What We Don’t Know We Know…(revised)

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their mind cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

It’s another grey windy day but at least it’s not raining.  Out of boredom and, to maybe kick start an idea into my cranial star chamber, I started searching out YouTube for old TV theme songs.  I came across the 1955 version of Davy Crockett.   I remember wanting a raccoon cap as a kid but the real Davy Crockett was a “mountain man” turned politician.  He became a peoples politician  who took a stand along with some other great patriots right up to their deaths at the Alamo.  What has happened to that political commitment.  Anyway that was a fleeting thought meant to keep myself entertained as I hoped a spark would ignite an idea in my head, so lets go.

I find myself facing a new dilemma’s these days that is all based on that old “if I had of known then what I know now” way of thinking.  I had about a dozen surgeries as a kid all with the purpose of walking without braces, new untried procedures at the time, and 4 of the 12 produced the hoped for results.  One of the last major surgical procedures I underwent was a hip fusion of my left hip.

A lot of this was “new” ground for the growing speciality of orthopaedics and was a carry on from new techniques used with WW2 vets.  Medically there has been a tight tie between the veterans community and the polio generation due to the advancements being made in medicine.  My orthopaedic Dr. Vincent Murphy was a retired RCAF pilot and received his medical training courtesy of the military.  He was a good man and played a big role in my life from age 8.  He enjoyed me because, as he once put it, I had attitude and I was always up for surgery.

Polio kids were surgical try-outs for a lot of new techniques and we auditioned for surgical spots in what was called Grand Rounds.  Out-patient Rounds were held every Tuesday at the Children’s Hospital but if your parents got that call for Grand Rounds it was pretty certain you were being admitted.  For Rounds you stripped down for the doctor and your parents, for Grand Rounds you stripped down on an examination table in front of half a dozen doctors, another half dozen interns and maybe a dozen student nurses standing in the background taking notes.  While they are discussing me like a strip loin, I’m sitting there trying to figure out if I will sign up for Monday night copper tooling or take the leather activity again.  Monday nights were Arts and Craft’s night in the hospital.

HipPinAnd while these dozen voices are going on about the newest and shiniest of medical technology (term used lightly for those days) I’m listening to an Everly Brother’s song on the radio across the hall in physio.  This was a time when equipment was build to last forever but forever had a much tighter timeline.  That hunk of metal is almost 55 years old and as shiny as the day it was purchased.  Those holes you notice were meant for screws that attached that plate to the femur.  That screw head, holding the long rod, was adjusted to the degree of bend the hip would be left with, mine was 3 degrees.  Once the correct position is found (fascinating process really but I slept through it) the rod, which has three very sharp edges with a tip sharpen enough to chop parsley, is hammered with a large rubber mallet through the femoral head and into the pelvis.  That and a few bone chips and bam you have your fused hip.  I spend the next seven months in a body cast that went from my waist to my toes on the left leg and my knee on the right.  That was to give the restructure hip joint time to set.

The hip was set at a 3 degree angle and then basically welded shut using bone with metal.  By doing this the theory was my knee would lock in place and I could then walk without a leg brace.  Physic’s at work again.  This is a surgical procedure they don’t use these days but was certainly popular in the 60’s and 70’s.

Poster child
The journey begins

At 14 there was nothing I wanted more than to be rid of that leg-brace and wear real jeans.  Floppy flannel was the fashion statement of braces so anything to get into a pair of GWG’s I was all for.  Those pants were like parachutes so I was not about to argue against the surgery.  What they didn’t know then was the longterm effects this type of “structural change” this would have on other parts of the body.  To my car buddies imagine the effect a 26″ tire would have on a vehicle where the other three tires were 18″.  The long-term affects on the chassis would certainly be problematic with that kind of torque.  A fused hip has the same affect except my body is the chassis.

Not a revision but an addition.  My 90 year old mother called me last night after reading this to tell me I left out what she remembers.  This particular procedure just about killed me due to massive blood loss.  Her and my dad were there while transfusions were run (she tells me four bags) to replace all of the blood that had leaked through the cast.  Hip surgery is one of those procedure they can’t apply a tourniquet with to stop blood loss.  The fact that I was almost dead is missed on me because I slept through it all.  My mothers memory of it is more about the coma than the long-term surgical results.  I experienced a couple of near death situations as a kid but you never give that too much thought, what does it solve.  There were kids that never made it out of there, I did.  I have added this for her sake and to show the level of stress polio parents dealt with. 

I may have over-estimated my expectation of polio knowledge in the health-care system.  Living with it in your face everyday you just take it for granted and expect health-care to know but times, and disease/disorders, change.  Expecting this generation of medical professionals to understand post-polio is like my generation expecting their doctors to be experts on the Spanish Flu.  Time can change a community but we live as individuals.

The elected officials of the day laid out the groundwork for the treatment of polio.  We were successfully assimilated into the community despite the absence of policies.  Now no one even thinks of polio while the disabled of the day are buried in regulations that no one can bother to enforce.  This means I have to be more vigilant when it comes to my own healthcare concerns.  I’ve always assumed the person I was dealing with knew the effects of polio but I was wrong apparently.

It also means our current crop of politicians have to start listening to the meeds of their constituents.  The disabled make up almost 20% of the electorate.  Governments and politicians have to start paying attention to that.  Quit seeing us as a product or someone who represents a convenient moment so you can ticket.  We have a government increasingly detached from the everyday electorate.  Get out to vote…

Just one man’s opinion…


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