Monday, June 18, 2018

Walking on Broken Bones

The conversation went like this:

Doctor: "So, Ross, how's the foot feeling?"

Me: "It's getting much worse. It feels like I'm walking on a broken foot."

Doctor: "Well, in a sense, you are. Let's take a look at the scans... ."

The nurse who admitted me to the examining room, for this appointment, had already inserted the CD in the disc drive. I had brought the CD with me, from the Smiths Falls hospital, where a couple of months ago I had had CT scans on both feet.

The doctor opened a program that showed a clear black and white image of both feet. He rotated and zoomed in on the images to get a better look of the left foot. "No wonder your foot feels like it's broken. It really is broken."

He zoomed in on the area where I'm experiencing the most pain, where the foot clicks and crackles, like I'm walking on egg shells with every step. An actual piece of bone appeared suspended above the other bones that were still attached to one another. It was clear that this piece had broken free from the arthritic mass on the top of my foot.

The solution is clear: surgery.

The doctor continued examining the images of my foot, layer by layer, zooming in on some areas, rotating others to gain a new vantage. Because the arthritis is so extensive, he told me that it won't be an easy surgery. He will most likely require extra bone material to fix it, most likely taken from my shin. Another place to extract bone would be the hip, but he's reluctant because he knows that the pain, afterwards, is substantial.

I've had bone taken out of my hip before, and let me assure you: it hurts. A lot. The first time that the orderlies and nurses moved me, shortly after my first foot surgery, they tried to get me to sit up. The pain was so intense that I projectile-vomited on one of the nurses before blacking out.

A third option, explained the doctor, would be to harvest bone from a cadaver. I liked that option: the dead feel no pain.

We filled out forms, talked about the risks. Because the arthritis was so bad, he had no clear path for fusing the bones that are degenerating because of the Köhler's Disease. He told me that the surgery might not work. He may have to operate more than once.

These are risks that I've heard before: in fact, I experienced them with my right foot, when I had my two surgeries for Köhler's in the early 90s.

"Let's do this," I said. "And, if anything goes wrong, don't hesitate to cut it off."

My doctor smiled. I've asked him to cut my foot off at every visit.

"Only, if you do cut off the foot, you'll have to take the other one, too. With prostheses, I intend to add about four inches to my height."

That got a laugh.

So now, I wait. My doctor is booked through to September. He told me it would be autumn, most likely, early October. It will require an overnight stay in hospital (my first surgery kept me in hospital for a week; the second, five days). I'll be in a cast for about six to eight weeks, and then another month in a boot. It will take about four to six months before I fully heal, assuming the surgery is a success.

My doctor knows that I like to cycle, knows I've missed the last two Rideau Lakes Cycle Tours. He, himself, also cycles and has said he'd like to ride the RLCT some day.

If all goes well, perhaps we'll ride it together.

For now, I have to wait four months, all the while walking on broken bones.

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