Getting down to the bones

Published 1:05 am Saturday, December 7, 2013

I once read that one in 20 people has an extra rib. Then recently I saw on a website that it is one in 50. Who knows? Of course, it brought to mind the Bible story about God removing a rib from the first man, Adam, and creating Eve, the first woman.

I began pondering human bones one time when I found myself ushered into an examining room at an orthopedist’s office. You know how it is. Sometimes the wait in an examining room can stretch to twice as long as in the reception area. You need something to amuse yourself to take your mind off your ailment. I had forgotten to slip the paperback book I was reading into my purse. It was before cell phones, so I couldn’t get out my I-phone to punch up a novel I had downloaded. That particular day, I had two choices. I could look out the window from five stories up and watch the cars pull in and out of the parking lot. Or I could gaze at the skeleton (it wasn’t real bones) hanging next to my chair.

I thought my foot was fractured, so I focused my attention on the foot bones. I tried to match my bones covered with skin with the bare bones of the skeleton foot. When you look carefully at a skeleton, you realize how important our bones are.

Babies start out with a skeletal mix of about 300 different bones and cartilage elements. A normal figure for adults is 206. You might wonder how that is possible. Consider what happens to the skull at birth. It is in two parts in a malleable form. This allows it to pass through the birth canal. Then those parts fuse by the second year of life to become one. Other bones also fuse. I discovered that nearly half the bones in the body are in the hands and feet.

Just consider God’s master plan for our bodies. What are bones made of? Bone is a honeycomb-like grid of calcium salts located around a network of protein fibers called collagen. Now think about the purpose of our bones. They give shape to the body. They provide a place to hook muscles, ligaments, tendons and tissues. They make up enclosures for the heart, lungs and other organs. Bones are a storage place for calcium. They are the place where the body manufactures its blood cells. They provide a giant system of levers allowing us to move ourselves around.

When we get breaks in our bones, the surface starts producing healing substances. The cells work to make a material on the broken surfaces. It in turn forms the basis to start new bone growth for healing. To me, that is more than amazing.

My exam revealed I did not have a fracture in my foot that day, only a fracture in my pocketbook when the receptionist presented me my bill.