Getting the Metal Out

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It all started while I was moderately pushing pedal to the metal the summer before last and broke my ankle in a car wreck. During the repair on me (the little car was totaled), my ankle acquired a metal plate and seven screws. During a checkup a year after the accident, Dr. Simon finally told me what I’d been wanting to hear, “You might want to consider having the plate and screws taken out. … You should have it done within the next year or so. The longer they’re in there, the harder it is for me to get them out.”

My bones have healed well and I’ve regained most of my normal motion. The scars on either side of my ankle were becoming less prominent over time. So why should I mess around with my doctor’s neat handy work?

I asked myself that during the past summer while I sat on the decision fence swinging my rehabbed ankle, wondering whether to disable it again. The trouble was, when that foot first hit the floor in the morning, it always felt stiff. I had to limp a couple steps before my head talked my feet into business as usual. Every so often, something about my new parts rubbed the wrong way and a little, painful stab reminded me it wasn’t quite business as usual. My toes were always partially tingly and numb. Would removing the metal plate do away with the numbness?

I waited until warm weather had passed and my shorts were put away. I decided that the special demands of the holidays should be over, too, and scheduled outpatient surgery for the second Friday morning of the new year. My doctor said he’d make small cuts over the screws just enough to remove them. I could go home that same afternoon. I should be able to be on my feet right away, but I should take it easy and elevate my leg for awhile. The little holes in my bones would take maybe a couple of months to fill in. It didn’t sound bad.

As Mark waited with me before surgery, he asked if we could keep the hardware. After a short time in recovery, a nurse gave me a white plastic cottage cheese type tub containing seven silver screws in various lengths and a shiny, metal strip about 1/4 inch wide with six pre-drilled holes evenly spaced along its 2 3/4 inch length.

I unwrapped the Ace bandage after a couple of days to redress the new cuts. Sore, sore, sore! My leg seemed more tender than when it was broken, since the cast had been covering and supporting it. Now, when my foot touched down, I really got a jolt as gravity pulled against the sutures. The kids scolded me for moving around too much. Mark thought I’d better not drive until things had a chance to start mending.

Feeling guilty with work piling up around me, I wondered if I had done the right thing. The words of well-meaning friends echoed from my memory, “Why would you want to bother things if you’re feeling fine?”

As more time passes since the surgery, every day my toes feel less numb, my ankle more like it did before the accident and I’m sure that though I may not improve a lot more, it is a relief to have the “foreign parts” removed. I’m thankful to my family, friends and co-workers who support me and especially grateful to Lee Simon, the special, gifted doctor who helped me through the process. (I forgot to ask what the tiny washer was for!)

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