Ron Otradovec’s life drastically changed when an 1,800-pound piece of steel fell and hit his leg.
A steelworker since he was 20 years old with a few years serving in the Army, Otradovec is a seasoned veteran when it comes to handling the immense materials at a steel shop in the Springfield area. But, on May 30, 2018, something horrific happened.
Otradovec said he’s not sure how the 1,800-pound die fell, but he remembers hearing the bolts break. The piece fell about five feet and hit him before ricocheting into a pit.
“Immediately, I guess I was in shock,” Otradovec said. “I was laying over a pit. This (left) leg was laying straight like it should. This (right) leg was dangling down in the pit, so I had to pick it up and set it. I figured out real quick that something was wrong.”
His wife of 43 years, Brenda, was at work when one of her husband’s co-workers called to tell her that Otradovec’s leg was broken and she needed to come to the hospital. When she arrived, Brenda Otradovec said her husband was complaining about the stretcher and being thirsty more than his busted leg.
“He just looked at me and said ‘Do I have a leg?’” Brenda Otradovec recounted. She remembered telling him: “‘Yep, you have a leg and it looks pretty ugly, but I got you. From this moment forward, positive thoughts. No negativity. God will take care of us.'”
Doctors used a titanium rod, plates and screws to put Ron Otradovec’s leg back together. He also had to have a skin graft, which transplants skin from one area of the body to another.
“The skin graft hurt more than the leg injury,” Ron Otradovec said. “It doesn’t look like it, but, God, I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”
When he was finally able to go home after about two months in the hospital and rehabilitation centers, Ron Otradovec said his leg had limited range of motion.
“I couldn’t even get my leg straight,” he said. “I was in a wheelchair. It wasn’t a lot of fun.”
About nine months ago, Ron Otradovec was asked if he would like to try a new treatment that would help his mobility.
“When they said they were going to do this laser procedure, I don’t think they got a sentence out their mouth before Ron said, ‘All right, let’s try it. Let’s do it,'” Brenda Otradovec said.
The treatment is called Fractional CO2 Laser Therapy. Through donations from a burn foundation, Mercy Hospital was able to purchase the laser machine, said Dr. Krisi Causa, Mercy trauma and critical care surgeon.
“The CO2 creates new wounds basically in the old wound beds that have healed in order for the collagen to heal and reform and to get rid of the scar tissue,” Causa said. “Best way to explain it is if you have a perfect picket fence. You have something that damages it and you have a five-year-old try to go ahead and place the pickets back up, so they’re all crisscross.”
The therapy creates new holes and helps the collagen re-heal. This leads to scar tissue returning to skin color, increases mobility and overall helps improve a patient’s morale and quality of life, Causa said.
“This came along and has basically revolutionized the way we treat these scars by enabling them to have a less invasive way to treat them,” Causa said.
Ron Otradovec said his life has changed again. Because of the treatment, he said he’s now able to plant in his garden and has an easier time playing with his grandchildren.
“The more we progressed, I can pretty well do what I want now,” Otradovec said.
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During a session Wednesday at Mercy’s Fremont Clinic, Ron Otradovec was given an anesthetic cream to numb his scar. Wearing safety glasses and face masks, Causa began the 20-minute laser treatment with medical assistant Valerie Massey vacuuming up skin cells. Ron Otradovec described the pain as like bee stings.
With one more treatment left, the Otradovecs are feeling thankful.
“It’s a miracle,” Ron Otradovec said. “We’ve come this far and I was able to keep this leg. In the ’90s, I would have lost it and that’s not that long ago.”
Humor has helped them through all of this.
“He’s not going to wear his Speedo anymore, we decided,” Brenda Otradovec joked. “That took care of that.”
Causa said there’s no time limit for scars to be treated and insurance will often cover it. She hopes people suffering from their own scars will have relief.
Approximately 20 patients have been treated with the laser so far, according to Mercy Communications Manager Sonya Kullman.
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