whole life in pain, SMOC has helped me “Say YES” to life for the first time! I finally have the freedom to do what I want to do. I can walk again. It’s been a major success.

Even though I have rheumatoid arthritis, my bones are strong. And I’ve always been active. But over time, the deformities made it harder and harder for me to walk. I eventually had two surgeries on each ankle. They used clamps and tried to adjust my ankles that way. But that didn’t work for long.

As I got older, I struggled to find work. I could barely walk because of my ankles. My ankles were twisted toward my right side. So I was walking on my arches—I effectively didn’t have an arch anymore. It was very painful, and it was hard for me to run or walk. I couldn’t even find shoes that were comfortable.

If I hadn’t done anything, I would probably have lost the ability to walk. That’s why

I was so fortunate to meet Dr. Romash. I liked him immediately—he was extremely knowledgable and professional, yet he was also a light-hearted jokester that always had a smile. He made me feel comfortable.

Dr. Romash proposed the procedure with the Ilizarov Frame. And I chose not to do it then, because it scared me. But I did go back to him, later, and he remembered me! He said, “Oh, so are you ready now?” And I answered, “Absolutely. I can’t take it anymore. You do what you need to do!”

Since then, I have had two surgeries with Dr. Romash. The first one was in 2010 on my right ankle. That was a very different experience because of the type of surgery—it included the Ilizarov Frame, which had little pins sticking through my leg. After the surgery, the pain was a challenge. Every little turn of my ankle was quite painful. But they worked with me to manage it.

The recovery was hard, just because I couldn’t walk. I was in a wheelchair for 6 months, and used crutches sometimes too. But thankfully, I had family to help me. And then, the second surgery was a piece of cake. I knew what to expect, and I was prepared. I did them about two and a half years apart—the first one in 2010, and the second in 2013.

I also did physical therapy, after each of my surgeries. That helped tremendously. My ankles are now fused, so there isn’t too much movement, up and down, or side to side. But they were able to help me learn to walk, and balance. The physical therapists gave me my movement and my strength back, through exercises, massages, and stretching. They were a huge help. You wouldn’t even guess that my ankles are fused.

The goal was to adjust my ankle to a level that was mostly straight, and try to get my arch back. They fixed the alignment of my ankles, as well as my toes. Now, I actually have an arch in my feet again! And my toes are aligned with my ankles. Now, I have no pain when I walk, at all.

Before these surgeries, it was so bad that I would wake up in the morning and just stand, trying to get over the pain and tolerate it enough to move.

Now, I can just get up and go. And I can do more with my daughter, Lourdes—I can play ball with her, ride bikes with her. I could never have done that before.

After living my whole life in pain, SMOC has helped me “Say YES” to life for the first time! I finally have the freedom to do what I want to do. I can walk again. It’s been a major success.

As told by, Luis Velazquez

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