Zach - Orthopaedic Trauma Program

Zach playing baseball

Zach LeJeune was nine years old and out riding quads with his family one August afternoon near their home in Bethel Park, Pa. At one point, he took a turn and the quad flipped and landed on his leg. He knew right away that it was broken and was in “the worst pain he had ever felt.”

Zach's x-ray of his broken legThe family took Zach to the nearest Emergency Department (ED) at Washington Hospital where they took x-rays of his leg. Due to the extent of the injury to his femur, the decision was made to transfer him via ambulance to UPMC Children’s Hospital for further treatment and surgery.

Zach was taken to the Trauma Unit in the UPMC Children’s Hospital ED. Fortunately, Children’s ED is always staffed with a member of Children’s Orthopaedic Trauma Team so that he had immediate access to an expert in pediatric orthopaedic fractures and breaks.

In the Trauma Unit, they conducted more imaging to get a clearer picture of Zach’s injury. They also conducted an MRI and followed their protocol to check that he didn’t sustain injuries elsewhere that needed immediate attention. He was put in a full leg brace along with a neck brace as a precautionary measure. They were sent from the Trauma Unit to an individual room for the night while they awaited MRI results and next steps.

“During that time, the entire Children’s staff was so good to us,” said Zach’s mother, Chrissy. “The Trauma Unit is pretty intimidating – it was scary for our whole family and there was a lot to take in. But [the staff] was great about keeping Zach as comfortable as possible. Even the staff who came in to make sure we were good and to distract him and keep him calm. Because he was treated so well, it made it easier for us, as parents, to stay calm. The entire team was so meticulous, making sure to give him a thorough evaluation to figure out exactly what was wrong and not just decide things too quickly. It was easy to feel confident in what was happening. We never doubted that.”

Zach in physical therapy stretching his legThe next day, Zach and his family were able to proceed with his surgery with Z. Deniz Olgun, MD, double-fellowship trained orthopaedic surgeon and director of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Trauma Program at UPMC Children’s.

Chrissy says that the surgical team was really great about prepping both Zach and his parents about what to expect prior to and following his surgery.

Zach’s surgery took about 2 hours. Dr. Olgun went in to repair his femur with titanium flexible nails. This would allow his bone to continue growing while holding it in place for it to heal properly and his pain to be relieved.

After surgery, Zach’s parents met with Dr. Olgun to discuss how it went and what the next steps were.

“Dr. Olgun’s first impression on us was truly out of this world,” said Chrissy. “She came out and spent an extensive amount of time with me and my husband, explaining in detail what she thought Zach’s healing process might look like, what to expect. What was most impressive was how much time she spent. She could have come out and summed [the surgery] up in a few sentences and been on her way. But instead, she sat down and walked us through it all. She could tell we were worried – as any parent would be – and she met us with kindness and reassurance. That really mattered to us. We knew Zach was in the best hands.”

Zach in a wheelchairTwo days later, Zach was released from the hospital to begin his rehabilitation journey. The MRI determined he had fluid on his spinal vertebrae, so he had to wear a neck brace for a month in addition to his full leg brace.

Zach used a wheelchair for a short time before beginning to use crutches to get around for about three weeks, and then eventually being about to walk without the crutches. He immediately began physical therapy twice a week for three months following surgery to work on his leg mobility and range of motion.

Zach returned to Children’s about every two to four weeks for the first six months after surgery to meet with Dr. Olgun and monitor that his leg was healing properly.

“Because we went back so frequently during that time, Dr. Olgun got to know him as a person, not just another patient. That was a really comforting thing as a parent,” said Chrissy.

Zach and a nurse“We got to see her every time and the whole office staff got to know Zach very well. He is a very active kid and is really into baseball. Dr. Olgun knew that and knew that it was his goal to get back to playing as soon as possible. She really kept that in mind every time we saw her.”

Six months after surgery, Zach was able to have a second surgery to remove the rods from his leg. And about eight weeks after that surgery, Dr. Olgun cleared Zach to return to baseball.

“The very next day, Zach went and played in a baseball tournament,” said Chrissy. “He did great, he was able to play the whole game, run.”

Since then, Zach, who is now in 6th grade and plays outfield on his travel baseball team, has been back to all of his activities as normal.

According to his mom: “Sitting still was really hard for him. He goes full force all the time. He did not let this injury slow him down for long.”

The LeJeunes are thankful for Dr. Olgun and her team who helped get Zach get back to doing what he loves.

“We feel very confident in all of the treatment and care that Children’s can provide,” said Chrissy. “Considering the circumstances, we were treated with so much care and kindness. From Day 1, Dr. Olgun was so positive, so reassuring, and so kind. We can’t thank her enough.”

Zach’s treatment and results may not be representative of similar cases.