The X-Ray Films

OK, this is kind of icky. Stay calm. Broken leg x-rays at the top, fixed leg x-rays at the bottom.

Click on the thumbnails below to see a bigger picture. The bigger pictures range in size from 300 to 800 pixels in either height or width.

A note on these scans: X-rays are much like regular photographs. Some are too light, some are too dark. I had to use a few tricks to get these puppies scanned in. Some I could just place on the scanner & scan away. Trick #1: blank piece of white paper above x-ray to reflect more light back onto the scanning head. Trick #2: 20w halogen light held about 8" above the scanning head as it moved (obviously with the scanner propped open) -- this resulted in the red cast that you see on some of the scans.



  D-Day
 
The Broken Leg (& Assorted Other Stuff)
These are the identifying tags put on the x-rays. The top one is a sticker affixed to the developed x-ray "print" while the bottom one was placed on the unexposed film. Why are they here? To show the passage of time, that's why.

My first set of x-rays was shot just after noon -- barely an hour after my arrival in the emergency room. These x-rays were taken to "clear" my neck & back, i.e. to make sure there were no injuries to my spine. This set of x-rays was very painful to go through as the x-ray tech was required to contort my body to a certain extent to get "good" shots.

The second set (most of the ones of my leg) were shot after 3 pm (1500 hrs) -- after I'd been given a shot of morphine to kill my very considerable pain.

These are the x-rays of my leg that scanned best. Like I said above, by this time I'd had some morphine -- great stuff, incidentally -- and wasn't crying whenever they tried to move me. Two of the x-ray techs (Shelly & Cathy) were very nice, and very careful about moving me around. Whoever their boss is wasn't as gentle. If he wasn't doing his job I'd call him downright brutal.
I couldn't resist including this x-ray. It reminds me of a line from the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High -- a classic of my generation. Anyway, Spicoli (played by a very young Sean Penn) is getting stoned and raps the telephone on his head while talking to a friend (his pals are played by equally young Eric Stolz and Anthony Edwards). "Hear that?" Spicoli giggles. "That's my skull!" Well, this is my skull.
Another one of my spine x-rays -- this is the lower cervical area (neck). I didn't bother scanning them all in -- they all showed that I had no spinal injuries. Of course, I told them that at the scene but (naturally) they didn't believe me...

 
 
The Fixed Leg
This one is a composite of two scans, since the film was too large to fit on the scanner bed. My knee would be at the top and the picture is oriented like you are looking at the inside of my left leg.

Right away you can see the rod. Let me tell you a little about it. It is titanium. It is 12mm in diameter (about a half inch). It is 36cm long (about 14.25 inches) long. It is secured to the bone at either end with two screws made from surgical steel.

It will most likely NEVER come out of my leg.

To insert it, the surgeon had to drill a 1/2" hole for 15" down my tibia. I have approximately 90% less bone marrow in my tibia than I did before the accident. Know what bone marrow does? Produce red blood cells. This bone will no longer produce significant amounts of red blood cells. Period.

You will also notice that my fibula is not joined at the lower break. The reason is that because of the severity of the accident, I lost between 4 and 5 millimeters worth of bone matter in the tibia (it's still there as bone dust and splinters, viewable in the x-ray). If the surgeon had put the fibula in the correct place, it would have healed first (because it's smaller in diameter than the tibia) and prevented the tibia from healing correctly. Therefore, he left it off to the side like you see in the x-ray. It would require another operation to fix it -- the surgeon would have to cut about 6mm off the end of the fibula for it to heal right.

This also means my left leg is approximately 1/2" shorter than my right leg.

The scars on my leg coincide with some easily identifiable points on this film. Each screw head has a matching scar about 1/2" long with staple-hole scars. The top of the rod has a 6" scar central & vertical on my knee, also with staple-hole marks. The rather obvious area of the actual fractures has a 4" scar central & vertical on my shin where the surgeon had to go in to clean out the fracture area because the fibula broke through the skin on the back of my leg. This wound was closed with stitches and they left twin rows of scar-dots as well.

I scanned the front view x-rays at slightly different angles and was unable to create a composite like you see in the side view. Somehow it doesn't look as bad from this angle.

However, you can see that the rod isn't straight at the top. This is so it's easier to insert into the bone. Easier in this case is a relative term, as my bone is very dense and it required significant effort on the surgeon's part to drill the hole and insert the rod.

Again the knee is at the top of the picture. This film is oriented as if you are looking directly down at my left leg from above while facing me.

These x-rays are from 5 August 99. The top one is the front view and the bottom one is the side view.

As you can see, the bone is still broken. Dr. Schwartzbach says this is completely normal. Three months, he says, is not enough time to heal a tibia. There is a good amount of bone matter in there and if you look closely you can see the fibula has started to heal. It will most likely heal into a lump.

A longer-length side view for perspective. Also taken 5 Aug.
These x-rays were taken 30 September 1999. As you can see from the larger pics (just click on those little ones - link is to a comparison page), there has been very little -- if any -- progress in the tibia in the 8 weeks between 5 Aug & 30 Sep. As a result, I now have to have another operation. In this operation Doc S will rebreak my fibula, remove the top 2 screws, and do a bone graft.
These x-rays are from 28 December 1999, and are the ones Doc S. used to compare to the next set when we started talking about having a third operation
From 22 Feb 2000, the ones that sealed my third-surgery fate. As you can see, the lump on my tibia is getting larger and growing wider. The bone is trying to bridge the gap by reaching out, but there just isn't enough downward force to make the bone heal. Wait 'til you see the next set of x-rays...
Skipping ahead a bit to 9 Jan 2001. I'll get the last x-rays -- which were from March to June 2000 -- up ASAP. But here's good news -- the leg's healed. Finally, at long last, etc. etc. It's still heavily deformed (not to mention the piece of my fibula they had to cut out) but it's healed across the break. Amazing! About damn time!