After Crash, California Guy Nearly Lost Legs. An IU Surgeon Saved Them

After crashing his car, Vimal Patel was told he would likely need both legs amputated. He sought a second opinion.

So the California man’s brother-in-law went online and searched for “high speed car crash doctor,” hoping to locate a medical professional who specializes in treating patients who had been hurt in car accidents.

Dr. Brian Mullis, an IU Health orthopedic trauma specialist, immediately comes to mind. Patel and his family called the doctor after hearing about his reputation.

Patel’s life was drastically altered by a phone call he received two summers ago.

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The 47-year-old man from Orange County is walking around with both of his legs, instead of having to consider prosthetics if he were to lose them below the knees. Just much everything he could do before the accident, he can do now. Scars on both feet and a minor limp are the only outward signs of the incident.

Patel and his wife travelled here from California earlier this week for less than 48 hours to spend with his surgeon expressing their gratitude for what he had done.

Patel, sitting in a boardroom at IU Health on Tuesday with Mullis by his side, said, “It meant everything to me because I got my life back, a second opportunity.” If both of my legs were amputated at the same time, I don’t think I could handle life very well.

Patel’s friend stopped by on July 28, 2020 to check out the sleek new gray McLaren he’d brought home approximately two weeks prior. They went on a drive, and Patel now regretfully acknowledges that he was trying to impress him by showing off.

A little faster than I should have, he admitted.

Patel was going about 140 mph when he lost control of his automobile, hit a light pole, and flipped it over on a city street. Patel’s feet took the brunt of the impact, but luckily he and his friend were unharmed.

To Patel’s dismay, his companion looked over at him while they waited for an ambulance and saw a bone protruding from his ankle. Patel went to a neighboring trauma clinic and found out it was a lot worse than he had thought. In medical terms, he had broken both calcaneus (heel bones). Amputation of both Patel’s legs below the knee was his sole option, surgeons in California told him four days later.
Motorcycle crashes, not car crashes, account for a large proportion of similar incidents in the general population. In such cases, patients have two options, according to Mullis: amputation or a long, difficult road to recovery.

We have that talk every week, he said.

When Patel finally came, he did not take kindly to the news he received.

Mullis reassured him that the medical professionals in California had provided sound counsel.
Both Mullis and a plastic surgeon from IU Health were necessary to save Patel’s feet. But things certainly weren’t perfect. The injury to his feet took its time healing at one point. Both leeches and hyperbaric oxygen therapy were recommended by the plastic surgeon.

As Patel recovered, the medical team doted on him like a newborn. Healing started to take place gradually but steadily. However, he admits that there were times he worried he would have to undergo an amputation anyway.

He would say, “I thought this isn’t going to work,” on a daily basis. I thought, “It’s OK, it’s a little better, with each passing day.”

A month and a half later, Patel decided to leave IU Health and return to California via air ambulance. In any case, he faced months of therapy ahead of him.

His time in a wheelchair lasted for a total of three months. In December of the year 2020, he was able to fend for himself. Twenty seconds later, he sat down again.

Even so, Patel claims he is nearly back to normal now that it has been two years.

Besides the arthritis and scars on his feet, Patel exhibits little traces of everything that he has been through. Patel claims to have traveled through jungles, walked on beaches, and even swam in oceans during the course of the past year and a half. Still unable to play basketball due to slow foot movement, he also has problems obtaining properly fitting dress shoes.