For those of you following the saga of my broken leg, I have an update for you.
It 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.
This 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.
My 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.
We 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.
Okay, 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.
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…