Dr. Ryan Dabbs Helps High School Teacher With Shattered Leg

Parkwest’s Care and Surgical Expertise Add Up to Recovery for Soccer-Playing Math Teacher

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West High School teacher Jessica Gibson is back on her feet after shattering her right tibia and fibula just before Thanksgiving.

Thanks to modern surgical techniques, high school math teacher Jessica Gibson of Knoxville has drop-kicked a soccer injury to the curb.

Gibson, 32, was playing in an indoor league in November 2016 when she and another player hit the ball at the same time, from opposite sides.

“All the force from hitting the ball went into my leg and shattered the bone,” she said. “I wasn’t kicked or anything liked that, so it must have been the perfect angle.”

She knew at once something was wrong. “I saw my leg bend in a bad way in the corner of my eye,” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I just broke my leg. No, that didn’t just happen.’ Then it started hurting, and I realized, yeah, that happened.

“It was super sharp pain, and any time my leg would move I could almost feel the bones moving, too. I had on tight socks and a shin guard, which was a good thing. But it was not pleasant,” she recalled. Friends called an ambulance, and Gibson asked to be taken to Parkwest Medical Center. “It was my choice,” she said. “I have some friends who had suggested it, and it was also pretty close.”

They took her straight to the emergency department, where hospital staff took Xrays. Gibson had shattered her tibia and fibula in her right leg. The tibia is the front, larger bone, and the fibula is the smaller bone just behind it in the lower leg. Stabilizing them for the night was very painful. “It hurt so badly they had to knock me out,” she said. “They got me into a room for the night, and then I had surgery the next morning at 7:30 a.m.”

Parkwest Orthopedic Surgeon Ryan Dabbs, MD, performed the surgery, which involved installing a small rod, a plate, and five screws to stabilize the bones in Gibson’s leg.

“Any person can break both bones in their lower leg with the right force, usually a direct impact or twist. When playing sports competitively, an athlete is at risk for both of these,” said Dr. Dabbs.

“The injury becomes more complex when there are several fragments of bone,” he added. “This is what happened to Jessica. She broke both bones into several fragments, requiring putting the pieces back together like a puzzle.”

Gibson spent two nights in the hospital. “I was in a lot of pain. The first pain medication wasn’t working, so they were very helpful in trying to find what worked for me. The poor night nurse, I was constantly calling her!” Despite the pain, Gibson added, “I had a great experience at Parkwest. Everybody was super helpful and friendly.”

She stayed off her leg for six weeks, and then used one crutch for four more weeks. Since then, she has been exercising on her own.

“I’m still not super flexible but it’s getting there,” she said. “I was walking first and then I moved to low-impact exercise, like riding a bike and an elliptical machine. I ran for the first time last week. I’m just slowly running once or twice a week, and walking and doing lower-impact things. I’m not quite back to soccer and a contact sport yet,” she said.

Gibson didn’t even miss much work. She teaches algebra and geometry at West High School.

“My students have been great. The accident happened just before Thanksgiving break, and then I did half-days until Christmas vacation. The kids have been very understanding.”

Gibson said she would recommend Parkwest Medical Center to anyone facing a similar surgery.

“If you have to go through that kind of experience, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be,” Gibson said. “I would totally recommend it to anybody. Not breaking your leg, of course, but going to Parkwest! Everyone was very helpful and kind to me.”

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