The answer is in the middle

I entered today’s follow-up visit with the hand specialist expecting one of two outcomes: Either the bone in my right middle finger had healed significantly in the six weeks since my last visit, or it had not. If it had not, I figured, I would be told that I need a bone graft.

The reality, as it so often has been this year, is somewhere in the middle.

Fresh X-rays show that the bones at the tip of my finger haven’t healed right. After a bone breaks, the body is supposed to stitch the bone back together. This does not always happen correctly, however. Sometimes scar tissue fills the space where the new bone should have formed. This tissue blocks the sites where the new bone would have developed.  The phenomenon is called “fibrous nonunion” or “fibrous malunion,” and it’s not all that uncommon.

Oh, the things I have learned.

Three of fingers are well on their way to healing normally. But that one, the right middle, developed scar tissue.

Why? According to the doctor, it could be due to the way the bones broke or it could be that they weren’t treated in quite the best way. Most likely it’s just “dumb luck,” as he so candidly put it. I like this doctor. Not only did he allow for luck and error to be part of the process (which they are), but he also said that even though he loves to operate on people, he cannot recommend surgery in my case. At least not now and hopefully not ever.

“I’m not going to operate on you just to make an X-ray look good.” Those words stick in my mind.

If I start to feel pain in the finger or if it undergoes some sort of physical change, then a bone graft might become the best option. But the doc says there’s no harm in a wait-and-see approach, so that’s what we’re going to do. Right now, a graft would be more hassle than it’s worth. Grafts aren’t easy and they’re not guaranteed to work, either. In the case of my mouth, bone grafts were the only option. But with the finger, that urgency isn’t there.

The plan now is to resume physical therapy, now putting that finger back into the mix with the other two, and try to regain flexibility.

Thirteen years ago, my right ankle was severely sprained in a car accident. It was in a cast for six weeks. When I began physical therapy, the therapists had me take a few steps so they could evaluate my stride. What they saw surprised them, because they didn’t know I have a rare foot condition that affects the placement of some of the major bones.

I’ll never forget what one of the therapists said after watching me carefully stride across the floor in bare feet and on a tender ankle: “It’s remarkable that you can walk.”

I’ve defied the odds before, and now I’ll have to do it again.

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  1. The graft and the gift | Jon's Story - October 22, 2014

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