Dr. Daniel Snyder seemed genuinely sorry
for what happened in the course of my hip resurfacing
surgery May 5, 2010, at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Newton,
That makes two of us.
I sought surgery to fix an arthritic right hip which made me
limp and seemed to aggravate an otherwise unrelated back
problem. I had been an avid long-distance runner before all
that, and I remained in athletic shape (and 45 years old) at
the time of my surgery. I had hoped someday to return to
cycling, hiking and cross-country skiing.
I awoke from surgery unable to feel or move my lower right
leg. My leg was swollen and bruised, and an MRI was ordered
up within hours.
Ultimately, Dr. Snyder and various neurologists and
neurosurgeons concluded that Snyder must have injured my
sciatic nerve near the site of the operation, most likely
while retracting the flesh to get at the bone. Dr. Snyder
acknowledged that it had been hard; he said he’d been
obliged to use a great deal of force.
It was a tough break, everyone agreed, but apparently
permanent nerve damage is a “known hazard” of hip
resurfacing surgery, and some of the best malpractice
lawyers in Boston have assured me it wasn’t sufficiently
grave or negligent to warrant a lawsuit. Dr. Snyder claims
it had never happened to any other of his patients, just me.
I wound up staying several extra nights in the hospital.
Several of the muscles in my upper right leg were no longer
working, and I had no muscle function or sensation below the
knee. Nerve injuries are not only debilitating, but they can
be extremely and unrelentingly painful. I could hardly walk,
and couldn’t sit at all. I couldn’t drive, which is just as
well, since I needed heavy medication.
A neurosurgeon opined that the nerve would probably heal on
its own, but he offered to cut me open and have a look. I
declined. After six months of daily physical therapy (and
several months out of work), with tests showing no
discernible improvement in nerve function, I reluctantly
opted for nerve repair surgery with a doctor in Philadelphia
in November 2010.
That seems to have gone well. My hamstrings and gluts have
started to come back to life, and the nerve pain has
diminished. I still require daily pain medication, but I’m
off the narcotics. I can sit long enough to drive around
town, though not long enough to take in a movie. I still
can’t stand on my right leg without support, and I walk with
a leg brace and cane. My hip still hurts, and I still walk
with a limp. My lower leg has atrophied. I can’t move or
feel my floppy right foot, and the neurosurgeons tell me
it’s unlikely that it will ever fully recover. I hope to
surprise them, but only time will tell.
Dr. Snyder wished me all the best, and said there is nothing
more he could for me. I’m sure that’s true, medically
We so often hear about the evils of malpractice suits, and I
would agree that there is at least as much room for
improvement in our legal system as in the health care and
insurance industries. I’d suggest, for instance, that along
with caps on total damage awards(how much is any one life
really worth, after all?), doctors be required to carry
no-fault accident insurance, to cover more of their
mistakes. With any other product or service, I’d at least
get my money back.