Chris Egert was sounding pretty upbeat for someone who just had his foot amputated.
"This is not an end of the world type thing. It's a new beginning," said the morning news anchor for KSTP 5 Eyewitness News.
Three days before, Egert had an operation at Hennepin County Medical Center that amputated the lower part of his left leg about six inches below the knee.
The surgery was what Egert described as "the best of all bad options" to deal with a problematic ankle that had been plaguing the 43-year-old Egert most of his life with pain, infection and mobility problems.
"This was going to be the best chance for me to get some kind of mobility back and some kind of my former life back," he said.
Egert's decision to go ahead with the amputation comes less than three months after another Twin Cities television journalist had to have the lower part of her leg amputated. Fox 9 news reporter Courtney Godfrey lost her left foot after she was thrown off a boat on Sept. 15, and her foot was caught in the boat's propeller.
The same doctor operated on both Godfrey and Egert.
"Kind of a small world," said Egert.
"We have a unique situation that will now bond us," said Godfrey, 31. "The reality we will live from this day forward is very similar."
Egert, who grew up in South Dakota, said he's had problems with sprains and strains to his ankle since he was in 5th or 6th grade. It didn't stop him from playing on his high school and college basketball teams in South Dakota.
But the ankle continued to bother him into adulthood. About 20 years ago, while working at a TV job at Rapid City, S.D.,he had the first in what would turn out to be a total of 10 surgeries to try to fix it.
"I basically had surgeries at every place I've worked: Omaha, Seattle and here. It's been a struggle for my whole life," he said. "I could walk. I had a lot of pain when I walked. I couldn't run. I had absolutely no mobility."
About two years ago, he had the ankle replaced with an artificial joint. In August he had another surgery on the joint, which became infected.
He was faced with the option of having the artificial joint taken out, weeks of antibiotics, a skin graft and using a cadaver bone to try to repair the joint. But there were no guarantees how well that would work. He still faced pain and mobility problems.
He talked to other amputees and decided the day before Thanksgiving that he had more to gain if he had an amputation.
"I was at peace with it by the time we made the decision," he said. He feels lucky that he had a choice — and time to come to terms with it instead of losing his foot to a sudden accident like Godfrey.
"I feel bad even putting us in the same conversation," he said. "Hers was an accident. She didn't get a choice."
Yet he said it was still a shock to wake up after two and a half hours of surgery.
"You can prep and you can plan and you can research. But it was definitely like a holy crap moment when you wake up and see it was gone," Egert said.
Still, he has no regrets. He's already started physical therapy and will be getting a temporary prosthesis and then a permanent replacement.
Godfrey texted Egert the day after his surgery, saying "You are on your way to a pain-free life."
Godfrey's driving again and is learning to walk with her new prosthetic leg. "I'm gaining independence slowly and surely," she said.
Egert is confident he will be more active than he's been for years. His two children, ages 12 and 10, are excited about that.
"They've never known me when I've been a healthy dad, and said 'Let's go for a hike, let's go for a long bike ride, let's play basketball in the driveway,' " he said. "It's going to be hard, but I'm looking forward to getting back to some of my old self."
His multiple surgeries have given him empathy for other people who have had health problems.
"I'm the guy going through the grocery store on that goofy little cart," he said.
He's shared the story of his amputation on Facebook because he and his station management wanted the public to know why he was off the air. He hopes to be back to work in four to six weeks.
"I definitely want to be back before the Super Bowl," he said. "I do have the luxury of sitting on my behind for most of the workday."
Godfrey, who has become an advocate for the amputee community, hopes to be back to work in six months.
She said she and Egert are "still the same journalists, still the same people. We're just short a quarter of a leg."
Richard Chin • 612-673-1775