Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Letter to Roper Hospital

Mr. Matthew Severance
CEO Roper Hospital
316 Calhoun Street
Charleston, SC 29401-1125

Dear Mr. Severance,

On the morning of April 14, 2009, I had my right foot amputated at Roper Hospital by Dr. Blake Ohlson, MD. I had an arthritic ankle and deformed foot as the result of a childhood injury. In recent years it had become quite painful and I had a prior surgery on April 8, 2008, also at Roper by Dr. Ohlson. This did not allow me to have enough function to walk without pain and a limp although I did have less pain than before the surgery. Dr. Ohlson and I discussed this first surgery in detail and knew the outcome might not be optimal, but thought it was worth trying to avoid full ankle fusion that would severely limit my quality of life.

I have been a runner my entire life, it is my passion. After the initial surgery, I could find no evidence that I would ever be able to run or even walk without pain and would face additional surgeries in the future. I could, however, have my foot amputated and get my life – and running – back. It still seems ironic that I had to lose a foot to run again, but the choice was clear to me. You may be familiar with what amputee runners like Oscar Pistorius, “The Blade Runner” can do with no lower legs at all. Given these examples, I made the difficult decision to have my foot removed.

Dr. Ohlson performed the Ertl amputation procedure on my right leg. I was very happy to know he had been trained in this procedure and his mentor, Dr. Lew Schon, MD, is one of the premier orthopedic surgeons in America. I have done research on amputation and tried to be my own best advocate in my health care. I mention this because I tried to be proactive in my journey down this road, relying on myself as much as the ones who helped me at Roper. So knowing I had superb surgeon doing the amputation put my mind at ease.

The main point I want to make is the extraordinary care I did receive at Roper; had I written a script for my amputation it could not have gone any better. The prep-op was thorough and friendly and when I awoke from my surgery I was amazed to be pain free. My foot was gone and I was pain free. Just incredible.

I was taken to the 7th floor because the orthopedic floor was full, but that was no problem for me. The nurses and staff gave me excellent attention and care, I never lacked for anything. The kindness of everyone made me feel very fortunate to be there.

I had planned for this surgery, so I knew what the approximate cost would be (if everything went well) and what I would be personally responsible for. I think our health care quality in general is incredible – I am 56 years old - and I have seen a few changes in my short lifetime already. I have to think had I the care today as when my foot was first broken that I might not have lost the foot at all.

I am currently starting the prosthetic fitting process with Larry Wiley at Floyd Brace. He has put me in touch with Brian Frasure, a Paralympics champion. I expect to be running by this fall if all goes well.

I want to thank you and all employees at Roper Hospital for making this operation a success and for giving me outstanding care. I know it is difficult to remain positive in the face of adversity and I imagine some days are horrid beyond belief at the hospital. But for me, being able to get my life back as a runner has been nothing short of miraculous. So for this patient know how much my life has been changed for the better.

I am overcome with emotion when I think I can run again, and I want to know how much I appreciate each and every person who has made this possible.


Richard W. Blalock


  1. I'm sure they will appreciate this letter. Very nice!

  2. Joan D'AlonzoJune 24, 2009 at 5:34 PM

    Great letter, RB! Hope you're not too frustrated waiting a little longer for your prosthesis than you had hoped. Keep up the good attitude and you'll be running before you know it!