Thursday, July 5, 2012

JZ and Dr. Grail: A Tale of a Quest

I have been dealing with this rib injury for 2 years and 8 months. At some point during that time frame it became evident there was dysfunction in the rib and it would not heal without surgical intervention. I hunkered down with my father and began a quest to find a surgeon who was willing and able to fix my rib.

And, who doesn’t love a good quest? One of my favorite films in high school was Monty Python and The Holy Grail. The Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings movies have made a killing at the box office. The common theme in these movies, and what makes a quest so enthralling, is that there is adversity, good guys, villains, moments of comedy, uncertainty and ultimately, a satisfactory conclusion. Quests often drag on and on and on and on, exemplified by the Lord of the Rings trilogy which lasts an astounding 682 minutes on 15 DVDs.

My quest has been no different. There has been a huge cast of characters, with heroes (those who have bent over backwards to help) and more nefarious types (those who have brushed me off with the wave of a hand or even worse, told me this was all in my head). There have been incredible highs, such as qualifying for the Olympic trials in the marathon, and incredible lows, such as not being able to ride a bike. I have laughed and cried. I have moved forward and backward and in circles. But, I have never lost sight of the quest, even if sometimes the quest was put on hold due to lack of information or decreased motivation.

And, now, my quest is hopefully coming to its terminus. On August 1, I will have surgery to repair my rib. After speaking with no less than a dozen surgeons, I have found a very capable one in Minneapolis. I affectionately call him Dr. Grail in homage to my favorite questing movie. I spoke with him 2 weeks ago and his kindness and compassion over the phone brought tears to my eyes. He is the chief of pediatric surgery at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital. In the midst of our conversation Dr. Grail said to me, “You know, I generally work on kids.” I replied, “I am a kid at heart. And, I am not very big.” We had a good laugh, and I knew instantly that we clicked.

Upon describing my symptoms and the treatments I have undergone, Dr. Grail believes I have an unhealed fracture in my 12th rib, or in doctor speak a pseudoarthrosis. This has caused instability in that rib making it move around like a loose tooth causing an impingement on the T12 intercostal nerve that sits behind it. Insertion of a titanium plate into the rib should stabilize it thereby taking away the impingement on the nerve or he may even need to shave off part of the rib. The exact procedure will not be known until the surgery itself when Dr. Grail can assess the exact problem. Nothing like making a game day decision!

I have no idea what the recovery time is, or how long the procedure will last, or any other information for that matter. You see, Dr. Grail said this to me, “I can make you pain free.” After he uttered those glorious words, my brain shut down and I was rendered mute. It seems like an unbelievable end to this grueling quest.

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