Pompano surgeon uses
'Agility Ankle' in first
South Florida surgery
By Christie Caliendo
STEP AHEAD: Dr. Peter Merkle, a Pompano Beach orthopedic surgeon, with his patient John Fogleman. Merkle recently performed the first ankle replacement surgery in South Florida on Fogleman.
For many South Floridians who suffer from ankle problems, the future now looks a little brighter.
On Dec. 12, medical history was made when orthopedic surgeon Dr. Peter Merkle, who practices in Pompano Beach, performed the first ankle replacement surgery of its kind in the area. Until now, ankle surgeries had been performed by fusing bone directly to bone, which eliminated ankle mobility. In the new ankle surgery, diseased bone is removed and the Agility Ankle, a device which imitates cartilage and is made of titanium, is inserted to give the ankle movement.
"The future looks promising," Merkle said. "It's not really making medical history, it's just another little step in the process of making things better."
The surgery was performed on John Fogleman, St. Andrew's School's physical education teacher and its tennis, football and girls' basketball coach. Fogleman, 57, originally injured his ankle when he broke it playing basketball in college. Over the years the pain persisted and he went to Merkle five years ago to seek help. Merkle told him to hold out, that technology was currently not advanced enough to correct his foot.
Then, a few months ago, Merkle returned from a workshop in Chicago with the answer to Fogleman's prayers.
He had done hands-on training with the Agility Ankle, installing the device into a cadaver, and had confidence this was the surgery for which he and Fogleman had been waiting.
"(Fogleman) was suffering quite a lot of pain just to do his daily responsibilities," Merkle said. "He's a dedicated coach at St. Andrew's, and his pain was affecting him considerably."
Fogleman was nervous about being the guinea pig in such a new surgery, but "anything was better than the way it was," he said. His ankle was always swollen and painful, and he felt that it had become a handicap in his coaching. He had stopped running in tennis and was limited in other areas of coaching.
"As much pain as I was in, it was not a difficult decision to make," he said. "I was willing to risk it."
And he is glad he did. The surgery was performed on Dec. 8, with follow-up surgery two days later. Fogleman said it all went great, and he really has not had any pain at all. His ankle is now in a walking cast and he is able to put pressure on his foot and move the joints a little.
"I think it is all good news for people like me out there, and there is a lot of them," he said. "Now I'll be able to walk, go up and down stairs, maybe even run and play golf again."
Merkle said that titanium is the most successful metal he has come across for ankle surgery because it grows into the bone well. The Agility Ankle currently has a 20-year lifespan, so it is only being used in older people.
"Total ankle replacement is not a new thing, but total ankle replacement that works is," Merkle said. "This all feels good. I'm really glad I could help John."
Fogleman went back to work on Jan. 4, and said that all was well and his healing is right on schedule.
"Dr. Merkle did a great job," he said. "Not only him but his staff at North Broward also. We were really tickled pink about them."
He continues to do a lot of physical therapy on his own at home and can put 45 to 50 pounds of pressure on his ankle.
"I think if this surgery helps people, they'll be glad there was someone out there who took that first step," Fogleman said.
And thanks to Dr. Merkle and the Agility Ankle, he is taking more and more of those steps everyday.
(May 30, 2006)
Life is full of unexpected surprises. There are many opportunities when one can secretly wish for something exciting to happen – something out of the ordinary. The real surprise is when the wish unexpectedly comes true. I never believed that something like this could ever happen to me; such a thing that would make me stop and look back at the events in awe. I think you would agree that something as simple as being lost in the forest for less than ten minutes should have no influence on my life. If you do agree, that makes both of us wrong.
Throughout my childhood, I loved the wild. My family and I would always go for a walk in the downtown forest of Coote’s Paradise. There were many times I thought of what could happen if we were to lose our way from the trail and have to live off of the land until we found our way back to civilization. I thought it would be the greatest experience ever.
As my brothers and I grew older, we continued to go for these walks with our parents but the dreams of living in the forest I soon forgot. That’s when it happened. We decided to take a different path off the main trail. Before I knew it, the path had disappeared and no one in my family could tell where we had come from. It was so unexpected. It gave me a feeling of excitement that can’t be described. Everything in the forest seemed different. The trees were a deeper shade of green. The birds chirped in a different tone. Vines covered almost every inch of the ground. One part of me never wanted this moment to end. I felt completely free from the stress of my life outside of the woods. It was this moment that I realized that I would much rather stay here for the rest of my life than go back to society.
I think that another reason that I felt carefree was because my parents didn’t panic. They took the situation under control and headed for any open area in hopes to find a map (many of these maps were found throughout the grounds, telling you where you were). From my point of view, at the time, it seemed as if they were excited as I was about losing our way. In the end, it only took my parents ten minutes to find such a map and we were back on the trail in no time.
An experience like this made me think about my place in life. I’m the type who loves seeking out adventures. When we were lost, I realized that I had everything I would ever need with me – my family. They’ve always supported me in everything I do. This experience made me realize that families need to stick together; you don’t realize how much you need them until, for a moment, you think they’ll be the last people you see for the rest of your life.
It’s incredible how much a simple thing like being lost in a forest for ten minutes will affect your outlook on life. Things like not being able to find your way back to where you came from make you appreciate the little things in life. Looking back on the day, I realize now that it was fate. Moments like that are few and far between and should be taken as a lesson. Surprises like this were, and always will be, an unexpected gift for all.