Friday, July 2, 2010

Deceived with Surgical Precision

I had my final visit with the orthopedic surgeon yesterday. Each visit revealed a little more truth regarding my recovery from a broken ankle.

First visit (pre-surgery)

Doctor: "Your ankle is broken in three places. We can put it in a cast without surgery, but you'll most likely develop arthritis at some point.  I recommend surgical repair with the insertion of a metal plate and screws to pull everything together. You're young...blah, blah, blah...and we want to keep you that way" (My husband was in the room and says there was "and active" in the middle of that sentence, but I had heard all I needed. The surgery was going to keep me young.)

Me: "Okay. Surgery it is."

Second visit (post-surgery)

Doctor:  "Everything looks good. The bones all came together nicely. Sometimes the metal plate bothers the patient and they choose to have it removed after six months."

Me:  "No way in hell is that gonna happen."   (Well, that's what I was thinking.)
Third visit

Doctor:  "Everything is looking good." (No idle chit-chat; he's a busy man.)

Me (As he's escaping out the door):  "So when can I expect the swelling to go down?"

Doctor (no doubt thinking, "Damn! I almost made it out the door"):  "I cut my thumb about twenty years ago. It still swells, but I'm the only one who can really tell. Your ankle will probably be the same. It might swell the rest of your life, but most likely you'll be the only one who notices." (For once in my life, it isn't about my vanity. It hurts when it swells.)

Me: "Oh."

Final visit

Doctor:  The x-rays look good. Your ankle will probably never be as good as before, but if it gives you any trouble call me. You might feel pain when the weather changes. And because you have small ankles, you might find that the hardware bothers you. Some people choose to have it removed six months after surgery." (Sorry doc, you'll have to pay for your own vacation home. I can't imagine a scenario where I'll willingly undergo more surgery.)

Me:   "What about the swelling? How long until it goes down more?"

Doctor: "That's probably the best it's going to get."

Me:  "What about the numbness on the top of my foot? When can I expect  that to get better?"

Doctor (doubling back from the hallway):  "When we cut through nerves, sometimes they grow back together.  Sometimes they don't.  You'll know within six to nine months."

Me:  (Frankly, I was too stunned to speak.  Besides, the doctor was already down the hall dictating his notes for my chart.)

What happened to my arthritis-free, active, youthful happy ending???  Seriously, I like my surgeon and he's really good at what he does, which I'm sure is why he's so busy.  But I guess at my first visit I should have barricaded the door and asked more questions.  I don't like unpleasant surprises.

So three months after my fall down the stairs, I've learned these truths: I will probably never recover full use of my ankle, I'll have swelling for the remainder of my life, my foot will most likely stay numb forever, and I now have the ability to forecast the weather.  And I'm still three months older.  So much for staying young.

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