Prior to 2021, I had never broken a bone. But earlier this year, I made up for lost time by sustaining all sorts of fractures all over my body.
The surgeries to correct those fractures took place while I was unconscious, and most bone breakage has since healed. However, I’d thought I’d chronicle some of the niggling bodily issues I’ve been dealing with since regaining consciousness. It seems that every two weeks or so, something new pops up.
Fair Warning: I’ve included nasty medical imagery in this post. You may want to skip this post if you find such images overly unsettling or unpleasant.
Following my hospitalization, my legs and feet were too broken and swollen to walk. But within a few weeks, I began to regain mobility and independence. By stabilizing myself with my wrists, I could transfer into my wheelchair onto a parallel surface and vice-versa. And that’s when I noticed something was up.
After the doctors did some diagnostics and x-rays, I was told my pain originated from a fractured “scaphoid:” a tiny, cashew-sized bone in my left wrist.
Apparently, scaphoid fractures can be stubborn to heal, with a strong possibility of non-union (non-healing) if left untreated. So, within days, my arm and wrist were wrapped up in a cast to promote healing.
Thankfully, my scaphoid fracture seems to have healed without issue. There’s minimal pain, and I can once again use my left hand freely and apply force. Crisis (seemingly) averted.
After regaining consciousness in the hospital, I discovered that many inches of my flesh had been stapled shut. I didn’t know this at the time, but surgeons use these “surgical staples” because they close wounds and incisions faster than stitches or sutures. But as staples, they’re non-dissolving — so eventually, they have to come out.
Thankfully, the dozens of staples in my body were exclusively below the waist. So when the nurse started removing them, I didn’t have to pay much attention. I was assured that removal usually doesn’t hurt and opted to distract myself by watching Netflix on my phone.
The nurse was right: It didn’t hurt — until he began pulling staples from my feet and ankles, where there was a distinct lack of flesh between skin and bone. To make matters worse, those areas weren’t fully healed (more on that later). Suddenly, the sensation shifted from small pokes to a series of insect stings. In response, I began involuntarily yelping with simian gurgles of pain as the metallic fangs of each staple broke free from flesh.
Fortunately, it was over soon, and everything has since healed.
Big Toe Woes
Several weeks after my surgeries, something felt wrong with my left big toe. My nerves in that area were barely online, but it felt like the toenail had become ingrown. And since my toenails hadn’t been cut in weeks, my theory checked out. I presumed the fix was easy: I had my parents bring nail clippers on their next hospital visit, and we trimmed them down.
Except the pain didn’t stop. It was a burning, stabbing pain that worsened if anything touched the underside of my toe. A few doctors looked at it, but nobody could figure it out. That is, until I got home.
My partner took a picture so I could see what was going on. Sure enough, there was some kind of impact wound, as if something had embedded itself into my toe as I had hit the ground. It might have been a pebble, small, dense particles — who knew. Each week, it continued to buzz and throb with pain, and each week, doctors would stop by to examine it. But even with routine sterilization, padding, and bandaging, nothing seemed to help. A month or more had passed, and my toe still hurt if it lightly touched a blanket or the inside of my medical boot. The pain was so grating that I began to believe it would severely hinder my ability to walk again.
Thankfully, months later, the issue just resolved itself. I could put pressure on the area without pain, and relearning to walk commenced without issue.
Protruding Medical Screw Removal
Fair Warning: This was the nastiest thing by far.
During surgery, doctors implanted medical hardware in my shin and ankle to support bone healing. This typically involves metal plates and screws to hold everything together. And that’s great: Doing so can speed recovery and lessen pain.
The only thing is, one of the screws the surgeons inserted was a little too long. It might’ve been because my feet were highly swollen at the time of surgery. Whatever the explanation, about a month and a half later, I had a screw protruding from my inner ankle that wouldn’t heal over.
And sure enough, when I visited an Orthopedic surgeon for a check-up, he said it would have to come out, right then and there. All several inches of it.
In a way, I was glad his verdict came so suddenly, rather than leaving days or weeks for me to wrestle with the procedure’s grisly details. He said it wouldn’t hurt (much), and that like any other screw, it would come out with just a few twists of a literal screwdriver. Knowing that I would continue risking infection if the screw remained exposed, I gave him the go-ahead. And sure enough, with a few twists of his wrists, it was out.
Thing is, I didn’t expect the screw to be so long. So when he pulled it out, blood poured out onto the exam table as if you had uncorked a wine bottle on its side. It didn’t really hurt, but man, what a procedure to step into. It’s weird to have a surgeon suddenly treat your body like a construction site while you remain fully conscious. Screws, staples — there are certainly many parallels between construction with lumber and the construction of flesh and bone.
Once again, this healed well without issue, for which I’m very thankful.
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