AAOS Bulletin - June, 2006

AAOS Sunrise Run raises funds, spirits

By Carolyn Rogers

Trading in their scrub slippers for sneakers, orthopaedic surgeons in town for the AAOS Annual Meeting joined former U.S. Army 1st Lt. Melissa Stockwell, the Iraq War’s first female military amputee, on March 26, 2006, for a Sunrise 5K Run/Walk to help raise funds for orthopaedic research.

AAOS members and their families, nurses, other health professionals and representatives of industry from 27 countries and 42 states participated in the run, which was sponsored by Smith & Nephew—with additional support from gold sponsor, Otto Bock. The 5K/3.1 mile race kicked off at 6 a.m. in Grant Park and followed a scenic loop along Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.

AAOS President Richard F. Kyle, MD (#2), and Past President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD (#1), flank Melissa Stockwell, the first female military (Army) amputee of the Iraq War, before the fund-raising Sunrise Run. Annual Meeting Chair Colin F. Moseley, MD (#3) looks on.

Racers began gathering at 5:30 a.m., saying it felt great to get outside and enjoy the morning with their friends and colleagues, despite the chilly air.

All proceeds from the fund-raiser will benefit research at the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) and the Team Ortho Foundation—a group of orthopaedic surgeons, health professionals, scientists and engineers dedicated to improving the lives of patients through leading-edge research, patient care and education.

Military amputee inspires orthopaedists

More than 200 race participants joined 1st Lt. Stockwell on the Sunrise Fun Run. Stockwell lost her left leg during a routine supply convoy mission to troops outside of Baghdad on April 13, 2004. An improvised explosive device forced her Humvee—which had no doors—to swerve, crushing her leg along a guardrail.

Grateful to be alive, Stockwell feels her injury has given her a greater sense of purpose. She’s become an advocate for assistance in rehabilitating fellow injured soldiers, and is helping to generate funding for research in amputee care.

Although Stockwell knew nothing about prosthetic devices prior to her injury, she is now retired from the Army and studying to become a prosthetist. “I’m amazed at the technology,” she says. “It won’t bring your old leg back. But it allows you to do incredible things.”

Stockwell had always been very physically active, but she competed in her first triathlon this past February, completing all three events—biking, running and swimming.

“As orthopaedic surgeons, we draw our inspiration from people like Melissa, who challenge us to find more innovative ways to restore patients’ quality of life and help prevent debilitating musculoskeletal conditions,” said 2005–2006 AAOS President Stuart L. Weinstein, MD, who served as the official race starter.

Official “last finisher”

Team Ortho races always have an official “last finisher,” according to John Larson, executive director of the Team Ortho Foundation.

And the official last finisher is always a surgeon.

“This reflects the belief of orthopaedic surgeons that ‘we leave no one behind,’” Larson said.

On March 26, Richard S. Laskin, MD—a speed walker—took on the role of official last finisher, making several loops near the end of the course to ensure his placement. This time, though, he was joined by several military surgeons as well.

“Melissa was struggling toward the end,” Larson explained, “so a group of orthopaedic military surgeons joined her on the course, providing her with a ‘military escort’ for the finish.”

In an e-mail to Larson after the race, Col. Edward Arrington, MD, president of the Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons (SOMOS), wrote:

I know you may have been surprised when the “Army guys” went back out to finish with Melissa . . . One of the principles of the U.S. Army is the “Soldier’s Creed,” and to paraphrase, it says: I am an American Soldier. I am . . . a member of a team . . . I will never leave a fallen comrade . . . I am an American Soldier.

She was struggling on the second half of the 5K, and if you could have seen the look on her face when we returned to “support” her and “not leave her behind,” it was priceless.

Team Ortho will organize another Sunrise Run at the SOMOS annual conference in Honolulu this December.

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