Greg Johnson poses on pickleball court

Greg Johnson looks forward to continuing his athletic craft after seeking help at LLUH

Athlete Greg Johnson became riddled with injuries, pausing his athletic career. Surgeries at other facilities left his leg still injured until Johnson sought help from Loma Linda University Health’s, Thomas Donaldson, MD, department chair of orthopaedic surgery. His positive experience with Donaldson led him back to Loma Linda University Health when another accident occurred.

Johnson, 63, didn’t just play sports for fun. He’s a tennis bronze medalist for the United States in the Huntsman World Senior Games, and he was determined to get the gold. In one surgery, Donaldson successfully executed what other facilities had attempted five times.

“Dr. Donaldson is a freak of nature. He is so casual about the miracles he performs, and I love it.”

Greg Johnson

Happy with the results from the surgery, and ready to get back on the court, Johnson began coaching, playing pickleball, and creating the dynasty of GK Pickleball Academy. After moving to Lake Arrowhead, a trip to the lake reworked his fate yet again.

A slip in footing while securing the boat caused Johnson’s femur to snap in half. Johnson was stuck in the water with a snapped leg and no one could help him. Finally, Johnson found his way to the dock, and bystanders helped him out of the water to be airlifted back to the hospital.

The trauma team immediately and successfully treated his fracture. Johnson later visited a physical therapist regularly when he noticed his leg bowing out. He was uneasy about this gradual effect and went to see Donaldson, with whom he already had a good rapport. Donaldson sought a consult from Brian Schneiderman, MD, after seeing this was a cold trauma.

What is cold trauma?

Hot traumas follow an event when the patient needs immediate attention. But cold trauma refers to the management of a patient’s fractures at a later time after the initial injury — sometimes days or even years. Schneiderman routinely sees patients in the clinic for further management after their fracture has been splinted or cast by an urgent care or another facility. These patients can be treated on a time-sensitive but non-emergent basis.

Johnson’s femur began bowing out because of what’s called a nonunion, which is the body’s inability to heal a fracture. Bone needs stress or force to be applied for it to get stronger, and Schneiderman saw that Johnson’s bone needed a different environment to heal.

“It may not heal if it is exposed to either too little or too much force,” Schneiderman says. “There is a sweet spot so to speak, and it’s up to us as orthopaedic traumatologists to find it.”

With the guidance provided by Schneiderman, Donaldson repaired the nonunion and modulated the stability provided to the fracture.

“On February 1, Dr. Donaldson came in a performed a Donaldson miracle as usual,” Johnson says.

For the first time since June 2021, Johnson can walk without crutches and now has a perfectly straight and strong leg. He says the support from Donaldson and other faculty allows him to ecstatically look forward to stepping on the court once again.

“He can soon put this injury in the past,” Schneiderman says. “We are all optimistic that this will be the last procedure he needs.”

The central goal of the cold trauma team is to facilitate their patient’s return to function and a better quality of life. Our team of orthopaedic trauma surgeons is ready when you need fracture and trauma care. Learn more about the team and services.