The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but for Ashley
Chapman, each step was excruciating. At age 20, the Canadian athlete sprained
her ankle while jogging and injured her calcaneocuboid ligament. Because
this ligament supports a joint that stabilizes the foot’s cuboid
bone, an injury creates a chronically unstable “gliding joint.”
It’s often undiagnosed, but the impact is debilitating. Ashley’s
injury put her life on hold for four years and transformed her active,
happy existence to one of disability and discouragement.
Seeking relief, Ashley saw several orthopaedists, pain specialists, chiropractors
and physical therapists. Some provided temporary relief; others said her
problem was psychological, not mechanical. Meanwhile, whenever her cuboid
bone misaligned, Ashley manually repositioned it herself, only to have
it pop out of place again. During one eight-month period, she used a walker,
scooter or crutches to get around.
Her lowest point came when an orthopaedist said she might never find a
solution to her pain and might not be able to walk again. “I felt
very depressed and alone,” Ashley recalls.
Fortunately, Ashley didn’t give up. Through internet research, she
found a presentation called “Calcaneocuboid Instability: Frequently
Overlooked Cause of Lateral Foot Pain.” Its author was
J. Melvin Deese, M.D., a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon with
Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery in St. Marys, Georgia, over a thousand miles from Ashley’s Toronto home.
“From my first interaction with Dr. Deese, I thought, ‘This
is my life-changing chance.’ He was the first glimmer of hope I’d
had in years. He was empathetic, honest and knowledgeable. I felt like
I’d finally found someone who believed in me,” says Ashley.
Dr. Deese communicated via email and phone calls for several months. “Ashley
took every possible conservative measure. You couldn’t ask for a
better patient, but when she didn’t heal, I had to examine her in
person,” Dr. Deese says. After four years of misdiagnoses, her parents
were skeptical, but made the drive to Southeast Georgia, where Dr. Deese
won them over, as he had Ashley.
A Mystery Solved
Dr. Deese suspected a calcaneocuboid injury, an uncommon injury that occurs below
the area of an ankle sprain. According to Dr. Deese, “As orthopaedic
surgeons we are taught to examine the joints carefully, but this one is
so rarely injured that it is sometimes overlooked. If an ankle sprain
doesn’t heal after eight weeks, I examine the ankle below the sprain
to isolate tenderness in the joint. Many patients tell me no doctor has
ever touched that spot. Next, I inject a small amount of Lidocaine into
the joint. If the patient then walks without pain, I know it’s a
That’s what happened with Ashley. The next day, Dr. Deese reconstructed
her calcaneocuboid ligament using a donor tendon. The day after surgery,
the Chapmans drove back to Canada.
After years of disability, Ashley recovered slowly, but steadily. As she
approaches the one year anniversary of her surgery, she’s elated.
“I just returned from the Grand Canyon, I’m walking two to
three hours a day pain-free, I’m playing basketball and I have a
Dr. Deese gave me back my life and my future.”
Wise beyond her years, Ashley offers this advice to anyone struggling with
an orthopaedic injury: “Don’t lose hope. There are good doctors
out there. I have so much trust in Dr. Deese and Southeast Georgia Health
A strategic affiliate of Southeast Georgia Health System,
Summit Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Surgery has offices in Brunswick, St. Simons Island and St. Marys. For more information
or to schedule an appointment, call 912-466-7340.