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Hero ER Nurse Practitioner returns to Covid-19 front line days after surgery

A determined ER Nurse Practitioner who returned to work to help care for Covid-19 patients just days after having leg surgery says she was just doing her job.

Carolyn Storck, from New Orleans, LA, worked 12-hour shifts despite being required to keep the weight off her injured leg, so that she could help save lives.

New Orleans was one of the hardest hit cities in the US during the early weeks of the coronavirus outbreak and Carolyn’s story highlights the heroic efforts of people working in the medical profession during the pandemic.

Carolyn, who is a Nurse Practitioner in Emergency Medicine, needed surgery in March after developing chronic Achilles tendinitis, a condition where the tendon that runs down the back of the leg becomes irritated and inflamed. She also had a Haglund’s deformity, which is a painful enlargement on the back of the heel.

It can take up to eight weeks to recover from the surgery, but with Covid-19 rapidly spreading across the city and the number of critically ill patients being admitted to hospital soaring, Carolyn knew that even though she was in recovery, she couldn’t bear the thought of staying at home. By the end of March New Orleans had a per-capita death rate twice that of New York City and hospitals were being inundated with people needing intensive care. Carolyn needed to help.

She explains: “The prospect of being non-weight bearing, in the midst of a virus outbreak, when hospitals were caring for more and more patients, was unthinkable. I am considered essential personnel and my presence during this pandemic was absolutely critical but there was no way that I could work using crutches.”

Then Carolyn’s Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr Sara Galli, suggested something that might help her – a hands-free crutch called an iWALK2.0, which functions like a temporary lower leg. She explained that the device had worked well for previous patients.

Carolyn says: “Dr Galli said it would increase my mobility and get me back to work faster. I didn’t even have time to try it out before surgery – I got out of my car after being discharged from hospital, strapped it on and walked into the house.”

Just 12 days after the operation, Carolyn was not only back on her feet, she returned to the Covid-19 front line working long shifts at two Emergency Departments in the New Orleans area – the New Orleans VA Medical Center and the Ochsner Medical Center.

She says: “I was able to comfortably work 12-hour shifts. Being hands-free, it allowed me to put on personal protective equipment and did not hamper my care of patients. I was regularly walking from the ED to the outside screening tents without difficulty. After a long shift, it also allowed me to carry a glass of wine!”

Brad Hunter, President of iWALKFree, Inc, says: “Carolyn is a true hero and epitomizes the strength and determination of the people working on the front line in the fight against coronavirus. We are extremely pleased that our hands-free crutch allowed her to get back to the Emergency Department after surgery and to care for her patients confidently and safely at this critical time.”  

Read more testimonials from doctors and physicians here.