It was a slope he knew to avoid, but one his adventurous spirit wouldn’t let him.
“What I love about snow skiing is you’re in complete control of your destiny,” said 74-year-old Marcus Everett. “I got hooked on the speed.”
He was halfway down the mountain in Breckinridge, Colorado, in 2008, a location he’d frequented with cousins since the early 1990s, but an unexpected snowstorm had caused limited visibility on the slopes. Suddenly, a yellow ribbon appeared in front him, warning Everett of the point of no return.
“I turned quickly, hit an ice patch, did two 360s in the air and came down on the side of my right ski boot,” said Everett.
Everett, of Hot Springs Village, passed off his injury as a minor one, a sprain. In reality, he smashed leg bones into his ankle and damaged the joint.
The space between his two leg bones — the tibia and fibula — and his ankle was gone. It created a bone-on-bone rubbing in his lower right leg.
Yet, he marched on, continuing his normal activities. Everett had cultivated an innate connection with running, biking, swimming and skiing. The activities helped the former college basketball player, then in his late 40s and early 50s, return to a healthier, fitter version of himself.
As he got older, when most are slowing down, Everett was just getting started. He completed a couple marathons and triathlons, along with countless 5ks and 10ks.
In 2013, five years after his initial injury, the arthritic pain in his right foot began to nag him more than ever. His physician referred him “to the best,” as Everett recalls it, Ruth Thomas, M.D., UAMS foot and ankle surgeon and professor in the UAMS College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.
It surprised Thomas to learn of Everett’s exploits after looking at his ankle.
“She told me when I was done jogging, running marathons and snow skiing, to call her,” said Everett.
Over the next year, a series of epiphanies let him know it was time.
Everett ran his last 5k in 2013 in Hot Springs, the pain was more than he’d ever experienced. The next year, on another slope in Breckinridge, he had trouble controlling his skis and wrecked.
“I knew it was over,” said Everett. “I got up, put my skis on my shoulder and started walking.”
Befuddled, his cousin asked where he was going; Everett was matter-of-fact.
“I’m going to walk to the bottom of the mountain, catch the bus back to the condo and call Dr. Thomas and tell her I’ve just retired from snow skiing and to put me on the calendar,” Everett recalled.
In September of that year, Thomas performed a total ankle replacement on Everett.
“Mr. Everett was a great candidate for a replacement because he was active, motivated and had good motion in his ankle prior to the procedure,” said Thomas. “The total replacement allows him to keep his motion and return to normal activities without pain.”
Three years removed from the procedure, Everett has no signs of trouble or pain. He’s forbidden from running, playing basketball or any other activities of the like that put significant strain on the ankle, but he’s free to walk, ride a bike and even ski, said Thomas.
Everett has found fulfillment for his need to be active in kayaking, lifting weights and bike riding, and he’s thrilled with the results of his procedure under Thomas’s direction.
“I’ve had very little pain and virtually no problems,” said Everett. “I’m extremely happy with the results.”
However, Everett says he won’t be schussing down any Colorado slopes anytime soon at the behest of his wife, Bunny.
“Dr. Thomas told me as long as I glide down the mountain, I’d have no problem,” Everett said, smiling while pointing to Bunny. “She knows I’m not going to glide.”