Healing Hands


Some people just can’t sit still. They’d rather be busy than bored. Jill Keith is like that, and between her “day job” as a nurse for a vascular surgeon and weekend gig as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, she manages to stay quite active.

Jill Keith trimming trees in her lawn

Wrist surgery allowed Jill to resume her active and busy lifestyle.

“No, I don’t get a lot of downtime,” Jill says with a chuckle. “But that’s OK. I really love what I do. Both jobs.

“I’ve worked with the vascular surgeon for about 30 years now, but being a flight attendant was always my passion, my dream thing to do.”

After high school, she went to nursing school instead of pursuing a career above the clouds. Luckily, the skies opened again for her years later.

“I was talking with a friend who had interviewed for an attendant’s job just before 9/11,” she recalls. “I wound up going to the Southwest Airlines’ website and applied online. I interviewed on September 5 of 2001, and in October they called me up and asked if I could begin my training.”

Jill, 55, calls herself “a caretaker at heart.” It shows. For years, she worked both jobs while also raising her family. Her children are grown now, but she helps whenever needed.

In February, her desire to lend a hand resulted in injury.

“I actually took a weekend off to help my daughter get ready for a bridal shower,” Jill remembers. “About an hour before the shower, my daughter said, Mom, you need to get ready, and I said, Yeah, as soon as I dust off this light fixture up here.

“So, I get up on the chair and dust off the light fixture, and as I’m getting down, I step on a ball, one of our dog’s toys, and the next thing you know, I’m flat on my back. My daughter says, Mom, are you OK? I said, No, I think I broke my wrist.

Jill had indeed broken her wrist. She learned that during a visit to the hospital emergency room, where she was advised to visit an orthopedist to determine the best approach for treatment. She selected Jason L. Mlnarik, DO, of Advanced Orthopedic Center.

“I had no idea how painful a broken wrist could be until this happened,” Jill adds. “I obviously couldn’t use my hand at all, so I wanted the best person I could find to take care of this. That’s why I chose Dr. Mlnarik.

“I knew about Advanced Orthopedic Center from working at the hospital. Through people who have worked with him, I know Dr. Mlnarik has a really good reputation. That’s why I asked to see him.”

Surgery Required

Dr. Mlnarik is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who specializes in treating traumatic injuries. As it turned out, he is just the kind of specialist Jill needed because her injury was such that resetting the wrist and placing it in cast would not work.

“When Jill fell, she broke her distal radius, which is the main bone that holds up the wrist and hand,” Dr. Mlnarik reports. “When that bone broke, it actually became what we call displaced, which means it becomes shortened and angulated.

“So, it went from being in a very good position to being in a very bad position, especially for someone like Jill, who is very active. Because of that, she would not have tolerated a conservative treatment like a cast.

“What we did was perform a surgery where I pull that bone back out to the length and position that it’s supposed to be. That way, she would have the best possible alignment. That, in turn, allows for better function down the road.”

The medical term for the surgery is open reduction internal fixation of the distal radius. Because of the results, which include faster healing time as well as better long-term function, it’s becoming a very common surgery.

“When people fall, they usually put their hand out to protect themselves,” Dr. Mlnarik explains. “The impact that has on the wrist causes the dorsal, which is the back of the wrist, to push further up the arm. When that breaks, the pull on the muscles pulls it farther from where it wants to be, so it shortens. When that happens, the way a person flexes, extends or bends the wrist changes, and that ultimately affects grip strength and position.

“That’s why I chose this surgery for Jill. If her wrist is short and malpositioned, it would impact her grip strength and ability to flex and extend her wrist, and that can cause chronic pain because other bones wind up sticking out where they’re not supposed to. So getting that main radius back in a good position was critical. Not only does it help in all of those respects to maintain proper length of the wrist, it also takes pressure off the other areas that aren’t supposed to normally get pressure.”

The Road to Recovery

Jill’s wrist surgery was performed in February in an outpatient setting that allowed her to go home shortly after the procedure. During the operation, Dr. Mlnarik installed a specially designed plate to help stabilize the wrist.

“This plate has the contour of a normal wrist, and we fixate it above and below the break,” Dr. Mlnarik educates. “The plate not only stabilizes the wrist, it also helps get the alignment and the positioning back so that function returns to normal.”

“I definitely made the right decision in choosing Dr. Mlnarik and Advanced Orthopedic Center to do my surgery.”- Jill

Jill was sent home wearing a temporary splint. A week later, her wrist was placed in movable brace that allowed her to begin motion exercises. After six weeks, she was allowed to begin strengthening exercises.

The strengthening exercises are initially limited to lifting items weighing no more than 10 pounds. Jill needs to be able to lift 50 pounds to work as a flight attendant. She expects to be back doing that in a few weeks.

“The wrist feels good,” Jill reports. “I’m working through it, I do as much as I can without overdoing it. I’m very happy with the progress and know it will get better as time goes on.

“I definitely made the right decision in choosing Dr. Mlnarik and Advanced Orthopedic Center to do my surgery. Dr. Mlnarik was very reassuring, telling me that everything would be fine and that he’d fix this. Even his staff was encouraging. I’m thankful for all of them.”

© FHCN article by Roy Cummings. Photo by Jordan Pysz. js
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      Whether you are a professional or collegiate athlete, an active retiree, a "weekend warrior," a high school football star or a hard-working employee anxious to make a difference, the Advanced Orthopedic Center is here to help you feel better a... Read More

    • Jason M. Mlnarik, DO

      Jason M. Mlnarik, DO, is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in traumatic injuries and other orthopedic-related problems. Dr. Mlnarik earned his medical degree at the University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine i... Read More