A walking miracle – William McCraney, orthopedic trauma patient success story at Methodist Dallas
The paramedics still remember the accident more than two years ago, when they found nursing student William McCraney and his destroyed motorcycle on the side of northbound Interstate 35 – and 6 inches of his tibia on the other side.
“Basically, when you looked down at his left leg, you saw his kneecap and his foot,” says Usha Mani, MD. “Everything else was gone.”
McCraney was taken by CareFlite to Methodist Dallas Medical Center, where Dr. Mani, independently practicing orthopedic traumatologist on the hospital’s medical staff, was called in to see if McCraney’s leg could be saved.
When she saw that McCraney could move his toes, it was a sign that nerves could be reconnected and limb salvage could be attempted. One of only a few doctors performing distraction osteogenesis (bone regeneration) in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, Dr. Mani says it’s common to grow back an inch or so of bone; 6 inches is rare.
“A bad injury does not always equal a bad result,” Dr. Mani says. “You don’t throw in the towel, and you don’t give up.”
And so began the long, unpredictable journey to regrow McCraney’s leg.
Healing inch by inch
A week was needed to completely purge the limb of all impurities. Then, the severe wound had to be covered with new, thriving muscle and skin. Jeffrey Hopkins, MD, DDS, independently practicing plastic and reconstructive surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Charlton Medical Center, performed the grafting procedure.
It was McCraney himself who performed the most important stage of his treatment.
“You have to have someone who’s totally involved,” Dr. Mani says. “He certainly was.”
Dr. Mani had placed a frame of rings connected by collapsible struts around McCraney’s leg. Tiny wires were run through his leg, connecting it to the rings of the frame to help with alignment. Right below the knee, at the top of what little tibia bone was remaining, Dr. Mani made a fresh break.
“Rings of bone form on top of the freshly broken bone, which slides down the rod,” Dr. Mani explains. Each day, twice a day, McCraney turned the struts a half-millimeter, slowly pulling the new bone down his leg. “He cleaned the pin sites every day. He adjusted the struts himself. He actively lengthened his leg. He did it.”
Dr. Mani calls McCraney’s strong faith and steadfast resolve “kind of magical.” Throughout most of his treatment, he continued nursing school, using a wheelchair to get around campus.
A future within reach
Flash forward to today, and McCraney, now 27, is engaged to the girlfriend who was by his side throughout his recovery. He’s also close to finishing his nursing degree, thanks to friends who helped him get to and from class each day.
“Dr. Mani gave me hope,” he says. “As a nurse, I’d love to be able to do that for a patient one day.”
Best of all, McCraney is completely out of a wheelchair and off his crutches. He still has some healing to do, but he has his life and his leg and a positive outlook.
“I just feel blessed to have my leg,” he says. “Not everyone gets to say they witnessed a miracle, let alone be the one to have the miracle happen to them.”