That’s a big relief!

For those of you following the saga of my broken leg, I have an update for you.

medical-errors-cartoonIt has been 15 months since I broke my leg.

It happened on the first day of our vacation in Rome.  I have tried not to be critical of the healthcare I received in Italy, but, honestly, there were a few problems.  And, contrary to what some of you have suggested, my biggest problem was NOT a lack of internet access.  However, I won’t bore you with that.

The break was fixed with a rod inserted inside my tibia and held in place with two sets of screws.  Unfortunately, the screws were not positioned properly and for six months, the edges of the broken bone were held too far apart by the rod to heal.

The solution?  Remove one set of screws, so the bone edges could come closer together.  We did that in April 2013.  In the recovery room, I asked my doc if I needed to take any special precautions.  “No.  Use it.  Abuse it.  No problems,” he said.

It didn’t work out that way.

The rod was too long and the gap between my broken bone was still too great to allow the bone edges to come together.  Further, with the screws gone, the bone was no longer held in place.  I could no longer walk without crutches.

second-opinion-cartoonThis produced an interesting problem.  With every step, my weight went into the rod, which was bolted to the upper part of my leg.  Since the bone edges still weren’t touching, the rod ground it’s way down through the inside of my tibia.  In June, when looking at the x-rays, I noticed the rod was about to break through into my ankle joint.

The solution?  I changed doctors.

I spoke with several physicans about what to do when we have a non-union after so much time.  Most of them suggested the entire operation be redone.  This time, they would take out the rod, use a ‘scratcher’ inside my leg bone to make it bleed, and then put in a bigger rod.  I really didn’t want to do that again.

ist2_4605577-cartoon-doctorMy new doctor suggested that instead of redoing everything, we might try removing the last set of screws (the one that holds the rod tight to leg bone above the break.  He said the tibia in that region is softer than the ankle, and the rod will be able to move up toward the knee instead of down into the ankle.  I agreed and in July, we removed the last of the screws.

In October we did more x-rays.  To my relief, the rod was no longer moving downward.  To my disappointment, the bone edges, although now in good proximity to each other, were not showing signs of bone growth.  Admittedly, until July, the bones were never close enough to have done much.  However, in three months, we should have seen something.  To make things worse, I actually have a ‘butterfly fracture’ which involves more separation of the bones and is much harder to heal.

1787890-71808-set-of-different-radiation-signs-over-whiteWe agreed to give it another three months.  During that time, I asked for a ‘bone stimulator’.  This device uses electrical pulses and magnetic fields to wake up your body and get it to start generating bone matter.  (I’m glad I don’t plan on fathering any more children.)  My doc wrote the prescription and my insurance paid for it.

In the last three months, I used it every day.  I have also been walking on Marge’s new treadmill to further stimulate the bone growth.

Today was the big day.  Would the x-rays show that my bones were finally healing?  Or was it time to admit failure and schedule the surgery?

The answer is:  bone growth demonstrated.  No surgery needed.  Keep doing what you’re doing, he said.  Come back in 4 months.  Stay away from doctors in the meanwhile.

Mission AccomplishedOkay, okay.  Don’t give me a hard time for saying, “Mission Accomplished.”  I know it ain’t.  But it feels like I just passed a big hurdle and from now on, it’s much smaller steps.

Big Day.

Big Relief.

For those of you who have put up with me (and still have a few more months of having to do so), I thank you…


19 thoughts on “That’s a big relief!”

  1. That is outstanding news Steve. You should get some sort of certificate for patience and tenacity without harming others! Perhaps Your sense of curiosity and ability to solve problems has paid off!

    1. I am not sure it counts (my not having harmed anyone) if it’s because my top speed for the last 15 months is only 1.2 MPH. If it lasts much longer, people will think I am a Tai Chai master. 🙂

  2. Great news, Steve. Hope when you see the Doc in 4 months it will be completely healed. But until then, stay off the ice, and don’t throw away those crutches.


    1. Yeah, I am holding onto the crutches. I hope I don’t hurt their feelings, but I hope they never do anything except sit in the corner and accumulate an ever-thicker layer of dust.

  3. So, this greying neophyte author walks into a bar…. not literally, since he is still recovering from his last bus ride. Kidding aside, brother, that is awesome news! Master Po says “When you can snatch the crutches from my hand Grasshopper, it is time to go…”

  4. Steve: I could have solved this problem after you return from Rome – come to my hospital- an institution that practices real medicine and has a competent ortho dept; The University of Michigan. I realize it’s a distance, but it would have been worth it. You would have had plenty of friends to stay with and just think of the wine we would have all enjoyed sharing with you. Pleased to know that things are getting better and you will not be spending your life in a wheelchair. I always believed the Italians could only do one thing right – make great Italian food and wine. :0)

    1. I wish I had talked to you before I left for Rome, Debra. I am looking into carrying a new insurance policy called MedJet, which would allow me to fly back from anywhere to a hospital of my choice back in the USA. Wish I’d had the policy last year.

  5. Thanks for the update … I’d wondered how you were doing and am so glad the news is finally good! Thanks too for the reference to MedJet. Something else to consider before our trip to Mexico.

  6. Maybe Marge could get creative and produce a “crutch sculpture”. Spray paint and a little “bling” could produce a masterpiece.. Seriously I’m glad things are improving. No snow or ice in Fort Lauderdale.

  7. Glad to hear it, Steve! The best thing you could have done was to change doctors! Stay cool! (I guess I should say, “Stay Warm”, ’cause your bone won’t grow if the leg gets cold.)
    This message was brought to you from Nanette of the North.

  8. Glad to hear that after all this time you are on the mend. I know you have probably lost all faith in Doctors, but hang in there, there are still a few around that actually know what they are doing. The secret is finding them.

  9. My goodness, Steve. What a story! Were these American doctors who did all this stuff to you? I would say I don’t feel so badly now about my being a nag and a hard nose when it comes to deciding which doctor anyone in my family will see for whatever reason. I really stress that with them. Really, folks, check the background of the docs, and insist your family doctor be straight with you about which doctor should fix your problems when he can’t. This misplaced loyalty our doctors and even nurses have for their colleagues really gets me mad. If I ask my doctor “who’s the best?” I expect him to tell me. Believe me a good doctor will know who is the best surgeon, cancer doc, bone man, etc. They know. I do hope this is the “light at the end of the tunnel” for you. My husband walked around for 2 1/2 years with a rod from his knee down to his ankle. It was inserted when Dr. Leland Swenson repaired the bone that had been shattered in pieces and a doctor up north initially set it incorrectly. Tom’s mom knew it was not right and so she took him Dr. Swenson. He strung the bones on the rod. Saved Tom’s leg and allowed him full, normal use of it. Old Doc Swenson, he was called around Muskegon. Passed on now, but a fabulous doctor. So glad you are finally getting somewhere….literally, dear friend.

    1. The first doctor was in Italy. I didn’t mention they turned my simple fracture into a compound fracture in the hospital ER. During surgery, they broke the bone again and created a butterfly fracture. The second doctor and third docs were in the USA.

      Some problems came doing things differently in Italy – my USA doctor didn’t even have the right tools to remove the screws from my ankle. Plus, by removing the screws from my ankle instead of the upper leg (which is what they do in Italy), he would have avoided the problem with the too-long rod that was then free to grind its way to my ankle.

      Oh, well…

  10. If “Italian Military Victories” is the world’s shortest book, then “Italian Orthopaedic Advances” must be its nearest rival. Let’s all thank our stars that it wasn’t a skull fracture.

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