Quick Action Saves Mendota Golfer’s Swing

John Kuchta, of Mendota, was loading up his neighbor’s tractor to take to the shop. What he thought would be a simple job, turned out to almost cost him the full use of his left arm.

As John was trying to load the tractor, he saw the wheels weren’t perfectly aligned with the loading ramps. So, he put the tractor in neutral and attempted to get off and realign the wheels. As he put it in neutral, the tractor went up the ramps and threw John off and into the road.

“I landed right on my elbow,” John said. “When I came down on it, I knew I was in really big trouble. I stood up and saw my arm flopping around. So, I knew I needed help pretty quick.”

John’s neighbor came to see if he was OK. He asked her to take him to OSF Saint Paul Medical Center’s emergency department.

Speedy response

“I arrived to the emergency department and have never experienced so much attention in my life from people,” he said. “Within minutes of arrival, a few nurses came rushing to get me and brought me back to a room.”

John was met by Dr. Brian Pope, emergency room doctor, who immediately ordered an X-ray. The results were not good – a dislocated and shattered elbow.

Dr. Pope made the decision to operate right away. He set John’s elbow and put on a soft cast.

“This all happened within about two hours,” he said. “That’s what impressed me the most is the staff’s sense of urgency and attentiveness to my injury. It was unbelievable.”

The following morning Dr. Allen Van, an orthopedic surgeon at OSF Saint Paul Medical Center, put a hard cast on John’s arm.

Dr. Van said John’s situation was one of the worst cases he had seen and predicted a lengthy recovery.

“I vividly remember Dr. Van saying I could potentially only have a 20 degree bend after rehab,” John said. “That’s not what an avid golfer wants to hear.”

A 20-degree bend meant that John’s arm would never be fully straight again.

Physical therapy

He began rehab at OSF Saint Paul nine weeks later after his cast was removed. His arm was stiff and he was unable to move it at all.

“I knew rehab would be a pretty painful process,” he said. “But I was determined to have full use of my arm again and wasn’t going to accept anything less.”

Ashlee Hoff was John’s occupational therapist and worked with him three days a week.

“From the moment I met Ashlee, I knew I was working with a dedicated, goal-oriented professional who would do whatever it took to attain my goal,” John said. “She dedicated every session to making improvement from the previous session.”

After three and half months of difficult therapy, John’s arm is almost completely straight. And he was able to get back on the golf course to play a couple rounds before winter.

“I can’t thank the whole staff enough for what they did for me,” John said. “I felt fortunate to receive the best of care at OSF Saint Paul.”