A Case of Medical Advancement Envy

Being a 20something can no longer be considered "young." People like to tell me that I am "so young, you have a lifetime of opportunities ahead.." while this may be true in some aspects of my life, it is definitely not so in the areas of medicine and science.

Science happens faster than a blink of an eye. Right now, a scientist or 'lab geek' somewhere might be handling micro-organisms that will have an impact 1,000 times its actual size. The rate at which medical advancements happen can mean the difference between an early 20something in a wheelchair vs. a child of 7 or 8 who runs freely. Those two individuals were diagnosed with the same genetic condition, the same form of the condition, presented with similar fractures at birth, and yet because one was born ten years earlier she got the benefit of time and learning on her side. As I'm flicking through pictures on various O.I. groups on Facebook, there are hundreds of examples of what I just described. This is not the stuff of science fiction or made-up case studies that medical students pour over, it's real life!

Evidence of the enormous difference between ten years of science doesn't even need to be revealed between two people, I have proof of this right on my own body. In third grade I had my first rod operation on my right tibia; since I was still growing at the time my orthopedic surgeon inserted a K-wire along the bone. After the operation I had scar tissue along my front shin, the pale pinkish scar was like one of those garden vines that grow along fences - mine snaked along the path of my formerly bowed tibia. About ten years later I was graduating from college and had the procedure done on my left tibia. Except this time I was no longer growing. The surgeon inserted screws, a metal plate, and a rod into my left tibia - there were several osteotomies done and the operation took almost 5 or 6 hours. Despite all the hardware that went into my leg ten years later I was out of the hospital in two days. I resumed normal day-to-day life routines in about three days, and was out of the full leg cast in about three or four months.
The point is not how quickly I pleaded to get up and about again, but when my cast was taken off the scar tissue was barely noticeable. Not only that but it was straight - ramrod straight as if my surgeon had made the incision with a ruler. I'm sure he didn't actually use a ruler, but I was amazed at the difference between ten years on my legs. Precision, accuracy, healing time, managing other risks, and the cosmetic impact post-surgery seemed to have evolved right before my eyes!

If you were to ask me whether or not I'm envious of those young'uns who are running about now with O.I. type III, my answer is hell yes! Of course I am jealous of all that they are able to do and the childhood that they are able to experience because of their abilities! But I think that this is all a part of the cycle of life... or something of the sort. We are supposed to be getting older. Younger generations are supposed to be 'better' than us. I am just grateful that science is making improvements for others, that progress is being made for those who were told that we would never live past two. I guess I'll just have to accept all of that with some amount of grace and amused cynicism :-)

In the mean time I'll be practicing my 'grumpy old person' voice:"When I was your age I had to carry my x-ray files back to the doctor after the x-ray in a gigantic folder that weighed 40lbs! So quit the cryin' or I'll give ya something to really cry about!" 

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4 Responses to A Case of Medical Advancement Envy

  1. I have a bend below knee tibia but My tibia bone is too thin difficult to operate, secondly its been years since i m living with this bend so can putting rod may stretch those contracted muscles? doctor is not sure of successful operation. please suggest

    1. Hi Raj, I'm not a doctor or an expert and only write from my own experiences so I'm not comfortable giving medical advice. I would go with whatever opinions or healthcare providers are giving you. Sorry that I can't be of any more help with your question! Stay well, Sandy

  2. Thank you for voicing this Sandy. I must say, as a parent of a young OIer it can feel pretty awkward meeting with older OIers. You know that they assume that your child was born more mild than they were, seeing them run around. Something feels inherently wrong about trying to justify how severe they were before they began treatment, despite now appearing to have an 'invisible disability'. I'm sure those who went before you are envious that you get to have rods. I'm sure our children (and we parents) will be envious of the next generation of OIers and whatever miraculous advancement that we have no conception of now, will lead their lives down a different roads.

    1. That's actually a really great point that you bring up! I hadn't considered what it's like for you as the parent to navigate the social aspects of having a child with what appears to be an 'invisible disability.' Maybe it's a sign of better times when we are able to become envious of future generations? I'll take it!


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