Leigh: Moving Forward Again
When Leigh B. embarked on his second career as a volunteer for the National Park Service, he did so because he likes to be outside, to explore new opportunities and to keep moving forward.
The only issue was that his labor of love required him to spend a lot of time on his feet, and for a while, that was a challenge.
For a number of years Leigh suffered with arthritis in both of his halluces - his big toes. By late 2010 the pain was affecting his walking, impacting his quality of life, and importantly, his volunteer work.
Leigh volunteers at the Chesapeake and Ohio Great Falls National Historical Park. It is a “career” choice that fits him perfectly. Prior to his retirement several years ago, the Kensington, MD resident served as a First Lieutenant for the US Army in Vietnam. He then completed his working career as a civilian at the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC. After retirement he decided he’d spent enough time indoors so he began a new adventure with the Park Service, working in the C&O Park’s visitors’ center and working with outdoor programs.
But eventually he was slowed by his foot problems. “It was like having a constant toothache in your feet,” he said. “Once the Tylenol quit working it was time to take action.”
Leigh’s action was a modern-day quest to find a doctor and a hospital that could keep him moving forward. So he got online and began searching. What he found was a path to recovery. What he found was Mercy’s Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction.
“It was a bit of a fluke, “Leigh said. “I just kind of stumbled onto Mercy doing online research. I was familiar with Baltimore having attended school there, and I’d worked in a hospital. That background helped with my decision.”
“I decided on Mercy because of its status as a world class hospital in the foot and ankle area and got my Internist’s blessing to give it a try,” he said.
Just What the Doctor Ordered
Leigh’s initial contact was a good one. He met with Dr. Rebecca Cerrato of The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy. Dr. Cerrato has expertise in foot and ankle surgery, including arthroscopic procedures. Leigh says she was literally what the doctor ordered.
“Dr. Cerrato is one of those people who can walk into a room and brighten it up,” he said. “Her excellent care ended up making a big improvement in my life.”
In early 2011 Dr. Cerrato performed an initial surgery on the big toe on Leigh’s right foot. In no time at all he was back as a volunteer at the park. “Dr. Cerrato was just great; professional and supportive,” he said. “My wife and I had a trip planned to France early that spring and I was concerned about the timing so soon after the surgery. Dr. Cerrato assured me I’d be able to make the trip. We did, and amazed our French friends by keeping up with them, especially climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe when the elevator was out of service.”
Knowing Exactly Where to Go for the Next Surgery
A year passed and the pain in his untreated left toe worsened. This time there was no searching to be done – Leigh knew exactly where to go. Dr. Cerrato would perform similar surgery on his left toe in early 2013. Again, Leigh was hopeful to travel soon after surgery to visit friends.
“Dr. Cerrato was very encouraging especially with regard to our travels,” he said. “She kept telling me to keep my plans intact. The surgery was successful again and my vacation once again went off as planned.”
In between the procedures Dr. Cerrato also treated several other foot problems for Leigh unrelated to the arthritis. Those treatments too were successful.
“My feet are stable now,” he said. “I can honestly say Dr. Cerrato is genuinely concerned for her patients. She’s very competent and takes professional pride in her work. She also won’t abandon you. She was available to help anytime I needed her.”
Leigh was also impressed by Mercy and its staff.
“They were just fantastic,” he said. “One of Dr. Cerrato’s associates is a physician assistant named Maggie, who was very kind and helpful and I’d like to thank her for her help during my recovery. I’d like to thank all of the Mercy team; they treated me with kindness, competence and compassion. I’ve already recommended the Mercy team to several friends with foot difficulties. They treated me well.”
Walking Without Pain
Leigh is now back in his volunteer role, pursuing a number of programs with the National Park Service including a Citizen Science plant program studying global warming. And he continues to travel and seek new opportunities to learn and grow. When he does, he said he often thinks of Mercy and Dr. Cerrato.
“As long as I can fly I will always be reminded of Dr. Cerrato, and think good thoughts,” he said. “Every time I’m at an airport the metal in my feet sets off the detector at security when I board a plane. That’s when I think of her, and the fact that I’m walking without pain.”
Leigh's Treatment Team