Monday, November 9, 2009

Weeks Eight and Nine-A Great Day

Mike, 52, was dribbling down the basketball court  late on a week day night when he tripped over someones foot. Instinctively to break his fall put his hands out. Upon landing he instantly felt a pain in his right arm. Since it was near the end of the game he immediately left the court to go home. He figured although painful it wasn't anything serious and would sleep on it. Over the course of the night the arm started to swell and the pain kept him up. An early morning trip to the emergency room was in order. After examining  the arm and taking an X-ray the doctor had some news.  His arm was broken, however it broke in place and didn't need to be re-set. A simple cast to "baby sit" his arm for 6-8 weeks while it healed was all that was needed.  Mike would look forward to playing again.

Meanwhile in an operating suite in another part of the hospital a surgeon was about to make an 8" incision into my upper thigh with a scalpel, which could pass for an Xacto Blade. As soon as he cut through the skin blood started oozing out which was instantly cleaned up by the assistants with gauze and surgical sponges. He made his way cutting deeper and deeper like an explorer finding his way through a jungle. As the surgeon continued he made sure not to cut any major arteries or nerves. It was necessary to cut through muscles and detach tendons from the thigh bone along the way. Finally  he reached the "Holy Grail", the hip capsule.  As he cut through the capsule senovial fluid was released from it's hopeless chore of trying to lubricate a joint that was bone on bone. Once the capsule was opened and the joint exposed he was ready for the main event.

With the assistants holding my body in place the surgeon placed one hand on my thigh and one behind the knee twisting my leg to dislocate the joint. Now the femur or thigh bone was ready. Without missing a beat the nurse handed him a saw. He quickly started to cut across the bone 3" from the end removing the ball  about the size of a hand ball. Next he was handed a drill and started drilling 4" down into the thigh bone to create a shaft so he could place a stem with a shiny metallic ball at the end that would be the main part of my new hip.  A quick hammering of a cup into my pelvis and the joint was ready to be put back together. Working backwards he sewed up the hip capsule, re-attached the muscles and tendons and eventually worked his way to the opening closing it with 22 distinct snaps of the staple gun.

As I work up about 30 minutes later I realized my body was not happy  being violated.. The morphine drip was no help, my leg swelled up to almost twice it's normal size and within a few days my temperature reached over 102 degrees. Luckily my body became reasonable to the idea and started to return to normal.  Within a week I was home.


Mike had been real busy at work and waited a few days past the eight week mark to have his cast removed on a Saturday. It was eight very long weeks for him without  basketball, his love. After waiting in the office way past the appointment  the physicians assistant finally started to cut with a circular buzz saw along the length of the cast. The PA asked Mike to support the cast from the bottom as he cut through it.  It opened  like an elongated clam shell exposing a pale thin arm. As the PA was finished in his excitement Mike dropped the cast. In a few weeks he could finally play basketball again.

His only thought was this was a great day.

At that very instant as the cast smashed against the floor, I was finishing my bike ride heading to the parking lot where I started  with the group about four hours earlier. For the first time in over two months after 6 or 7 shorter solo rides I felt I could handle the steady pace of the group. As I looked down at my computer while zooming past the entrance to the lot I  noticed I had gone over 50 miles. I immediately raised my arms in triumph like I just won a stage of a major bike race. I was back.

I was a great day.


At this point you realize there is no Mike (well maybe somewhere), no broken bone and certainly no cast falling to the floor. There is however someone who is amazed and appreciative at what science, a good surgeon, and well planned physical therapy can achieve.  50 years ago I would be confined to a wheel chair the rest of my life. Today even after a major surgical violation to my body  I have recovered faster than the garden variety broken bone the neighbor's kid always seems to get.

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