A dancer all her life, Mary Margaret McClellan was familiar with foot pain. She had experienced small injuries before that usually went away on their own. But one day, she realized that she couldn’t point her foot without it cramping— and the pain wasn’t letting up.
“You might not be able to dance the way that you were before, but you can always push yourself to try and get back to where you were. That’s exactly what I did.” – Mary Margaret, Ankle Surgery
Mary Margaret could tell that this time was different. She worried that she would need surgery to correct the problem, but the idea scared her. What if it made the pain worse? What if it changed the way she danced? What if she couldn’t compete?
“Being on stage and competing...that’s always been something that I love to do,” she said. “And I really couldn’t imagine my life without it.”
Mary Margaret didn’t want to have to stop. She couldn’t stop—she had routines to learn and competitions to win.
Fortunately, relief from the pain and the anxiety came from an unexpected source: another dancer’s family.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jason Stewart was no stranger to the dance studio: his daughters danced, too. In fact, the Stewarts and the McClellans had crossed paths many times.
Dr. Stewart knew that dancers sometimes hide injuries and try to perform in spite of them. When he saw Mary Margaret try to dance through the pain, he knew something was wrong.
He understood the fear she had: a surgery could sideline her for weeks, and she’d miss out on competing. But Mary Margaret knew she had to be realistic. Competitions often required hours upon hours of dancing for multiple days in a row. She couldn’t risk letting her team down by trying to ignore the pain.
An x-ray confirmed what Dr. Stewart suspected. Unlike the small aches and pains Mary Margaret had experienced in the past, this problem wasn’t going to go away on its own—but he knew what to do to help her get back in the studio with minimal downtime.
Dr. Stewart chose Arkansas Surgical Hospital for Mary Margaret’s surgery. He was confident that the facility’s low rate of complications and infections meant that she could recover quickly and get back onstage.
As for Mary Margaret, she was surprised—and relieved—that Arkansas Surgical Hospital didn’t feel like a hospital at all. In fact, she found the atmosphere comforting, which helped her feel less intimidated and nervous about her surgery.
Mary Margaret’s advice to other dancers? If your pain is intolerable, get it fixed.
“You might not be able to dance the way that you were before, but you can always push yourself to try and get back to where you were,” she said. “That’s exactly what I did.”
After her recovery, Mary Margaret was able to compete on an international level. She helped Team USA win the gold medal at the International Dance Organization’s World Jazz Championship in Poland.