Orthopaedics program

London Health Sciences Centre provides orthopaedic care to the people of Southwestern Ontario. The care extends from sport medicine and joint replacement, to treating trauma patients who come into the Emergency Department. Education and outreach into the community through injury prevention programs are also a large component of the program. With a large multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic and sport medicine surgeons, along with clinical nurse practitioners, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and social workers, the orthopaedics program at LHSC is a leader in patient care.

Bob Easterbrook with son Jesse. Bob is now repairing the 1977 Harley Davidson damaged in a collision that nearly cost him his life.

Life After
Near Death

Bob Easterbrook remembers seeing the oncoming car swerve in front of him and the ditch suddenly appearing. After that he remembers nothing.

"I just went out for an evening ride after a sunny day. That plan changed quickly," Bob says. The next four weeks he spent recovering in intensive care after being thrown off of his 1977 Harley are moments he cannot remember to this day.

On June 11, 2005 Bob was hit by an oncoming vehicle on Highway 2 while riding into London at a speed of 80 km/h. Bob would spend the next seven months in and out of hospital, undergoing 15 surgeries, both to save his life and to repair broken bones.

Dr. David Sanders, orthopaedic surgeon, has been caring for Bob since Bob's arrival at the former Emergency Department at South Street Hospital on the final night it was open.

Bob's injuries were extensive.

There were fractures—the left femur, right femur, right tibia plateau, left wrist, left compound tibia, pelvis and spinal column, and tears to an artery and the small bowel. Bob's kidneys had stopped functioning and a lung had collapsed.

"Bob was in shock and barely conscious," Dr. Sanders remembers. Bob was takeninto surgery immediately.

Bob's wife Kelly was called by police at home on their farm moments after the accident.

"I remember driving to London with my dad and not being able to turn down Highway 2. It hit me then that it was closed because of the accident. I knew then thatit was bad," says Kelly.

Kelly and Bob's extended family were at the hospital within moments of his emergency arrival, and kept an ongoing vigil for weeks.

"Every time I opened my eyes, I remember seeing someone there," Bob says.

At South Street Hospital, Bob underwent the first emergency surgery to deal with the collapsed lung, artery and small bowel tears, and pin all of his leg bones. Bob was then transferred to Victoria Hospital, where he underwent 15 surgeries over the next seven weeks, including the eventual disarticulation-amputation of his right leg up to the hip.

"The fact that he made it through this many surgeries is a success story,...but Bob has an entirely different measure of success. His is based on the simple fact that he is still here enjoying his son, wife and family. That is his measure," says Sanders.

The family didn't bring Bob's son Jesse, 4, to the hospital at first, waiting until Bob was fully conscious and alert. On his first visit, Jesse didn't recognize his dad. The once burly and strong Bob, who play-wrestled with Jesse and showed him how to repair and care for cars, was gone. In his place was a beardless man, 50 pounds lighter, who at that point didn't have the strength to pick up a cup of water.

"Jesse stood beside Kelly in the doorway holding her hand. He just didn't know me," Bob remembers.

Reassured by his mother and grandmother that this was his dad, Jesse cautiously approached the bed. When Bob started to talk to him, Jesse was convinced. He jumped up on the bed and threw his arms around his dad.

"Once he was sure it was me then everything was cool," says Bob.

The long recovery in hospital and lengthy rehabilitation was made easier, Bob feels, because he had the support of his family. "The love of the people I have around me is what has gotten me through," he says.

After multiple surgeries on Bob's right hip to combat an ongoing infection, Dr. Sanders and Bob made the decision to amputate. Bob's trust of and respect for Dr. Sanders, who had been by his side since the beginning, has helped Bob keep a positive attitude despite the odds.

Now in a wheelchair and a partially accessible new home, Bob is busy working on cars and fixing up the '77 Harley damaged in the crash. Jesse can tell anyone listening what an accessible building is, and scolds those (including his grandmother) who don't yet have these accommodations in their homes.

Bob sees Dr. Sanders regularly and continues to work with a physiotherapist on his recovery.

"What Bob has gone through would challenge any human being's spirit. The fact that he can remain positive during a time period that would depress you and I, is truly amazing," says Dr. Sanders.

Bob doesn't see his recovery as remarkable. He simply says, "I just get up and get on with life. It's what you have to do."

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