Just 3 days after running in the Bix road race and 4 months after running her 6th half marathon, Julie went in for what she thought would be a routine bunion surgery. And 3 days after that she was airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospitals fighting for her life. After numerous surgeries attempting to remove the flesh-eating bacteria that threatened her life, she underwent skin grafts to cover her entire left leg. For three months Julie and her practitioners worked to get her back on her feet. John Costello from Clark and Associates worked with Julie in this effort. When it became clear that the bacteria and surgeries had destroyed the nerves and tendons required for Julie to raise her foot, she opted for amputation. The promise of the great technological breakthroughs in prosthetic devices offered the best chance to get her running again. On January 2, 2005, she had her leg amputated on January 2, 2005, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Because of the significant damage to her residual limb, and her extremely active lifestyle, Julie has had many challenges with prosthetic fittings. The grafted skin necessitates an elevated vacuum system to protect the integrity of the skin. Additionally, the damage from the infection created an irregularly shaped limb that has gaping holes and crevasses. This makes getting molds and fitting custom liners very difficult. Beyond fittings, Julie struggles with the lack of ankle that prevents her from bending down to be eye level with her sons and the elevated vacuum system limits knee flexion. This has presented some unique challenges for the activities Julie enjoys such as biking. With the purchase of a specialized crankshaft for her bike, now biking is possible too.
Over the last four years, she has worked with practitioner Travis Carlson in the Cedar Rapids office to find a way to keep her active. Travis is creative in taking molds of Julie’s irregularly shaped limb and in finding the resources to make it all work. Several times a year the high level of activity catches up to her and causes a breakdown. With two boys under 5, she doesn’t have time to be on crutches. The Cedar Rapids office always bends over backward to keep her going.
Julie says Becky is the most welcoming presence and moves mountains to get patients in when there is an emergency. She always makes time to catch up and ask about the family. Travis is great at listening and is a bit like a bulldog when it comes to solving problems. He will not relent until everything is perfect and his patients are doing whatever activities fill their hearts with joy. Travis does not accept “good enough” as a state of existing. Brian at the office is always willing to jump in and help Julie when Travis is not available.
Anything Julie wants to do she believes that her team at Clark and Associates can help her achieve it. Whether it’s an awesome swim leg that allows her to enjoy playing in the pool with her sons (it has sharks on it!) or equipping her prosthesis with an active foot that keeps her moving forward, Julie knows she has the tools to accomplish any of her goals.
She has recently completed the Camp Courageous Sprint Triathlon, the University of Iowa Courage Bike Ride and competes in Masters Swim meets around the state. Julie primarily wants to enjoy family life with two active boys – biking and swimming. Personally, however, she has set the goal of completing more triathlons and aspires to compete with the US Paralympics Swimming program.