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After Ankle Replacement, Its Smooth Sailing for Key Largos

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Capt. Spencer Slate, the skipper of his own scuba diving boats in Key Largo, was always active in sports while growing up in North Carolina.
Years of being on a rocking boat took its toll on his ankles — so much so that his right ankle had formed many bone spurs and became very painful to walk. He decided that he didn’t want to give up diving and that’s when he searched for help. Mr. Slate was referred to Thomas San Giovanni, M.D., a foot and ankle specialist with the Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute.
After meeting with Dr. San Giovanni, who calmed his fears about ankle surgery, he decided that going through with an ankle replacement was the way to go.

(upbeat music)
[Baptist Health logo]

[Boats docked at a marina in Key Largo Florida]
[Captain Spencer Slate carrying dive gear off of a boat and onto a dock]

[Capt. Spencer Slate, Captain Slate's Scuba Adventures]

[Slate] Once you do start diving, you're hooked.

[Underwater video of colorful tropical fish near a coral reef in clear water]

[Slate] Well I was very active in athletics from high school through college. I rowed crew in college, which is a big push on your ankles because your feet are tied down and you push a big oar. And it just, over decades of riding on a boat every day in rocking weather, they just got sorer and sorer, and it built up bone spurs to the point I had, it looked like an orange on the outside of my right ankle.

[X-ray image of large bone spur on Slate's right ankle]

[Slate] It got to where I was walking to limping for a couple three years, and I just needed to get it fixed. It was either stop running boats and doing what I want to do or get my ankle fixed, and so I got it fixed.

[Thomas San Giovanni, M.D. Orthopedic Surgeon Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute]

[Dr. San Giovanni] Well first of all, he's very charismatic. He has tremendous charisma. I have a lot of respect for what he's done with his life. And he was having trouble with essentially severe ankle pain and arthritis. So a lot of the wear and tear, let's say, that he had experienced throughout dives and being on boats all these years, had led to a tremendous amount of loss of cartilage of his ankle joint, to the point where somebody, I would say that is very stoic, and can tolerate a lot of pain, it was starting to effect the very essence, I think, of where he likes to be, which is below sea level.

[Underwater video of Slate in scuba gear petting a large Barracuda]

[Slate] Well and any repair or any hospital or surgery, I worry about the down time. But I was assured that I'd be out maybe two to four months, which sounded like forever. But I had to get it done, I got tired of limping. I heard about Doctor San Giovanni from my orthopedic surgeon here in Key Largo. And I contacted him, and he said, "We can do it."

[Dr. San Giovanni] With Captain Slate, we're talking about a very active individual, and part of that activity, like I said, involves motion and mobility of his ankle joint.

[Underwater video of Captain Slate scuba diving and petting a medium sized shark]

[Dr. San Giovanni] And although there were options, I felt that doing a total ankle joint replacement, what's called a total ankle arthroplasty, was going to be the best option for him in terms of keeping the mobility and addressing the pain that he was having.

[Dr. San Giovanni holds a model of an ankle, showing the surfaces that will be replaced]
[C.T. scan images of the finished ankle replacement]

[Dr. San Giovanni] So what we're doing is we're actually replacing the surfaces that actually meet, so it's not replacing the whole bone, so we're replacing just the joint surfaces. So very similar to a knee replacement, you have something where it's metal and then a plastic, metal. So the tibia and the talus, which are the main surfaces, where the cartilage used to be, these are where we actually make our cuts. And these cuts, once again, are based on his CAT scan, and also it gives us a model, let's say, of where, how we're supposed to make these cuts.

[Before and after X-ray images comparing Captain Slate's damaged ankle to the ankle after joint replacement surgery.]

[Dr. San Giovanni] Captain Slate is doing great. I mean he came in, now I think, over the two year mark. His x-rays are looking great. His mobility has been maintained. He's back doing the things that he loves to do. I think he's quite ecstatic, to the point where he told me that he doesn't even really remember which ankle was the one that we operated on. He's doing so well.

[Slate] Doctor San Giovanni, thanks for repairing my right ankle. I wrote him a little note on one of my pictures, thank you for repairing my right flipper.

[Underwater video of Captain Slate in an Easter Bunny costume and scuba gear, waving to the camera]

(playful music ends with a flourish)

[end of transcript]

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