John's Story

Torrance Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Group
Orthopedic Doctors
Physical, Hand & Aquatic Therapy

Two locations:

23456 Hawthorne Blvd.,
Suite 300
Torrance, CA 90505-4716

El Segundo

Phone: 310-316-6190
Fax: 310-540-7362

John is a 45-year-old U.S. Air Force Major who had surgery to repair extensive hand and wrist fractures. He was evaluated and operated on by Nicholas M. Halikis, MD of Torrance Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Group. Dr. Halikis is a board certified, fellowship trained orthopedic doctor and surgeon specializing in the hand and upper extremity.

John was kind enough to share the details about his experience. In a separate article, Dr. Halikis comments about John's case and other types of hand, wrist, and elbow injuries and conditions. Read on for the full story.

All parts of John's story are anecdotal and not meant to be taken as medical advice. See a doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your health.

What physical activities are you passionate about?
Well, I basically enjoy anything that has an engine and gives you an adrenaline rush. I love flying airplanes, snowmobiling, dirt biking, boating, or operating any motorized vehicle. I rode jet skis in the Persian Gulf and in Okinawa, Japan. I did a lot of diving in Japan and Hawaii. I love to go in a straight line as fast as possible. To get to work I ride a Harley right down the middle of the cars in rush hour on the 405.

Are you also passionate about your lifelong career in the military?
Yes, I'm a Major in the U.S. Air Force and have been serving since 1987. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew that God had given me a gift to fix anything mechanical. My dad told me never to tell anyone these two things: one, that you own a truck, because everyone will want you to move things for them; and two, that you can fix cars, because then suddenly everyone has a tick-tick-tick or bad brakes they want you to fix. I took his advice and put my passion to good use. I wanted to work on aircraft, so I joined the Air Force to do that. My first 15 years I was a fighter jet mechanic. In 2002 I crossed over from being enlisted to being an officer. Since then I've been working with space systems. I've deployed all over the world to both peaceful places and dangerous war zones.

Have you had a lot of injuries while living such a high-risk lifestyle?
Almost none, and I hadn't had any broken bones. I've crashed a lot but have always been able to tuck and roll without getting hurt.

You finally got injured, though. What happened?
I'm the kind of dad who likes to play right alongside my kids. I skateboard and ride scooters with them or whatever they're doing. The night I got injured I was going down a hill on one of their scooters, and the brakes failed. I was approaching a wrought-iron gate at probably about 20 miles an hour. Right before the impact I had to choose between hitting the gate or jumping off the scooter. I decided to take my chances and jump off and tuck and roll. If I had hit the gate it could have caused tremendous injury to my skull, face, ribs, or any part of me. I actually didn't tuck as well as I'd hoped, so when I contacted the concrete both my hands were out. They took the brunt force of my entire body, all 180 pounds at an accelerated rate of speed. The impact shattered the left radius bone on my arm.

It was embarrassing explaining this to my military commander and co-workers because I've deployed to Iraq and Saudi Arabia and other places around the world. I've been in the middle of bomb blasts and rocket attacks, and I drive a motorcycle through L.A. traffic every day. Those are far more dangerous than riding a kids' scooter.

How did you know you needed a doctor?
When I hit the ground, it hurt really, really bad and I was sure my wrist was broken. I went straight to the emergency room. They told me it was broken in one place, and I went to a doctor who saw the x-rays and said the same thing. He put me in a cast for three months. If it had been a simple fracture, I may have healed fine, but it healed crooked and it hurt a lot. Because I'm in the military, I put in a special request to see a civilian doctor, which was granted. I was referred to Dr. Halikis, who found a complicated fracture that wasn't healing right.

What did Dr. Halikis suggest as treatment?
He took a CT scan, which showed that there was a piece of bone out of place. Fixing that required surgery. He was able to remove the bone chip and perform an extensive reconstruction that made my two lower arm bones, the ulna and the radius, line up again like they were supposed to. Getting everything lined up the right way was a great first step. Hand therapy was intense because I wasn't treated correctly the first time, but I'm happy now that I've regained almost 100% function and range of motion back. I wish I'd been able to see Dr. Halikis first, though.

Did Dr. Halikis discuss the risks of surgery with you?
He did. He showed me exactly what he was going to do. I had questions and he answered them all so well, I didn't have any room for doubt.

What was your regular fitness routine before you broke your arm?
When I'm home I run three miles three times a week and do a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. When I'm deployed I tend to work out during all my off-duty time, so I usually come home in great shape. In the military they say you come home from your deployment looking like a hunk or a chunk. In Iraq where bombs were going off all the time, a lot of guys would say, you never know, there may be a rocket attack tonight, so I'll treat myself to some ice cream. After deployment they'd come home 35 pounds heavier. I deeply respect all of my fellow military personnel who bravely serve our country. We all have our own ways of coping in war zones, but I had to learn to stay away from that ice-cream mindset. Since I got injured I'm very grateful that I had good eating and fitness habits beforehand, because I had to take time off from working out and was restricted to just a few types of exercise for a while. At first I could only do some things, like ride a stationary bike and do sit-ups. I was really happy when I could finally get back to running and do push-ups again.

What do you like best about Dr. Halikis?
He is very personable and wants to listen to what you have to say. He wants to get to the root of the problem and help you with it. I wanted to jump to surgery when I saw the x-rays with several breaks, but Dr. Halikis said there wasn't enough information without at least seeing my CT scan results first. He investigated my case really well before recommending surgery. From the beginning I wanted my arm fixed, and I didn't want to live in pain. I trusted Dr. Halikis to help me with that, and I felt confident he was a great doctor. He's been very respectful of me for who I am and what I want to achieve.

He's got a great team with his secretary Linda and physical therapist Janelle. They're totally in sync, and they all worked together to help me. Linda helped navigate through some really tough insurance issues with my health coverage. Janelle was on board with my recovery goals. She was genuinely concerned and asked me every week for feedback. Every time I went there she had a physical therapy regimen that she and Dr. Haliks created just for me. She's really good, and I couldn't have made progress without her. I've also never seen an unhappy patient in their physical therapy facility. They get down in the trenches and make it really fun.

The whole team makes you feel special, so the patients at the practice are not stuck in a one-size-fits-all box. From the receptionist to the physical therapist, to the secretary, to the doctor, it's the complete package.

What advice would you give to people in a similar situation to yours, given everything you've been through?
Definitely go see a specialist. For an injury like mine I would recommend seeing a hand specialist. If it's your knee see a knee specialist, your foot see a foot specialist. Specialists know more about particular parts of the body, and you can't discount that.

What challenges have you overcome?
I've had to accept that if I'd seen Dr. Halikis first, I would have been better off. I've had to learn patience with myself, too. Because I'm a mechanical engineer, I'm used to having stuff work as soon as I fix the parts. Dr. Halikis explained that living tissue and bone respond at a different pace in each person and you have to respect the healing process. You have to set goals and work toward them. I told Janelle that as soon as I could do my first push-up, I'd come straight in and give Dr. Halikis a big hug. I did, and she was there to see it with a big smile on her face.

Nicholas M. Halikis, MD specializes in the non-surgical and surgical treatment of hand and upper extremity orthopedic trauma (sudden injuries) and chronic problems. He is board certified and fellowship trained.

He treats osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, broken bones (fractures), cut or lacerated tendons and nerves, all types of lumps, bumps, and cysts, tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, tendinitis, tendinosis, nerve problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, numbness, tingling, and pain in the arm and hand, infections, and more.

Treatment options include mini joint replacements, scoping, fusions, reconstructive surgery, drainage, steroid injections, PRP injections, hand therapy, physical therapy, splinting, medication, rest, lifestyle modification, and more.

Dr. Halikis has offices in Torrance, CA and he sees patients from all over the Beach Cities area, the Los Angeles area, and the South Bay, including Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, the cities of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Carson, Lomita, Hawthorne, Gardena, Lawndale, El Segundo, and San Pedro.

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