When OU Physicians orthopedic surgeon William Ertl counsels patients who have lost limbs or who face amputation, he lets them know that while life may be different now, it is far from over.
And one patient in particular is his “poster child” for life triumphant: Paralympic medalist Monique Burkland.
Burkland, an Ardmore native, crushed her left foot in a forklift accident at a summer job shortly after she graduated from high school five years ago. Soon after, her leg was amputated below the knee by Ertl, who utilizes specialized surgical techniques pioneered by his grandfather in an effort to provide optimal results for amputees.
Recently, Ertl performed a revision surgery on the limb at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City, removing excess tissue so that her leg would fit better in the prosthetic Burkland uses for walking.
But it’s Burkland’s activities while sitting that have gained her worldwide attention this year. Burkland was a key member of the silver medal-winning U.S. Sitting Volleyball Team at the 2012 Paralympics in London.
“She is such an inspiration,” Ertl said. “I tell my patients they can overcome anything and she has. She is a great patient, a great athlete and a great role model.”
Burkland, 23, had the revision surgery – sometimes called a stump tuck – two days after returning from London with her team. She is a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, where she trains with her Paralympic team.
In high school, Burkland was an all-state softball player and also participated in track and basketball. The 6-foot-tall athlete now plays the middle position in sitting volleyball. She tried out for the team after seeing a brochure while being fitted for a prosthetic.
Burkland said she hopes that other amputees also will pursue their dreams and know that the sky is the limit.
“Just don’t let it get you down,” Burkland advises. “There’s so much ahead of you and you can do anything you want. You just might have to do it in a different way.”
Ertl said his staff was excited when Burkland recently showed them her silver medal. They have been her biggest fans for years.
“It’s good to see someone who has overcome adversity with such a positive attitude,” Ertl said.