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Life After a 13-foot Fall

Posted on July 18, 2023 | Tagged: ,

Benjamin Smith shares how Dr. Jared Foran’s dedication not only saved his life, but also inspired him to change his career to healthcare so that he could do the same for others.

“There was before the fall and after the fall.”

Benjamin Smith was working as a building inspector in 2017, when the ladder fell out from under him and he dropped 13 feet to the ground.  Due to the extensive injuries in his right leg and additional complications during treatment, this would become a defining moment in his life.

“Before the fall, I was a dad and a coach and a jiu-jitsu roller competitively.  After the fall, I lost everything for years.  Now I’m finally getting to the point of gaining it all back,” says Ben.

With multiple open fractures and every ligament in his leg ruptured, Ben was rushed into emergency surgery at a nearby hospital.  After the initial surgery, the physician there performed several revisions, but Ben kept falling ill after each procedure.  “Come to find out, they weren’t cleaning their tools correctly and I kept getting really bad infections,” says Ben.  “No one knew where they were coming from until it came out on the news.  I was just living in horrendously horrible pain.”

After three years of living with revision surgeries and pain from infections, Ben found Panorama.  “I went to see a pain doc who ended up referring me to see Dr. Hugate as a limb preservation specialist.  Dr. Hugate then referred me to Dr. Foran’s team.  Thank God. I’m so thankful for Dr. Foran, Patton, Jen, and that whole group because they honestly saved my leg and saved my life.”

Dr. Foran recommended a partial knee replacement after discussing Ben’s case.  Dr. Foran and his team helped Ben prepare for surgery and lose the weight he had gained while unable to be active.  This initial surgery marked the return of hope again.  “I remember waking up and not feeling the pain I’d felt for the last 3-4 years.  Right after surgery I felt surgical pain, but I didn’t feel that deep rooted throbbing of a decaying tooth in my knee.  I even looked for that pain like an old friend that was gone.”

Yet there was still more that Ben and Dr. Foran would need to conquer together.  Because of the number of surgeries Ben’s leg had previously endured, his patella tendon ruptured in surgery.  However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it revealed a hidden staph infection that had been festering from his original surgeries back in 2017.

“Dr. Foran didn’t give up on me. He stuck with me and we went through multiple revisions. He has done multiple surgeries just to get shrapnel out of my leg from the first surgeries.  He’s found screws, wire mesh, bone fragments that were growing fungus… it’s been incredible how he has stuck with me.”

Over the course of the next three years, Ben, Dr. Foran and the care team went into battle together.  Dr. Foran performed a patellectomy, removing Ben’s patella due to infection, and he inserted a medicated cement spacer into Ben’s knee for six months to help fight infection.  Later on, he completed a full joint replacement.  Multiple dormant infections sprung back to life, and each time Ben would wake up from surgery, Dr. Foran was there encouraging him.  “We just got to keep going, we’re one step closer,” Ben remembers him saying.

Ben’s entire care team was invested.  “I remember Dean would call me on a Saturday morning, just to say ‘hey, how are you doing? I know you’re going through it.’”  When he needed help or an infection came back, Ben would call the team and immediately Jen would answer the phone, or he would get a call back personally from Dr. Foran.

“When I say they saved more than my leg, I really mean it.  They saved my life,” Ben emphasizes.  “I have a quality of life now that I haven’t had since 2017.  I’m able to walk without pain, I’m able to play with my kids, I’m able to do things I honestly thought I would never do. Before finding Dr. Foran, I had lost hope in a lot of things and life was one of those things.”

Now, Ben treasures moments he once took for granted.  “I don’t have excruciating pain around the clock. I don’t sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself, I get to go outside and play basketball with my kids.  I’m still going through a lot of therapy and rehab to get everything back to functioning correctly, but I see progress.  I remember I would have this horrible pain spasm that would last for 2 hours and I would be on the floor in fetal position, but now I can go up the stairs without taking a break.  I’ve been able to go to my kids’ jiu-jitsu tournaments and not be in a wheelchair.  It’s being able to go on a walk with my wife and my dog.  It’s things that people take for granted, and for the longest time I didn’t think I’d have that again.”

The incredible, dedicated care from Dr. Foran and his care team deeply inspired Ben and he decided to pay it forward by changing his career and going into healthcare himself!  This past spring, Ben joined the Panorama New Patient Scheduling team, and he’s now the first voice someone gets to hear.  “I think it’s a perfect place for me to be.  I get to bring them reassurance and let them know that I’ve been through something similar,” says Ben.  He also answers the unasked questions, “Do they actually care? Does this person actually care? I can say with 100% clear conscience, I can say they care.”

“It’s not just a paycheck, this is more of a calling” Ben says. “It’s an opportunity to change somebody’s life… not only do I get to look forward to helping people on a daily basis, but it’s also something that feeds my soul.  I know I’m making a difference in someone’s life if they choose to accept it.”  Right now, Ben is welcoming new patients with a phone call. Long-term, he wants to get his nursing degree to make an impact on the clinical side.

Six long years after the fall, Ben is finally getting his life back thanks to Dr. Foran and his team.  Now, he’s using his life to go out and make a positive difference in the world.

“For such a time as now, I get my life back.  It’s not because of me, it’s because a team of people surrounded me and said ‘we’re going to go on the journey with you and you’re not going to be alone.  We’ll advocate for you and we’ll be there for you.”