Last Christmas, Laura Johnson was skiing in Vail with her husband and teenage sons. Always an active family — they lived in Switzerland for five years where they participated in many physical adventures — they were simply doing what they love to do. Suddenly, Laura accidentally skied off a ledge and landed hard, with her legs straight down.
“My family was ahead of me and couldn’t get to me. The ski patrol grabbed me and took me to the hospital,” she recalled.
She was diagnosed with a fractured tibia plateau. The surgeon described her injury as one of the most serious he had ever seen. After an initial surgery to stabilize the leg with an external fixation device, Laura experienced a complication called compartment syndrome, a dangerous condition where extreme swelling cut off circulation to her leg. This required six additional surgeries before the final surgery could be performed to ultimately repair the tibia plateau.
Finally, after 23 days in the hospital in Colorado, Laura was able to return home to Concord to recover. She received twice-a-week, in-home physical therapy from Emerson Home Care for a few weeks to ensure she was beginning to heal well. After that initial acute phase, she was strong enough to begin a more intense physical therapy regimen in order to regain her active lifestyle.
She began working twice a week with Josh Avery, PT, DPT, senior physical therapist with Emerson’s Clough Sports Medicine & Performance program.
“He took me from bed rest to fully functioning,” she said. “He met me where I was at every step of the way and pushed me when I needed pushing. He understands not just the physical aspects of recovery, but the emotional aspects, too.”
At first, Josh worked with Laura to expand her range of motion and ensure she was using her crutches properly. Over time, they did more work with weights to strengthen her legs and knee
s that suffered muscle degradation due to the accident.
“As I was ready to do more, Josh was right there and ready to move up with me. What I had was far beyond a vanilla textbook injury, I was a complicated case.” After a lot of hard work in PT sessions with Josh, Laura was cleared to drive again in May. Around that time, her family planned a summer vacation of their dreams, a 10-day safari in Kenya.
“I could not have gone on the trip without Josh and the sports performance team. The Sports Performance Center is a very motivating place. It is not clinical — it is a legitimate gym with professionals who are amazing and push you appropriately to reach your physical goals.” On the vacation, Laura was walking long distances, scrambling in and out of jeeps, on and off airplanes, through airports, keeping pace with her family, and using her body in ways she could not have dreamed of when she broke her tibia on the ski ledge just seven months prior.
“I am so very grateful for all of the work Josh did with me. He was what I needed to heal from this difficult injury. I would not be where I am without him.” As for Laura’s next vacation? She is hoping to continue skiing with her family, although she is aiming to stay on the bunny trails for some time.
Experts at Emerson's Clough Sports Medicine and Performance Program train athletes of all ages and skill levels from student athletes to professionals. Visit Emerson's Clough Sports Medicine and Performance page to learn more.