Hip Fracture Doesn’t Stop Knoxville Runner
It was no fractured fairy tale – the truth hurt all the way to Teresa Williams’ bone. But when the Knoxville runner broke her right hip during warm-ups last Feb. 3, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Paul Yau of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center was there to provide a storybook ending.
Teresa Williams is back to running 5ks, 8ks, and half marathons, after a fall on February 3 that left her with a fractured hip. Dr. Paul Yau of Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center was able to get her back up and moving in time to do the Covenant Health relay seven weeks later.
Just seven weeks after fracturing her hip, Williams, a determined 58-year-old runner with the Knoxville Track Club’s Knox Run group, crossed the 50-yard line at Neyland Stadium to a chorus of cheers, applause, hugs and high-fives.
Never mind that she had actually walked “only” the fourth leg of the Covenant Health Marathon’s four-legged team relay, a distance of 6.5 miles – she did so on a walker decorated with ribbons and balloons and draped with a poster that read: “My hip might be broke BUT NOT my determination or spirit. 7 weeks post surgery.”
“I had to get back. I had to,” said Williams, who had already “run” three 5Ks on her walker in the weeks prior to the Covenant Health relay. “I think there was a reason it happened. I don’t know if the Lord just singled me out that night or for that particular period or what, but as you look at it and watch how people reacted in these races when I was using the walker, they’d say ‘That’s determination!’ or ‘Don’t give up. I like the don’t-giveup attitude.’ I thought, ‘Maybe that’s what it’s about, that people would see that and be inspired.’”
Along the way, photographer Paul Efird captured Williams in the Covenant Health relay on her walker, a shot published along with the race results in the Knoxville News Sentinel. Pleased not only by her own performance but also that of her surgery at Fort Sanders Medical Center, she dropped off a copy of the newspaper at Dr. Yau’s office.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” said Dr. Yau. “The fact that I put that much energy into saving someone’s hip and they actually used it for that purpose is extremely rewarding just to know I could make a difference in her life. It’s certainly a routine surgery but it has made an enormous impact on people’s lives. Seeing her in the paper is such a great reward for all those years of training.”
“Now, I have to concede, she is a very motivated individual,” Dr. Yau added. “So she needs to be recognized for her hard work, how much effort she put into rehab – we couldn’t do any of that for her – she had to do the exercises herself, get on her feet, work the muscles and do everything she could to recover from surgery.”
Williams, who has been running mostly 5Ks (3.1 miles) and half-marathons (13.1 miles) for the past five years, was training for an upcoming race when she broke her hip while doing “side-steps,” a warm-up exercise. “I don’t know if my leg didn’t pick up right or what, but I went down like a domino.”
The fall resulted in a “clean break” of the ball joint. Fortunately, the fractured bones did not move, enabling Dr. Yau to use three cannulated screws to put the bone together again rather than replacing the hip.
“When Dr. Yau came in and told me what he was going to do, I said, ‘But I’ve got a half marathon in April! What am I going to do?!’ Plus, I had a half-marathon set that Saturday and I knew I couldn’t do it. But he said, ‘You can clearly walk that one.’ And I said, ‘OK. When can I run?’ And he said, ‘In May.’ And I said, ‘that’s do-able. OK.’”
The day after surgery, Dr. Yau returned to Williams’ room to introduce the team and how they would be working with her. “He said, ‘This is Teresa Williams, a 58-year-old woman who’s a runner, and she wants to get back into it. The team is going to help you get there.’”
That mission began almost immediately with therapy during her hospital stay and continuing with home health care after she was discharged two days after surgery. In no time at all, Williams was on her walker and using 5Ks to rehabilitate her hip. By May 16, she had tossed the walker aside and was jogging and walking a half-marathon in Viola, Tenn.
Since then she has run several races, and a nephew who is a cross-country coach tells her that he’ll have her qualified for the Boston Marathon in two years. “That’s what HE says – I say I don’t have 26 miles in me,” she says with a laugh.
Her times aren’t yet what they once were, but for now, she’s just happy to be jog-walking at every opportunity. On her arms, she wears compression sleeves emblazoned, “One day I won’t be able to do this. Today is not that day.”
“I’m usually crying when I cross the finish line of my half-marathons,” she said. “I’m just so excited to be able to do it because, who knows? I could’ve been crippled or not able to participate at all. Those sleeves take on a whole new meaning every time I put them on because today is not the day I’m going to say, ‘I can’t do it.’ DNF (Did Not Finish) is not acceptable.’ I don’t train to get DNFs!”
Yet, Williams is quick to credit Dr. Yau for those finishes.
“Dr. Yau is a great physician. He really is,” said Williams. “I’ve had some other problems – runners usually have runner’s knee – so I told him about my knees giving me trouble and I wanted to make sure they didn’t do that while I was doing a half marathon. So he said he would make sure he took care of them. So, if I have to have anything done, he’s the person I will go to. I recommend him whenever I can.”
“I like a doctor who listens to what I have to say. Who knows more about their body than yourself?” she added. “Dr. Yau understood how important running was to me. When he saw the picture of me on the walker at the Covenant Marathon, I think he saw how important it was to me to get back. I’ve got to. Those are my friends. Running is my connection to everybody.”