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Two-time Olympic wrestling medalist Rulon Gardner undergoes additional surgery on his foot damaged b



Rulon Gardner, who won two Olympic medals in the sport of Greco-Roman wrestling, underwent successful out-patient surgery on a toe on his right foot which had been initially damaged by frostbite in January 2002. Gardner had the surgery at Mountain View Hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho today. He was operated on by Dr. Tim Thurman and Dr. Gregory West. Dr. Thurman was the doctor who had handled Gardner's care after he was hospitalized with severe frostbite when he was lost during a snowmobile trip and spent night in the mountains in the freezing cold. Gardner had a toe amputated during his recovery from the initial frostbite injuries in 2002. "This is part of the recovery from the frostbite," said Gardner. "This is the last thing that I have to do medically. I plan on making a full recovery." Today, Gardner had scar tissue surgically removed from the second toe on his right foot, which was next to the space left empty by the amputated toe. Also in the procedure today, the second toe was straightened out by the medical team, and a pin was inserted in the toe. A skin graft was placed where the scar tissue was removed. "Because of the soft tissue injury caused by the frostbite, the toe had been pulled over by the scar tissue into the area where the amputated toe had been," said Dr. Thurman. "Because of the frostbite's affect on the joint in the toe, the joint degenerated. The post-frostbite joint problem led to pain for him." According to Dr. Thurman, Gardner will have a pin in his toe for 3-4 weeks. Gardner will have to wear a special shoe in order to walk during his recovery. Doctors will know within about 10 days if the skin graft has taken hold. "Even though it wasn't dramatically painful, there was pain in the toe. When I pushed off the toe to wrestle, I also had a limited range of motion," said Gardner. Dr. Thurman said that Gardner's wrestling on the foot over the last two years was not a cause for the additional surgery. "It was not caused by wrestling, but may have been accelerated by the harshness of his training," said Dr. Thurman. "I would have expected it to develop over time." Gardner won an Olympic gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, defeating previously unbeaten three-time Olympic champion Alexander Karelin of Russia in the finals. He became an international sports hero overnight after his amazing victory. Gardner followed up with a World gold medal in 2001, becoming the first U.S. Greco-Roman wrestler to win both a World and Olympic title. He made a remarkable recovery from the frostbite injury in 2002, and returned to international competition in 2003. After earning a spot on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, Gardner won a bronze medal at the Athens Olympic Games. He retired from the sport after his bronze-medal victory, leaving his shoes on the mat in a traditional wrestling ceremony. Gardner's dramatic recovery from his frostbite continues to amaze people who watched him battle back from the challenge, and return to win a second Olympic medal. "He's been a lucky guy," commented Dr. Thurman on Gardner's amazing comeback.
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