Cannulated Screw

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel

When it’s over, the nurses press for pain, but there is none to touch—it rests too deep.

“Where does it hurt?” they ask.

I gasp and cry, struggling to wake from surgery.

“Can you hear me?”

My blood is cold, anesthetized and thick.

“Take a deep breath.”

My lungs hurt for want of oxygen.

“Are you in pain?”

I cannot stop sobbing.

“I need you to say something. Tell me what’s wrong.”

My mouth is dry when I say, “I thought I died.”

The women relax. They cover me with a warm blanket. They drip in a new drug to calm me.



It took two hours for the osteopath to pull two cannulated screws from the fifth metatarsal, that delicate bone of the outer foot. Before surgery, she warned me that the hollow-center screws might break. They could crack and split, cleaving shrapnel to bone. Pieces could get left behind.

But the screw heads labored against my skin as if trying to get out. If knocked against a chair, the pain of the hit went straight to the bone. Having sewn the once broken bone back together, the metal now just caused pain. The screws had to come out.

To remove them, the osteopath cut along the scar of the old suture, made by a careless doctor who cut out a painful tailors bunion and broke the bone of the pinkie toe to straighten its crooked deformity, screwing the healing in place.

Beneath the thin layer of skin, she located the heads of each screw. She backed them out of my body, intact and silver.



Now that I am awake and calm, a nurse tells me that it will take a month for the body to recover from every hour under anesthesia.

Two hours underneath will take two months—an hourly healing ratio of 1:1,464.

This seems fair.

After so much trauma, the body should take its time.

She leaves me to rest, and I wonder if this ratio of healing can be applied elsewhere.

Knowing my Father for 5 years and 11 months (some 52,000 hours) means that it will take 76.5 million hours to get over his absence (some 8,700 years).

This seems right.

But incomplete.

It doesn’t account for that December morning when he took:

2 minutes to tie on his running shoes,

15 seconds to walk the slick driveway,

4 minutes to run from the house to Brockett Road where he did, somehow, in

2 seconds, take

1 step off a

4 inch curb and onto the street where a car at, say,

35 miles per hour (since we will never really know) and possibly with

.25 ounces of liquor inside the driver for every ounce of blood, took

½ of a second to strike Dad down. But the

.25 ounces in the driver’s blood may need to be subtracted and replaced with the

60 milligrams of lithium that was too keep Dad in place—keep the

2 sides of him: the happy and the sad: as


Of course, all of this information was only added after

3 decades of confusion and so the calculation is skewed. Either way, I was

5 when he died, but always remember being

6. Either way, add in the

15 minutes or more that it took the paramedics to arrive. Add in the

10 minute rush to the hospital. Or subtract it. Some

30 years after the fact, the minutes compound and still; they only equal

1 occurrence that will take

unknown and infinite lifetimes to get over.

And this seems accurate. We must carry the things we break inside of us.



Soon, foot nerves will send comforting pain waves with intact, sharp function. Muscles will lace back together. The bone will bear weight again.

But first, the holes left in the bone will bleed for weeks. The blood will surface in a copper bruise, and for a time, what lies deep will be seen. The bruise will spread and shrink—the pace of healing slow, uncertain.


Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel
Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel’s essays have appeared in The Seneca Review, The Normal School, Gulf Coast and elsewhere. She lives in Iowa City.