Entry submitted by Dr. Loren Schechter, a board-certified plastic surgeon and ASPS Member
On March 17, 2009, Brent Spencer, a 41-year-old husband and father of three was riding his motorcycle in a Chicago suburb when his life was suddenly changed. Just after 6 am, Brent was struck by a car, and his right leg was pinned between his motorcycle and the vehicle. He was rushed by paramedics to the emergency room at nearby Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, where he was seen by the trauma surgeons. Brent had sustained extensive injuries to his leg, which may have required amputation. However, being young and otherwise healthy, both Brent and his doctors felt that every attempt should be made to save his leg.
Because of the massive injury, orthopedic trauma surgeon, Dr. Matthew Jimenez had to perform an initial stabilization of the leg bones with external rods. Unfortunately, Brent was missing most of the skin on the front of his leg. It was at this time that I was asked to help. I was charged with finding a way to cover the extensive wounds so as to help the bones heal and prevent infection. As with many motorcycle injuries, Brent's wounds were contaminated with bacteria. This required several trips to the operating room to clean the wounds and assess Brent's remaining leg muscles.
At this point, Brent's leg bones required stronger fixation devices, so the external rods were removed and metal plates and screws were placed on the bones so as to hold them in position. We then transferred muscles from Brent's back, chest, and leg to the wounds during an 11-hour procedure. This required reattachment of small blood vessels from the donor muscles of the chest, to the recipient blood vessels in the leg with the use of an operating microscope. Finally, we used thin sheets of skin from Brent's thigh to cover these muscles and close the wounds.
After almost two months and 14 surgeries, Brent was able to leave the hospital and begin physical therapy and his long road to recovery. He was able to return to work as a machine operator on a part-time basis in November 2009, and is now back working full-time. Brent enjoys telling his story so that others can learn from his experiences. Although the decision to save his leg seemed like an easy one, each step in the process required difficult decisions from Brent, his family, and his team of doctors.