Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I have a screw loose!

Loosened and removed, in fact!

Today was my 6 month post-op appointment with Dr. Benirschke at Harborview Medical Center.


Based on prior experience, I’ve learned not to plan anything else for days when I have “quick” post-op appointments at Harborview – and lo and behold today turned out to be no exception. My appointment was at 10:15 this morning, it’s now almost 5 PM, and we just got home.


Oh just a little bit of minor surgery.

One of my questions for Dr. B today was why I continue to have limited range of motion in one particular area, and why that area continuously hurts and is perpetually swollen.

Hurts here

Turns out there’s a two-inch screw that Dr. B inserted to hold my tibia and fibula together to give that whole area more strength. Problem is, the dang screw has been causing me not only pain, but decreased range of motion and increased anxiety because it’d especially hurt when I moved my leg just so.

It turns out that there’s also a small risk of this particular screw breaking in the middle as I increase my range of motion, leaving half of it in each bone. That would most decidedly not be good!

“So when can the hardware be removed?” I asked Dr. B today. “Not for a year,” he replied. (Happy ankleversary!) “Except for this one… which I had a feeling might cause some problems. This one can be removed today.”


“What? Are you not emotionally ready?” he teased.

“No, I am. Or I will be. In a minute…”

An hour and a half later (because of his schedule, not my trepidation!), Tom, Elisabeth and I were in a mini-surgical suite, waiting for the surprise procedure.

IMG_3556 IMG_3557 IMG_3558

I’m working on the “emotionally ready” part.


TK the nurse with the beautiful hair, prepared all the instruments and then Dr. B got to work.

First he had to find both the exact right spot and the exact right angle to locate the screw.


Good thing I trust the man blindly. Hey, any world-famous surgeon who answers his cell with “Joe’s Bar & Grill. Joe’s out” has my full trust!


After he marked my skin as if I was having some hoity-toity cosmetic surgery, he told me to just relax while he got things ready. Yeah, OK… but let me turn away first!


First things first. Sleepy stuff for my foot!


You don’t need to see all the shots at all the different angles, do you? Good – neither did I! I kept my eyes on my good ol’ focal point (because I’m a chicken):


First we need a sterile field…


… and then some slicing…


…and some poking…


and some “Marco! Polo!”


And then out came the hex screwdriver


And the vice grip on my leg…


…and some rockin’ and rolling…


And then… GOTCHA!


Dr B warned me about this next part. Because you can’t numb bone, he told me I’d feel it when he started twisting the screw backwards and withdrawing it from the bone. He said people described the feeling as “freaky.”

I can’t even describe what it felt like, except to say that I was very aware that it was deep inside my leg and it resonated in… well, yes, in a “freaky” way! Freaky and painful.

freaked out

And then…


Well, hello there!


I was just relieved to hear that it was out. One can only take “heebie-jeebie” for so long!


I think Tom was relived too. Elisabeth, on the other hand, was loving the “blood and guts” (OK, no guts!) factor, and was snapping away.

IMG_3602 IMG_3607 IMG_3615 IMG_3620 IMG_3621

Look! No more screw!

No more screw

Immediately after it was all over, Dr. B suggested I get up and walk around, assuring me that since only the immediate area was anesthetized, I should be able to walk.

I took three steps and couldn’t believe it! The pain and the limited range of motion in that specific area was completely gone! I’d come into the hospital with a distinct limp and I left without one. (Or much of one…) Once again, Dr. B had performed his magic!

We celebrated with a quick lunch at Ivars on Lake Union.


Granted, this was one very minor hardware removal procedure. The more major one will occur in December, when Dr. B will remove both the 5” plate and the 2” plate, along with the 12 pins and various other hardware. For that procedure I’ll be in the OR and knocked completely out. (Which means sorry, no pictures!)

I’m still numb but it’s wearing off. I’ve been told that I’ll be quite sore for a day or two, but after that I should be moving around SO much better!

I can hardly wait!

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BethanyWD said...

Wow! That's amazing! I can't believe the immediate improvement in your range of motion and comfort. Sounds like a step (PUN INTENDED!) in the right direction.

I'm assuming you saved your hardware...I saved the two hooks, two screws and one rod that was removed from my lower back. I carry one of the screws on my key ring as a reminder of how far I've come!

Sharon Lee Mandel said...

FANTASTIC!!! You are one brave ladybug. Meanwhile, back in Canada, I'm still waiting... I'm so happy for you! The Xray thingy is amazing and so is your doctor. Thanks for sharing Carol. (I want to be knocked out!)

Heal well,

Sharon from the Ankle Blog

loren2h said...

Aaiiiyyy. I think you are very brave. I wasn't sure I was even going to make it to the end of the post, and you walked away and ate lunch. You go girl!

christina said...

Hope things improve from here on in! I don't think I'd be too thrilled with spontaneous surgery either. The planned one I had was bad enough.

Lorrene said...

I recently had knee surgery so you have my complete sympathy, empathy and wimpathy. It wasn't easy.

Tonya said...

What an awesome account of your ordeal! I sure hope it's all downhill (well, gently) from here on out! I get such a kick out of your family for all their photographic documentation of your ordeals!

Kim said...

Thanks for the link! This was both fun and squeamish to read. I'm so glad you are out of pain. I'm thinking that is one cool doc. My dad used to answer the phone at our house, "Joe's Pool Hall. Joe's not here." It must be some standing gag from vaudeville, radio, or or the Marx brothers flicks or something. I have never heard of anyone else using it. :-) He's also way cool for letting you chronicle the procedure and blog about it.

So glad you are out of that pain, and wishing you well as your healing continues. And, we love Ivar's on the lake, too. Reminds me to make a reservation for the 4th. With only one location for fireworks this year (since Ivar's on the bay isn't sponsoring their 40+ year tradition anymore), we won't be able to see fireworks from our driveway there anymore. Kinda sad, cause all the neighbors block off the street with lawn chairs to watch. Oh well.
Hope your summer is shaping up well,

jennifer said...

Glad to hear you'll be able to continue recovery without that annoying/hindering screw. But urgggg, as much as I think the photojournalism was really good and comprehensive, *shudder* I'll admit to quickly scrolling through most of those pictures! *squeeeeemish!*

Goofball said...

eek I am a chicken too! I scrolled quickly down halfway your post when too many close-ups seemed to come up.

so I did not read the end, I hope it was a happy end ;)

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