Reclaiming Mobility: JoAnn’s Journey to Recovery with Innovative Pelvic Fragility Fracture Treatment
March 13, 2022, was no picnic for JoAnn Kuntzman. The 72-year-old grandmother of nine intended to take a seat at a picnic table that evening, but instead fell on the concrete below, fracturing her sacrum, sometimes referred to as the “tailbone.”
In severe pain, JoAnn went to the ED in her hometown of Taylorville, Illinois. “Despite doing an X-ray and a CT scan, the medical team couldn’t find the fracture,” said JoAnn. “The following week, I was unable to walk or do anything, really. I had never fallen except once in high school (but I didn’t break anything). This was new and unsettling.”
A week later, JoAnn headed back to the ED in an ambulance, at which point the medical team identified the problem—a pelvic fragility fracture (FFP).
Every second of every day, an adult 65 or older in the U.S. experiences a fall—rendering falls the leading cause of injury and injury death in this age group.1 Regarding pelvic fragility fractures, they are on the rise around the world,2 with one study determining the incidence to be 92 per 100,000.3
Empowered with an accurate diagnosis, JoAnn’s journey continued at Springfield Clinic at St. Johns Hospital in Illinois, where Dr. Matthew Gardner, an orthopedic trauma surgeon, performed her surgery.
“JoAnn’s situation was fairly straightforward as she only needed one implant,” stated Dr. Gardner. “ This new device—the CurvaFix® IM Implant—has made pelvic fragility fracture surgery easier and safer and is a true game changer for surgeons and patients alike. Traditionally, pelvic fixation involved using techniques developed for other surgeries. But the bony architecture of the pelvis is rounded, something the flexible CurvaFix Implant handles beautifully.”
“Dr. Gardner was very thorough and explained that the procedure only involved a small incision to place an implant that would stabilize the fractured sacrum,” noted JoAnn. “He added that my time in the OR and my recovery time would be shorter than with traditional treatment.”
The minimally invasive CurvaFix procedure was a success, and JoAnn was remobilized the following day. “I had surgery on a Sunday evening, and not only was I walking Monday, but my pain was almost nonexistent,” she said.
After three days at Springfield, JoAnn was transferred to a sling bed in Taylorville, where she focused on physical therapy and rehabilitation.
“JoAnn is amazingly resilient,” said Dr. Gardner, “something that is quite important for surgical recovery. She has a great attitude, participated fully in physical therapy, and was quickly able to regain her independence. Also helpful was that her close-knit family was actively involved in her recovery.”
For JoAnn, her health struggles and recovery have been supported by her large family and close-knit community. “I have three sons and one daughter. I lost my husband five years ago, and after 50 years of marriage, it is truly difficult. However, I have my children, grandchildren and a sister-in-law whom I cherish. I also have wonderful neighbors and friends.”
And then there is ‘Mayze’ JoAnn’s loveable Maltipoo. “She and I go on walks, which not only helps me remain active, but maintains my social connections as we visit my neighbors.”
JoAnn’s six grandsons, three granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren—along with her well-repaired FFP—also help to sustain her.
“I enjoy visiting my daughter and grandkids in Greenville, South Carolina. The last time I made the drive of 13 hours was after I broke my tailbone. I think I can handle it again and will soon be heading east.”