Thirteen-year-old Mia Useloff is looking forward to her family’s traditional Christmas Eve ritual. The Useloffs celebrate the day shopping at the Wrentham Outlet Mall, where Mia will be on the hunt for a new pair of UGG boots and chocolate treats.
It’s a far cry from Dec. 24, 2014, for this Jewish family. Last year, the four Useloffs gathered in the Boston Children’s Hospital emergency room (ER).
“It was the right place for us,” says Mia’s father, David.
On Dec. 23, Mia had landed wrong while performing a back tuck during cheerleading practice. Her parents treated the injury as a simple ankle sprain and iced and braced it through the night.
The next day they made an appointment with a local doctor in Framingham.
A broken ankle
“He told us it was a bad ankle fracture and was surprised she slept through the night,” recalls David.
The doctor presented the Useloffs with two options: bring Mia to a hospital where a surgeon could set Mia’s ankle while she was under anesthesia or manipulate and cast her ankle and it would probably heal properly.
“As soon as I heard that, I said, ‘We’re going to Boston Children’s Hospital,’” says David.
The family packed up and headed into the city, arriving at Boston Children’s ER at 4 p.m.
“We were wondering how long we might be stuck in the emergency room on Christmas Eve,” says David.
“We arrived to a child-friendly ER, were greeted by staff in elf costumes, and Mia was immediately triaged,” David continues.
The Disney-loving teen tucked into bed and relaxed with familiar shows on the Disney channel.
“We really never waited for anything. The surgeon arrived, looked at Mia’s X-ray and told us she’d put her out to set it. Everything happened in the same triage room,” says David.
A nurse who had heard about Mia’s affinity for Disney and The Lion King, delivered a stuffed Simba cub to Mia. The cheerleader woke up to a full leg cast and was released and home by her 9 p.m. bedtime.
The fracture turned out to be quite severe, and her orthopedic surgeon was concerned because it had occurred on a growth plate.
“Some ankle fractures in growing children can occur in the growth plate of the tibia or fibula. These fractures usually heal without any problems, but occasionally they can cause problems with growth of the ankle after they heal. In these cases, the child may need to be followed by an orthopedist to make sure the ankle is growing properly after the fracture heals,” explains Dr. Dennis Kramer, an orthopedic surgeon with Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center. Kramer is one of the orthopedic surgeons who provided Mia’s follow-up care at Boston Children’s at Waltham.
After Mia’s ankle healed, her doctor took an X-ray, which showed her growth plate had closed.
Mia spent four weeks in the full-leg cast before graduating to a boot cast and then a removable boot. It was tough for her to get around once she returned to school, so her mother, Leslie, coordinated with Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center and arranged for her daughter to have a wheelchair at school.
“I was allowed to choose a friend to wheel me around school, which was fun. But it’s important to make sure the person pushing your wheelchair knows how to steer,” says Mia.
Recovering from a broken ankle
By the beginning of March, Mia was out of her cast and had started physical therapy. The teen was looking forward to wearing heels for her Bat Mitzvah on March 28.
“I was still favoring my other foot and had to settle for blinged-out flats,” says Mia.
Spring break rolled around. The family had planned Mia’s dream vacation — a trip to Walt Disney World.
“She had to walk about five miles a day, and that’s when we could tell she was really healed,” says David.
Over the next few months, Mia returned to tumbling and cheerleading and was selected as a co-captain of her 8th grade Framingham Flyers cheer team less than nine months after her fall.
Looking back on her experience, Mia has a few pieces of advice for other injured athletes.
“Get good physical therapy, do your exercises, and don’t go back to your activities until you’re really ready and your doctor says it’s OK.”
Learn more about Boston Children’s Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinic.