Maria’s Miracle: Out-of-the-Box Surgery!


PITTSBURGH, Pa. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Maria Horner was on her way to a birthday celebration with her adult daughter, but a sudden ice storm on a windy Pennsylvania back road led to a violent car crash, shattered bones, and a mangled right foot. A team of surgeons devised an out-of-the box solution to put Maria back together.

Fifty-one-year-old Maria Horner is a nurse, a mom, and a sports fan who loves weekend games with her family. It all almost came to a crashing halt after a devastating wreck in November 2014.

“My foot actually was off my leg, here, it was laying across the table.” Horner told Ivanhoe.

By the time Maria reached a major medical center and was stabilized, orthopedic trauma surgeons didn’t think they could fix her foot.

“If you have a problem with soft tissues that equals infection and amputation every day of the week,” Ivan S. Tarkin, MD, Chief of Orthopedic Trauma Surgery and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at UPMC explained. (Read Full Interview)

Instead, Maria begged Dr. Tarkin to save her foot.

Horner continued, “I was the nurse that wanted to get back to work. I did not want to be an amputee. I wanted to get back to my lifestyle.”

“With her, we needed to use an out-of-the-box type solution.” Dr. Tarkin stated.

In addition to the partial amputation, Maria’s ankle was shattered. Dr. Tarkin needed to bypass the broken pieces, choosing to try what’s called a retrograde hindfoot nail procedure.

“I put up a rod from the bottom of her heel bone through where the ankle joint was, up into the leg, and then secured that rod with screws on either side,” explained Dr. Tarkin.

A team of plastic surgeons carefully reattached the foot. It took six months, but the bones fused together.

Horner said, “I might be a little bit slower, but I’m still able to go. It’s a miracle, really.”

Alive and back on her own two feet.

Maria is back to working full-time as a nurse. Because the foot is fused, she doesn’t have full range of motion, but says she has very few problems with mobility.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Field and Supervising Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4331

BACKGROUND: Amputation is surgery to remove all or part of the arm or leg. This may be as a result to treat injury, disease, or infection. It may also be done to remove tumors from bones or muscles. The most common reason for amputation is poor blood flow, which happens when arteries become narrowed or damaged. When this occurs in the arms or legs, it’s referred to as peripheral arterial disease or PAD. PAD most often occurs between the ages of 50 to 75. Other reasons might be injury such as severe burn or accident. People with diabetes, heart disease, or infection have a higher risk of complications from amputation than others. Other complications may include joint deformity, hematoma, infection, wound opening, tissue death, and blood clot deep in the sveins of the limbs or lung.


LONG-TERM CARE: Proper healing and fitting of the artificial limb help to reduce the risk of long-term complications. An amputation requires adapting many parts of your life, and physical therapy can help. If the amputation was the result of PAD, continued steps will need to be taken to prevent the condition so it does not begin to affect other parts of your body. Lifestyle changes may be necessary, including but not limited to: maintaining a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, quitting smoking, working towards getting or keeping an ideal body weight, and maintaining a regular exercise regime.


MARIA’S PROCEDURE: Dr. Ivan Tarkin, Chief of Orthopedic Trauma Surgery and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at UPMC explained, “A primary ankle infusion using a retrograde hindfoot nail was the limb salvage procedure used to manage her severe open tibial pilon fracture. Her surgery was performed using a multi-disciplinary approach. My team repaired the bone and joint injury. The plastic surgery team, led by Dr. Russavage, performed soft tissue management to close her soft tissue wound (from the open fracture- bone through the skin).”

(Sources: Ivan S. Tarkin, MD)


Ivan Tarkin

Rick Pietzak

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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