spoke too soon
London sunset at 10pm

Medical Miracle


Above: BEFORE image, taken in March 2006, about a month after my ski accident in Italy. The official diagnosis was delayed-union, complete fracture of the mid-right clavicle.

I have been released from the hospital without so much as a scalpal's scratch.  And all thanks to a suggestion I made to the so-called doctors.

It began on Wednesday afternoon, when a team of doctors and medical students came into my room to discuss the procedure I would undergo.  After the doctor finished his spiel, he asked if I had any questions. Uh, YEAH. Like, am I going to have any pre-op X-rays?  After all, it had been nearly two months since my last set of Xrays. Isn't it possible that I might have new bone growth? 

The doctor looked puzzled. He came over and sat on my bed, fondling my clavicle. He poked and prodded with his thumbs, pushing my clavicle so hard that I was half-expecting a snap sound. He looked even more puzzled. "Strange, the bone seems to be moving in one independent piece just as it should, rather than two separate pieces. Does this hurt?," he asked as he pushed full-force with all his fingers.

No, I answered. It was uncomfortable to be poked but it didn't hurt, per se.

He asked his assistant why I had not been given pre-op Xrays.  The assistant said it was not standard procedure and that is was very unlikely that I would have new bone growth, considering I had shown no sign of regeneation in the previous three months.  In any case, I was wheeled down to radiology that evening and given a new set of xrays.

On Thursday morning about 7am, I was woken up and prepped for surgery.  I was told not to eat breakfast and stand by because I would likely be going under the knife around 10am. Nobody mentioned the results of the Xrays.  I fell back asleep to the sounds of CNN.

Around 9am Thursday, another doctor came into my room, his smiling face beaming. "You're never going to believe this. The most wonderful thing that could have happened has happened."

"Let me guess: My x-rays are positive for new bone growth."

YES!  He practically dragged me out of my bed in my little hospital gown, took me to the nurse's station computer and pulled up the digital images of my xrays.  There were at least a dozen images taken over a course of five months. The first four months of xrays were pretty much identical.

The results of the new Xrays were clear even to the untrained eye: a nice cottonball-like mass of new bone growth enveloping the break of my right clavicle.  Somehow, in the past six weeks, my clavicle has begun to regenerate. 


Above: AFTER IMAGE, taken on Thursday, July 13, five months to the day since my ski accident. The faint white mass around the break is new bone growth!

This is apparently very rare indeed. So rare that the doctor said my case may end up in a medical journal. The doc was as giddy as a schoolboy, practically hopping up and down as he made a copy of the xrays on my memory stick.  Pack your things, you are free to go home.  There would be no surgery because doing so would require rebreaking the new bone growth to attach the plate and screws.

So with that, I left the stuffy hospital and into the bright London summer sunshine. I headed straight for Starbucks and had a proper breakfast. No more hospital food. No more old-people smell.  No more days of boredom. I'm free! Free to play. Free to ski.  Woo hoo!

For now, everything is going well.   I still am not 100% normal. I still have a visible bump on my right shoulder from the jutting bone. Doctors say the knot should become smaller after time. And I'm still not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds with my right arm, so definately no weight-lifting or furniture-moving.  My arm occasionally gets  sore after a long day or if I've slept on my right side, but nowhere near as bad as it was a few months ago.  I have a follow-up appointment with the orthopedic surgeon in two weeks but other than that, I'm good to go. 

I'm still absolutely gobsmacked and shocked that I wasn't given xrays the first day I checked into the hospital. I mean, come on. DUH!  I'm no doctor but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that xrays are the first thing you should do immediately before orthopedic surgery. Thank goodness my surgery was delayed by two days, otherwise they might have cut into me and scarred me for life for no reason at all!  Meanwhile I sat in the hospital for three days at tax payers' expense  I'm finally beginning to understand all the complaints and criticism of Britain's National Health Service (NHS).  Incompetence on top of disorganization. 

Whatever. I'm just glad to get this whole mess behind me.  I've regained my summer holiday and, more importantly, I've regained my shoulder. And I can still proudly say that I've never had surgery in my life.