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Fearfully and wonderfully made

I’m reminded of medical school and the study of anatomy (how the body is and how muscles, bones and other tissues are interconnected and how they finally form the human being) . In my first year we learnt a subject called embryology. It was a fascinating class because we learnt how 2 cells (sperm and ovum) eventually divided and grew to form a baby at term. It was a step-by-step process of forming a fetus. We were taught that as the fetus grows cells move around and migrate to form body parts. For example the spine the cells travel along a certain line at a certain rate to form the spine. If they fail to arrive then a gap is created in the spine. If the cells in the heart form a flap, which is expected to close at birth, fail to close then a hole is created in the heart called a septal defect.

As the cells migrate, they could also fail to reach cause several birth defects. I realized that a baby being born alive is a miracle and anything can wrong at any of the stages. When the David in the bible says that “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;your works are wonderful,I know that full well.My frame was not hidden from youwhen I was made in the secret place,when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” It’s definite that the cells in the body are carefully woven together to form organs like the heart, brain, bones and liver. All these organs are so different yet are one part of one body they came from one type of cell. If one was constructing a house you would need very many types of raw materials i.e glass, metal or stone to complete it. Yet the human body has components that are so different yet the origin of these cells is the same.

In surgery it’s marvelous to see how we are wonderfully created. Underneath the skin we are all the same with small variations. I’m still excited to see how the bones interact with muscles and other vital structures like the nerves and blood vessels. Some muscles and bones may look small and insignificant but are so essential for one to function well. No wonder when someone breaks bone in the spine, they could be paralyzed because a small looking bone is protecting the spinal cord. One can’t say that this part of the body isn’t essential. That we don’t need the toes, that the brain is more important that the rest. Well the brain needs the toes so that a person can walk.

As I grew up, my dad taught me how to slaughter and skin a goat. He would show me different bones and tell me their names. I loved eating the scapula because it was very tender with lots of meat(muscle). It is a fascinating bone. Some parts are so thin – almost a few pages thin. It surrounded by lots of big muscles that help the arm to move. It also helps to hold the arm on to our chest. I have not been thinking much about the scapula. In orthopedics we rarely have fractures involving this bone. The only time you think about it is when the surgeons need to detach the arm incase of a tumor.

A short while ago we met a young man who fractured his scapula and forearm. It was very unusual because scapula injuries are very rare. When they occur they are severe and happen when there has been a huge impact. As our team researched on what was the best approach we ordered a CT scan to see how the fragments pieces related with each other. The decision that needed to be made was whether to operate or to leave the bone to heal on its own. If the fracture area has a good blood supply, the fragment pieces are not far apart and stable – meaning not displaced, we could opt for non-operative methods, and that was our hope while we were awaiting the CT scan.

So the 3D- CT Scan showed that the fragmented bone needed to be aligned together. The location was tricky because it was near where the very large blood vessels and nerves were passing. We went for surgery. During surgery we were noticed that the scapular was very thin. Our plan was to put mainly screw or pins to hold the pieces. We eventually fixed the fracture pieces together using pins and wires. The mystery was how a thin bone like that could function so well and have such a vital role in movement of the arm. It was made wonderfully- the part that holds to the forearm bone is thick and very strong.

I’m also captivated by how children heal. They break their bones and in a few months, they are healed and you can’t even tell they had a fracture. As a child I had a fracture in the left forearm, I later came to discover it was called a greenstick fracture. The arm was bandaged and a partial cast applied. The fracture healed very well. If you break a stick or a small branch that has not dried up you notice that it breaks partially- splinters but the opposite area is intact hence the description of that fracture. The main reason is that childrens bones are- are soft , still growing with a great ability to mold themselves in the healing process. Majority of the fractures in childhood heal very well without surgery. If in surgery, some fractures that would ordinarily not heal well or take very long in adults they heal fast with no complications.

The human body was created in an amazing way. No wonder we don’t understand all the mysteries surrounding illnesses. Who can understand why diseases come and affect certain people? Why would a disease that you are sure will not heal, heals and the patient get well. As I get older I realize how much I don’t know and understand about the human body. It is a mystery. No wonder a truck driver interestingly summarized “1+1 =3 Why?”. 1+1 is not always 2. Otherwise we can’t explain everything that goes on in health. Its only by God’s grace that we were born fine without any birth defect or are even alive.