VIDEO: Extreme athlete back on feet after creek mishap

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Extreme athlete Michael Laureta is on the road to recovery after emergency surgery to repair a traumatic leg injury at Methodist Richardson Medical Center.

 The 27-year-old thrill seeker from Lewisville thrives on the adrenalin rush that only his athletic endeavors can provide, but he also knows that risks come with that reward.

“I love being active, especially outdoors with activities like running, swimming, and biking,” Michael says.

When he’s not running obstacle courses or rock climbing with friends, Michael might spend an afternoon swinging off a rope into a creek. Fortunately, that creek was just a couple of miles away from a Level III Trauma Center when Michael snapped his femur in September.

“I landed in the right hands after my overconfidence that day,” Michael says of the Methodist Richardson trauma team who patched him up. “The months ahead of recovery are my way to honor their work.”

 UP A CREEK

That day began like most days off from the steakhouse where he works in Dallas: Michael was looking for a physical activity to do with friends. After a morning run with a buddy, he met up with some rock-climbing friends in Richardson.

“We grabbed some lunch and decided to do some rope swinging at a nearby creek,” Michael says of their ill-fated escapade to Breckenridge Park.

This wasn’t Michael’s first rope-swing, so he checked the quality of the rope and the safety of his landing spot before jumping in.

“I took a few turns to show the others how it’s done,” he says. “Then everyone was swinging and having a great time.”

That’s when Michael decided to up the ante and do a backflip off the rope into the water, something he’s done many times before. This time, he miscalculated his rotation and landed on a submerged log, breaking his left leg.

“I knew I was hurt pretty badly, but I never considered it might be broken,” Michael says. “When I couldn’t stand and my friends were unable to get me back to the parking lot, we decided to call 911.”

A man climbs a wall at an indoor rock-climbing facility.

Michael is anxious to get back to wall climbing with his friends.

LEVEL III TRAUMA CENTER

Paramedics rushed Michael to Methodist Richardson, where X-rays confirmed their initial suspicions that his left femur was broken at the kneecap, or patella.

“Patients like Michael benefit from receiving care at designated trauma centers like Methodist Richardson, which achieved Level III status last year,” says Usha Mani, MD, orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson. “Our team was able to quickly mobilize the necessary resources to treat Michael once he arrived.”

Michael underwent multiple rounds of imaging to accurately diagnose the fractures and develop a surgical plan.

“I felt incredibly relieved to know I wouldn’t have to be transferred to another hospital or orthopedic surgeon in order to have surgery,” Michael says.

On the left, an X-ray image depicts a broken femur. On the right, an X-ray shows the femur in place, stabilized by a rod.

Michael would need a rod inserted into his femur using a minimally invasive procedure.

MINIMALLY INVASIVE

A day after Michael’s injury, Dr. Mani placed a rod in the center of his femur to stabilize the fracture. She then repositioned Michael’s patella with a screw, all utilizing a minimally invasive approach.

“His surgery was complicated by the larger muscles he has from all his athletic pursuits,” Dr. Mani says. “But otherwise it was a straightforward and successful femur and patella fracture fixation.”

A few days after surgery, Michael began physical and occupational therapies.

“In the beginning, I had a lot of pain, but it lessened over the following two weeks,” he says. “They discharged me to continue my recovery at home.”

Since then Michael has embraced his recovery the same way he does all his favorite activities: with a focused enthusiasm.

“Dr. Mani says there is no reason I won’t achieve a full recovery if I commit myself,” Michael says. “And then I’ll get back to doing what I love.”