Jamie Snyder dreamed of moving to Denver for nine years. She was elated to land a job at Bill Roberts teaching literacy to 7th and 8th graders, and began working there in fall 2018. She adores the school community. “In my fifteen years of teaching, it’s the most amazing place I’ve ever worked.” Snyder’s enthusiasm and dedication to her students found her there on a Sunday in October 2018. Her arms full of lesson plans and files, she lost her footing and tumbled down 8 or 9 steps. When she landed, she knew something was very wrong.
“The pain was excruciating. I went into shock. There were only two other people at the school—a custodian and a first-grade teacher—they came to my rescue.” An ambulance brought Snyder to the Emergency Department at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with an unstable ankle and a fractured fibula (outer calf bone). Once the swelling receded, Dr. Daniel Moon, a Stapleton parent and specialist in foot and ankle orthopedics, performed surgery.
Though Snyder had to stay off her foot for several weeks, a series of follow-up visits at the UCHealth Foot and Ankle Center in Stapleton returned her to full mobility. The state-of-the-art 6,100-square-foot clinic specializes in orthopedics, podiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation. It offers comprehensive evaluation and treatment for a host of injuries and conditions. Moon says it is the only facility of its kind in the state, and one of only a handful in the nation.
Moon actually moved to Denver specifically to help build the Center after seeing a similar model while a Fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Kenneth Hunt, who now directs the Center, had shared his vision for a regional foot and ankle center with Moon, and Moon jumped at the opportunity to help that vision become a reality.
The technology at the Center looks like it could animate a superhero or cartoon character at Pixar. Here, however, a suite of complex machinery is employed to benefit people rather than action figures. Issues with bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments are assessed in the clinic, which has 12 exam rooms, two procedure suites and a casting/orthotist room. Treatments include: minimally invasive technology for chronic tendon pain and overuse injuries; platelet-rich-plasma therapy; cortisone injections; and other therapies for joint pain sufferers.
Moon, a former engineering major, confesses with a grin that he loves all of the “cool gadgets” at the Center. But he emphasizes that it is the people at the Center who make the technology really effective for seamless diagnosis and treatment. “The biggest thing is that we have a diversity of providers. We have podiatrists, nonoperative physiatrists, an orthotist, physical therapists; we concentrated all these services. The beauty of this is that if you have a foot or ankle problem, you don’t need to decide what kind of provider you need. We’re going to get you the right person.” All the specialists also share information and can troubleshoot individual issues as they arise, recommending the best care or treatment options based on an individual’s case.
“We’ve taken all these separate silos that exist in most healthcare systems and put them together. It’s better for patient care to have it all close and coordinated. And our staff, this is all they do…they don’t work for foot and ankle doctors one day and cardiologists the next.” Moon states that due to the Center’s specialization, staff members have also become really knowledgeable about foot and ankle issues and can better understand and communicate doctors’ protocols. “That was part of the vision that had me so excited about this place, and we’ve seen it come to life.” says Moon.
Seeing Jamie Snyder today one would never guess that just a few months ago she relied on a knee scooter to get around after her surgery. Fondly recalling the scooter, she says her students loved it. “We put streamers and a bike bell on it. The kids were really great with it. They would meet me out front and carry my bags in.”
Located on the second floor of the UCHealth A.F. Williams Family Medicine Center at 3055 Roslyn St., the UCHealth Foot and Ankle Center is open Monday through Friday, 8-5. For more information or to make an appointment, visit https://www.uchealth.org/locations/uchealth-foot-and-ankle-center-stapleton.
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