Tuesday, February 17, 2015



So far 2015 has sent me looking inside, both figuratively and literally. For the last five years life has been setting up some pretty rigorous challenges for me. Naturally I can’t help but wonder why.

It began in June of 2010 with a fall from the skylight in my dining room in Patzcuaro. I fell almost 7 meters, about 20 feet for those of you who are non-metric. I landed on tile and concrete…and a ladder, splitting my skull open and actually exploding the femur in my left leg. At this point I wasn’t looking into the whys and wherefores, I just thought “well crap, this sucks!”





After the accident I was rushed to Star Medica in Morelia where young, handsome Dr. Carvajal attempted to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Although he is a very accomplished surgeon his specialty is rebuilding hands, not exploded femurs. A neurosurgeon stitched up my head, leaving a large scar on my forehead that looks remarkably like the Mercedes Benz logo. Then Dr. Carvajal filled the leg up with hardware and packed in as many of the bone shards as he could find, apparently they are absorbed back in the body, and sent me on my way.

The doctor felt that in order to help the bone grow I would need a series of 4 surgeries in which he would implant a combination of collagen and PVC into the vacant space between the wired up knee and the rest of the femur. Yes PVC, strange isn’t it? Are you counting, we are now up to 5 surgeries.

Almost exactly a year after the accident I began to have A LOT of pain, (I always had pain, but this was totally different) and my leg seemed kind of floppy. Back to the doctor for ex-rays and we discovered that almost all the screws in the plate in my leg were broken. I immediately went for surgery number six in which Dr. Carvajal decided to do a bone graft as well. When I awoke and the feeling was coming back to my legs, I noticed that it really was not coming back to the left one from the knee down.

As it turns out the surgery went longer than expected and a tourniquet was left on too long, leaving me paralyzed from the knee down. I had to purchase a strange cast-like thing to keep my foot at a 90 degree angle to my leg as I had, in addition to the paralysis, what is known as drop-foot, where the foot just sort of hangs off the end of the leg. I did constant exercises to try to bring back feeling and movement to my leg and I  wore the odd cast thing for about a year and a half until I did, finally, get some feeling and movement back. At this point I really was beginning to ask myself if I wasn’t having a little more bad luck than was necessary.

Unfortunately a little feeling and movement was all I got back. Month after month each ex-ray looked the same as the last and Dr. Carvajal, like most Mexicans, did not want to give me bad news and just kept telling me everything would be fine. He was clearly out of his depth. Enter Dr. Schmidt.


Broken Femur LR



I had heard marvelous things about the expertise of Dr. Schmidt in  Querétaro, and Todd and I made a trip from Patzcuaro to see him. He told me after examining  new ex-rays that I had complete non-union. Which, in a nutshell, means nothing had happened in my leg for a year and a half and I was now starting over from square one, with surgery number seven. Oh, come on. Really???

Todd and I then moved to San Miguel de Allende for two reasons. One was to be closer to Dr. Schmidt and the other was that we didn’t survive the crash of 2008 well financially and had now been bleeding money into the medical system for two years, and we needed to go to work. We sold our house in Patzcuaro and made the move. Dr. Schmidt did the seventh operation, with another bone graft, the removal of all the dead and rotting bone and replaced all the hardware with titanium, and I was on my way back to health. I thought. Again almost a year after that operation all the screws in my leg broke again and I had to have surgery number eight to repair the damage.

That was about a year ago and a few months after that, during a regular visit for ex-rays Dr. Schmidt informed me that if I was ever going to get this saga finished I would need another bone graft. Well, by then there was no money left. We are working but it takes time for a new business to get off the ground and we are struggling, so the bone graft will have to wait. I was still having what I thought was an inordinate amount of pain though, and when I asked the doctor about it he said that was natural as the smashed knee, as well as having very loose ligaments and tendons (which means another surgery at some point) has also developed Ostio-Arthritis. And so the saga of “The Accident” continues.

In the last few months I have been having some other internal health issues and have recently been diagnosed with uterine cancer. I am no longer able to chalk all this up to s**t happens. I have to ask myself why? What on God’s green earth have I done to deserve this? The answer, of course, is nothing. It’s just the luck of the draw I suppose.

On the up side I am exceedingly lucky and grateful to have been accepted by Seguro Popular, a government health program, since without it, I am unable to pay for the upcoming cancer surgery. This odyssey through the Mexican Public Health System has been eye-opening. It is truly wonderful and my only complaint is how long everything takes to happen. Sadly I haven’t the luxury of time at the moment, but it has given me a lot of time to think while I am in lineups.

I am off to Leon on Friday to see an oncologist, a specialist in this type of cancer, and have a battery of tests, so I will soon know more about my situation. Now I am adding my own mortality to the introspective meanderings, and I expect I may learn a thing or two about myself.


Photos courtesy of Todd McIntosh from his blog, Life in el Corazon.