Saving Santa's foot
Cache Valley Hospital makes Santa's nice list.
Santa's got a big job — delivering gifts to 2.2 billion children in 193 countries, all in a single night. Not to mention the yearlong prep that goes into the big day. All of that work can take a toll.
So what happens when Santa's not feeling so jolly? Rudolph guides his sleigh to Cache Valley Hospital, of course.
"Santa," known here locally as Lynn Hulse, certainly looks the part with his white beard and infectious smile. But things aren't always candy canes and gumdrops for this 60-year-old.
"I've had diabetes for over 20 years. Over time I also developed neuropathy in my feet, and I can't feel pain there."
Because he doesn't have feeling in his feet, Lynn was unaware that the bones in his left foot had weakened — a condition called Charcot foot, as diagnosed by his physician Dr. Riley Rampton of Foot & Ankle Center of Cache Valley. Charcot can cause the joints in the foot to collapse and eventually become deformed, which can then lead to open wounds, infection, and amputation.
Weighing the options
Lynn's condition was in later stages. Dr. Rampton gave Lynn four options: Do nothing and allow his condition to deteriorate, get temporary relief from a splint, do a Charcot foot reconstruction, or possibly have an amputation.
Dr. Rampton explains that individuals who have a below-the-knee amputation have an 80% mortality rate within five years. "I wanted to be around to see my great grandchildren, so I opted for surgery to keep my foot," Lynn said.
Charcot foot surgery involves complete reconstruction of the foot and ankle. Dr. Rampton says this includes cutting and realigning bones as well as affixing metal plates and screws. He said this surgical option provides patients with a significantly lower mortality rate than amputation.
A surgical salvation
So in June 2022, Santa jingled all the way to Cache Valley Hospital where Dr. Rampton spent approximately six hours in surgery.
"The nurses were fantastic, and the pampering I received was unbelievable. The facility was so clean, quiet, and peaceful. I didn't have to ask for anything — except a Diet Coke," Lynn says with a wink.
Lynn spent the next 14 weeks with a reconstructive frame over this foot to maintain correction and increase his success rate.
On September 8 — four long months after the surgery — Dr. Rampton removed the frame from Lynn's foot. He then began a regimen of physical therapy to help regain strength from the foot being immobile for so long. He's now gone from being in a wheelchair, then to a walker, and now he has the green light to walk with a cane and put full weight on his foot. "Now I won't have any problem getting in and out of the sleigh to get presents to the kids," Lynn laughs.
It's now December, and Lynn and his wife, Teri, are spending tons of time meeting with boys and girls and preparing for Christmas. And he says none of this would be possible without the care of Dr. Rampton and Cache Valley Hospital.
Receiving the best care
"I have Dr. Rampton's cell number, and he calls me every Sunday. I've never known a doctor who cares this much about his patients. I wish he could teach all physicians this sort of compassion," Lynn said.
As for Cache Valley Hospital, Lynn says he looks forward to coming back for anything he may need in the future.
"I don't want to have to go through this again, but if I did, I'd want to go to your hospital. They went above and beyond, offering my wife meals while she was there and even offering her a bed if she wanted to stay the night. It's things like this you don't expect from a hospital. You put the human factor back into healthcare."
What is Lynn looking forward to the most about his future? "I get my life back. I get to walk again and live a lot longer than if I'd had an amputation. It's gonna be amazing when I catch that first big fish."