A few weeks ago I had to get a chest x-ray taken as part of a series of relatively routine tests (nothing serious). Today as we were looking at the images, my doctor pointed to the area indicated above and asked “Have you ever broken any ribs?.” I replied, “Well, there was this one time when I was doing field work…”
In October 2010 I was in Indiana collecting rocks for the Rocks to Racing exhibit. As I mentioned in a blog post at the time, at one road cut I stepped awkwardly on a rock and fell, injuring my right side. I didn’t indicate in the post how badly I was hurt; I was actually unable to drive for several days because it was too painful to step on the gas pedal. I continued going to outcrops (even the same day), using a crowbar as a walking stick, but my mobility was limited for several weeks. I assumed at the time that I had simple bruised the intercostal muscles on my right side (and I probably had), but that it was nothing more than that. Apparently I was mistaken.
The circled area on my x-ray is an apparent healed break in one of my right ribs. There are also areas on each adjacent rib that hint at healed breaks, but that aren’t as definitive. It seems that I cracked at least one and possibly three ribs severely enough to form a fracture callus.
What is most embarrassing about this injury is that it happened in such a mundane fashion. I would love to be able to say that I sacrificed my body trying to save a valuable specimen from damage. But in fact I was simply walking on level ground, and not paying attention to where I was stepping. There are risks inherent in doing field work, even if the “work” is just walking between two points!
On that note, this weekend I leave for Carmel Church, for a two-week excavation funded by donations to our Petridish.org campaign. Weather permitting we’ll start digging on Monday and, as in the past, I’ll be posting daily updates on our progress.