Behind the Glass
For patients seeking treatment at Orthopedic Surgical Partners, Chris Heon often presents the first line of relief. This comes as a welcome surprise to many, as this soft-spoken young man works his magic entirely outside of any operating room. As a certified Orthotist, Chris fashions the bracing and other types of equipment that guide and control the movement of patients’ problem joints.
Often prescribed as an interim step during the weeks prior to a surgical procedure, a properly fitted brace can be remarkably successful in relieving pain and discomfort, and sometimes represents a viable, permanent alternative to surgery. “From time to time, I actually see a patient cry from relief,” says Chris. A recent testimonial from a 71-year old arthritic patient praised him, saying that after he applied her brace “I was able for the first time in years to bend my knee when I walked.” She reported having seen five orthopedic surgeons in the Hartford area during the prior six years, and while surgery had been deemed inappropriate, never had there been any mention of trying a brace.
In fact, Chris has brought a unique advantage to Orthopedic Surgical Partners during his two years on board. Most Orthopedic practices, he explains, do not have certified Orthotists providing expert evaluations and customizing equipment on-site. Consequently, a significant portion of his work involves correcting or replacing ineffective bracing that patients have received elsewhere. “We often see things that don’t work. We spend whatever time it takes with patients to make sure we get it right.”
Chris’s skill and talent in this non-surgical area also helps Orthopedic Surgical Partners fulfill a mission to provide a more comprehensive level of care; to base treatment strategies on what is truly appropriate for the patient, not on what is expedient or profitable for the practice. Some who come in anticipating surgery are elated to discover that there is an effective, non-invasive alternative. Asked what is most striking about these instances, Chris says “It’s the appreciation. They come in with pain, and not in a great mindset. They have been other places and it wears on them. To discover options brightens them”.
Despite being relatively new to the practice, Chris is no stranger to treating people in pain. An early interest in sports and athletic training resulted in his time in school being divided between classwork and tending to athletes injured on the playing field. This eventually led him to pursue a Bachelor’s degree at UCONN in Sports Medicine, followed by graduate work at Southern in Human Performance and Bio Mechanics.
Throughout his education and during a four-year period following his graduation, Chris continued to work as a trainer, tending to the breaks, sprains, and strains of college athletes. An unexpected challenge during that time found him administering CPR to a coach suffering cardiac arrest on the sidelines of a football game, keeping him alive until an ambulance arrived. Apart from this narrowly averted tragedy, Chris enjoyed a broad scope of responsibility for the players, including prevention, evaluation, and treatment of injuries, and rehab. Chris describes the experience as “a good foundation that helps me today. I’m a little different because of that background.” Indeed.
A Connecticut native, Chris resides in North Branford with his wife and two daughters, aged one and four. Although the commute is tough, he finds his workdays enormously gratifying. The surgeons, PAs, and other staff members operate with great respect for one another, he reports, and all are empowered to bring value to the practice.
Chris himself presided over a thorough reorganization of the DME area when he arrived, making things more effective and efficient. Today, by providing a highly valued resource to the organization and bringing an especially high level of skill and training to bear, Chris Heon’s office has become a model for how Orthotics should work within any Orthopedic practice. He estimates that he and others working with him have dispensed close to 2,000 custom braces and other devices this year, a very high number for a practice of their size. His success is making a noticeable difference for patients and word is spreading. “We know what works and we get good feedback,” says Chris.
When asked to summarize his experience working with Orthopedic Surgical Partners, Chris replied with characteristic modesty and understatement: “It’s been rewarding.”