There’s more than a little irony in the fact that Heather MacMillan, marathon runner and veteran of two Ironman competitions, has never injured herself while competing or training.
Both of the injuries that sent her to David J. Casey, M.D., of the FirstHealth Orthopaedic and Joint Replacement Center, occurred while she was hanging out with friends and having fun – the first while dancing and the second while jumping on a trampoline at her nephew’s birthday party.
“I don’t dance very much any more,” MacMillan says.
Although she has scaled back her competitive activities since her recent marriage, MacMillan still maintains an active lifestyle. She swims, she runs, and she bikes. She even qualified for the Boston Marathon with her finish at the Quintiles Marathon in Wrightsville Beach earlier this year.
“I thought I could do it,” she says.
MacMillan had probably been ignoring signs of a stress fracture even before she broke the fourth and fifth metatarsals in her right foot in August 2007. Because she knew Dr. Casey from her job as a physical therapist with FirstHealth’s Moore Rehab outpatient therapy program, she sought him out for her own care. Even though there were complications to her recovery, Dr. Casey always had a plan, MacMillan says.
Two months after she broke her foot, a follow-up exam revealed few signs of the bone growth necessary to healing. A few months later, MacMillan issued a challenge to Dr. Casey.
“I went back to Dr. Casey in December and told him I had signed up for an Ironman in November,” she says. “I said, ‘We’ve got 11 months. Do you think we can do it?’ We went from there.”
After wearing a splint for a week, a cast for six weeks and a boot for five months and following a series of 20- to 30-minute sessions with an ultrasonic bone stimulator to encourage bone growth, MacMillan swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran 26.2 miles in the Panama City Beach (Fla.) Ironman. She completed her second Ironman competition last year in Louisville.
MacMillan’s second round of orthopaedic treatment started after she rolled her ankle during the birthday party trampoline jump. She was preparing for a marathon at the time and continued to train “through the pain.” Dr. Casey called her with her diagnosis – torn ligaments and bony contusions – while she was driving to the race location.
“I was all ready to do it the next day,” she says. “Because I had enough faith in Dr. Casey and because I trust him, I didn’t run that race.”
As both a patient and a medical professional, MacMillan has nothing but praise for Dr. Casey’s care. He was so concerned about her two injuries – unusual in a young, fit and active woman, he sent her to an endocrinologist for further evaluation. Tests revealed “slightly low” levels of calcium and Vitamin D.
“Dr. Casey always covered the bases,” MacMillan says. “He always looked at the bigger picture.”