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Gene Howell

Getting Back on His Feet Thanks to Holy Name

Holy Name Orthopediac - Eugene Howell

In the age of online shopping, it's easy to take something like buying shoes for granted. If you know your standard size, a great fitting pair of shoes can be just a few clicks away. For Gene Howell, though, finding the right shoes – online or in person – was a constant struggle.

Gene, 60, was born with metatarsus adductus, characterized by a sharp inward angle of the front half of the foot. As the body grows, this condition can cause further problems: Gene also dealt with flat feet, bunions, and hammer toes. Through the years, these issues caused Gene pain and near-constant cases of athlete's foot, and he could no longer find shoes wide enough for his feet or that were appropriate for exercise.

In the spring of 2023, Gene had two surgeries at an outside hospital to correct his right foot: one in May and one in June. When one of his incisions became infected after the second surgery, likely due to it accidentally getting wet, his doctor referred him to the Wound Care Center at Holy Name, where he worked with foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Jason Hymowitz, who is part of the Pfisterer Orthopaedics practice.

Gene immediately took to Dr. Hymowitz for a few reasons. For one, the surgeon who operated on his right foot is Dr. Hymowitz’s wife. “I felt like I was already part of the family,” he joked. He also appreciated how Dr. Hymowitz related to him as a patient and listened to Gene as they discussed his treatment options.

“He definitely has an empathy that a lot of physicians don’t have,” Gene said.

When Gene was ready to have surgery on his left foot, he learned that his original surgeon had changed practices and was no longer covered by his insurance, so he decided to continue working with Dr. Hymowitz.

Once the infection in Gene’s right foot had healed and it was time to prepare for the corrective surgeries on his left foot, he approached Dr. Hymowitz with a question: Was it possible for the doctor to make all of the necessary corrections during one operation, instead of the standard two?

Wanting to spare his patient a second surgery, Dr. Hymowitz looked into it. Dr. Hymowitz has experience performing this reconstructive procedure and he was confident he could complete the operation in a single stage. This would allow for a more expedited recovery and due to the history of wound complications, he would monitor the incisions closely during the recovery period. He found that correcting Gene’s foot could indeed be done in a single surgery, which he performed on Gene’s left foot in November 2023. He was able to use smaller and less invasive hardware than what was used in the previous surgeries, which saved about 30 minutes of operating time. As a result of the smaller tools and single surgery, Gene’s range of motion in his left toes are better than his right and his recovery was also shorter, with each stage of the recovery process moved up several weeks. Thanks to both of his surgeons and months of physical therapy, Gene is walking again as of January 2024.

Gene now walks about a mile and half every day with minimal discomfort. The shoes he wore before his surgeries fit him better, and he anticipates that once the swelling is gone, he’ll be down one size in width. He’s grateful to everyone at Pfisterer Orthopaedics for their kindness and care throughout his experience with them.

“The people who work [at Pfisterer Orthopaedics] are professional and personable,” Gene said. “They get to know you and they care.”

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