“Because of my orthopaedic care, I could walk down the aisle at my wedding.”
Ari Steinfeld’s right leg had been crushed by a speeding car that jumped a curb and plowed into him and his fiancée as they were walking in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Lying in a bed at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Hospital for Joint Diseases (HJD), the 34-year-old technology project manager at Goldman Sachs had one wish: “to be able to walk down the aisle in eight months at my wedding”. This was the plea he made to Kenneth Egol, MD, chief of the Trauma Division and director of HJD’s Bone Healing Center.
Steinfeld was rushed to Bellevue Hospital Center, a Level I Trauma Center, with a damaged leg and other non-life-threatening injuries. “In the ambulance, I wondered what it was going to feel like not having a leg,” he recalls. Once the bleeding was stopped and the open fracture of his tibia was stabilized, Steinfeld was transferred to HJD, where he was cared for by a dedicated team of orthopaedic surgeons, metabolic bone specialists, radiologists, and plastic surgeons-known collectively as the Bone Healing Center.
Over the course of four operations to treat Steinfeld’s extensive injuries, Dr. Egol’s team inserted a metal rod across the fracture; transplanted two flaps of muscle from his abdomen to his leg, replacing a severely damaged tibialis anterior muscle and covering the exposed bone; and skin-grafted two-thirds of his lower leg from his right thigh. Steinfeld also needed a bone graft to close the gap between the pulverized ends of his tibia. During that final surgery, Dr. Egol removed a section of bone (and bone marrow) from Steinfeld’s hip, reshaped it, and placed it into the nonunion site in his lower leg, along with a bone morphogenic protein. An external bone stimulation device was used postoperatively to speed up the healing process. During months of grueling recovery, Steinfeld made steady progress, moving from wheelchair to crutches to cane.
On May 22, 2011, before family members and friends, he walked up the aisle at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, without any means of support, with his new bride on his arm. At the reception, he spent the entire night on the dance floor with his new wife.
Steinfeld’s latest accomplishment-unimaginable less than two years ago-took place while vacationing in Australia: a four-day, 35 kilometer hike, shouldering a 40-pound pack.