Maria Horner was on her way to a birthday celebration with her adult daughter, but a sudden ice storm on a windy Pennsylvania back road led to a violent car crash, shattered bones, and a mangled right foot. A team of surgeons devised an out-of-the box solution to put Maria back together.

Fifty-one-year-old Maria Horner is a nurse, a mom, and a sports fan who loves weekend games with her family. It all almost came to a crashing halt after a devastating wreck in November 2014.

“My foot actually was off my leg, here, it was laying across the table.” Horner said.

By the time Maria reached a major medical center and was stabilized, orthopedic trauma surgeons didn’t think they could fix her foot.

“If you have a problem with soft tissues that equals infection and amputation every day of the week,” Ivan S. Tarkin, MD, Chief of Orthopedic Trauma Surgery and Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at UPMC explained.

Instead, Maria begged Dr. Tarkin to save her foot.

Horner continued, “I was the nurse that wanted to get back to work. I did not want to be an amputee. I wanted to get back to my lifestyle.”

“With her, we needed to use an out-of-the-box type solution.” Dr. Tarkin stated.

In addition to the partial amputation, Maria’s ankle was shattered. Dr. Tarkin needed to bypass the broken pieces, choosing to try what’s called a retrograde hindfoot nail procedure.

“I put up a rod from the bottom of her heel bone through where the ankle joint was, up into the leg, and then secured that rod with screws on either side,” explained Dr. Tarkin.

A team of plastic surgeons carefully reattached the foot. It took six months, but the bones fused together.

Horner said, “I might be a little bit slower, but I’m still able to go. It’s a miracle, really.”

Alive and back on her own two feet.

Maria is back to working full-time as a nurse. Because the foot is fused, she doesn’t have full range of motion, but says she has very few problems with mobility.