Portrait of a Grateful Patient
Robert Duminske has run a long road - literally and figuratively. Interested in running since a youngster, Duminske ran track and field in junior high, high school and college, where he earned his degree in accounting. A lifelong resident of Westland, Michigan, Duminske continued his running into his twenties - when one day his life suddenly and irrecoverably changed in an instant.
In 1981, Duminske was out for a run, when he was struck by a car traveling 50 mph. He suffered a crushed knee and two broken legs among other injuries. At the local hospital, Duminske was seen by Dr. David Moehring who, as Duminske reports “got me walking again.” And eventually, running.
Moehring left Michigan and became a faculty member in orthopaedic surgery at UC Davis Health System - so when Duminske started having trouble with his knee, he could no longer see the surgeon who originally pieced him back together. In 1995, another orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine told Duminske he needed surgery again, as one leg was shorter than the other. Unfortunately, the surgery was the start of a string of health issues that would fell any other individual.
Duminske developed an infection, osteomyelitis, in his leg after the surgery and ended up undergoing 32 operations in four years trying to combat the progressing infectious problems. Continually hospitalized - frequently with 105 degree temperatures - this infection that couldn’t be conquered led to VSRA resistance, or antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. Additionally, Duminske suffered from compartment syndrome, which is compression of nerves, blood vessels, and muscle inside a closed space (compartment) within the body - in this case, his leg. This can lead to tissue death from lack of oxygenation.
Duminske said, “I have seen a lot of doctors in Michigan, many who were good, but my confidence was in Dr. Moehring.” In 2001, he tracked down Moehring and flew to UC Davis Medical Center to be seen by his former surgeon.
But with the infection so far along, there wasn’t much opportunity left for expert intervention. After a final attempt to increase oxygen flow to the leg through hyperbaric treatment, the
surgeon was forced to amputate below the knee to prevent the infection from spreading and causing life-threatening complications.
Recovery has taken time, but Duminske is back to walking and even jogging on two different types of prosthetic legs. He flew into Sacramento for a vacation and to give a gift to the UC Davis Department of Orthopaedic Surgery for resident education and research.
“Dr. Moehring saved my life,” Duminske said. “A lot of people did a lot of difficult work - I was in isolation for a long time because of the infection. It’s a small way of giving back.”
Duminske looked out the window and quietly smiled, “Yeah, I came a long way to give the gift.”
Indeed, he did.