Saturday, August 30, 2008

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology."

Dear Friends,
I have received so many sweet emails and texts with well wishes and kind inquiries on how the surgery went, so I thought I would give you an update. Thanks to a wonderful team of very gifted and skilled orthopedic surgeons, nurses and anesthesiologists, the surgery went very, very well and the Iilizarov Frame was attached and the tibial fractures cleaned out, re-energized and perfectly aligned and immobilized. Thanks to the wonders of digital photography and x-rays, for the very curious, I am posting photos.
- some of the pictures may cause the squeamish some discomfort.

As you can see, four rings were anchored on solid, healthy parts of my tibia, and then "spokes" or wires were placed through the tibia in several locations and then everything was aligned with external adjusting rods and screws. In the x-rays below, you can see where the rings are anchored and the wires criss-cross through the bone. You'll see a few holes where the stainless steel plate was removed from the tibia, and one or two screws left in the bone when the other plate that broke off was removed several months ago. In the one x-ray, you can see part of my metal artificial knee, which made it impossible to repair the tibia last September with a "nail" or rod which would have been the desired repair. Isn't it fascinating what can be done when someone (like Gavriel “The Magician from Kurgan” Ilizarov) has and idea and the persistence and tenacity to bring it to fruition.

I was discharged from the hospital today and am now resting comfortably at home, with my leg elevated in my La-Z-Boy. "Comfortably because I still have a nerve block that deadens my entire lower leg. When that wears off, thankfully I have some narcotics to get me through for a while. I have been told to start walking as soon as possible (with crutches at first) because weight bearing helps stimulate bone growth. The beauty of the Ilizarov technique is that the bones are held so rigid by the spokes that they will not move even when walking. Hopefully, like Steve Austin, I'll be "Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster!"

The only trouble I will have is crafting a pant leg that will fit over the crazy contraption. Maybe I'll stimulate the resurgence of bell-bottom trousers for men.

Thanks again for all the prayers and kind thoughts! They are truly appreciated.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"That which does not kill me makes me stronger" - Nietzche

When I was a kid my three brothers and I loved to leg wrestle. Remember that? It's where you lie down next to each other but in opposite directions so my head is next to my opponent's head. Each would then bring the inside leg up to vertical on the count of "one - two - three," and on "three," you lock legs and try to pull the other off his back and over the top. I was the long-standing Shurtleff leg wrestling champ.

I worked hard on developing strong leg muscles for football (as an offensive tackle I can't count how many hours, from little league to my walk-on at BYU, that I pushed heavy sleds around a practice field) and for basketball relying on my left leg to go up strong on a lay-up or to out jump a taller opponent on the opening tip-off (yep that's me in white Brighton Bengal uniform - I won that tip!) Over the years, they've gotten a little bigger. My wife once joked that just one of my legs could feed an entire tribe of starving cannibals for a week.

Needless to say, I don't win leg wrestling contests anymore and I haven't done a lay-up in well over a year.

After suffering through six surgeries to repair my badly broken left leg a year ago, I was told yesterday that I'm down to two options: amputation (GASP!) or a unique and unwieldy new repair called the "Ilizarov Technique." So of course, I've chosen the latter which will be done tomorrow. Since so many people have called, emailed and written with their kind well wishes and contributions to the Law Enforcement Memorial, I thought I would give a brief medical lesson on what has happened and what the docs will do tomorrow:

In September of last year I sustained a serious "pilon" fracture to my tibia and fibula. "Pilon" is french for "hammer!" (as in whacking my shin bone repeatedly with a hammer.) The usual procedure for repairing the multiple jagged pieces of bone is to put the puzzle pieces back together as close as possible and insert a "nail" or rod into the top of tibia and down the middle of the bone and attach the fragments to the nail. But because I have had an artificial knee since 2000 (combined football and basketball injuries) the nail couldn't be inserted, so the docs pieced me back together with bubble gum and duck tape. Actually they did best they could with three large plates and lots of screws (you may have seen the x-rays on TV.)

Long story short, as can happen with pilon fractures, due to plate movement and infection, I officially have a condition called "nonunion," meaning bone growth at the fracture sites stopped somewhere in the process (and well before it reached solid bone;) and the weak area or "joint" is mis-aligning my leg from the injury site downward. Enter Gavriel Abramovich Ilizarov, the “Magician from Kurgan.”

Ilizarov was born in 1921 in the Caucasian Mountains in the Soviet Republic. He was the oldest of eight children - born to illiterate parents. He did not attend school until he was 11 years old because he had no shoes. However, he later was able to attend medical school in Crimea. He treated a huge number of wounded Russian soldiers in WWII and was faced with the daunting challenge of managing nonunions (bones that don’t heal) and osteomyelitis (infection in the bone) in the pre-antibiotic era. With the assistance of the local bicycle shop he worked out a way of immobilizing fractures using fine wires tensioned to a ring like the spokes of a wheel. This framework proved so stable that he was able to undertake very complex reconstructive procedures and treatment for nonunion. As stated by Dr. David M. Huebner, "The Ilizarov Technique is unique in all of orthopaedics in that it allows the surgeon to use the patient’s biology to form new bone."

So, beginning tomorrow, and for the next 6-9 months, I'll be sporting several "halos" in a Frankenstein-esque mime. Will Niezche's prognosis prove true? Well, consider this: An Olympic champion high-jumper and Russian national hero, Valery Brumel, had an infected tibial nonunion after a motorcycle accident. After 14 failed operations, he was finally referred to Dr. Ilizarov. Brumel was treated with the Ilizarov technique and one year later jumped 2 meters in a high jump competition!

I'm not dead yet, so here we go: "One - Two - THREE!"

Friday, August 22, 2008


I had an extraordinary experience this week participating in the Fall Ride 4 Fallen Officers to raise money for the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial to be dedicated on September 6th. I missed the ride last year because of my now infamous Harley accident that resulted in a badly broken leg and six surgeries. I wasn't ready to ride a motorcycle yet, so to keep me "safe" I rode in a Utah National Guard Humvee. The turnout was double what was expected. Estimates are that over 2500 bikers contributed to the memorial by registering for the ride. Again this year John "Gov-1" Huntsman led the ride on his own Harley and a lot of police motor cops from around the state rode and provided traffic control.

I took a lot of good-natured ribbing like "I think we have a Hog in the back with training wheels for you," and "wanna ride on the back of my bike" (that last one is considered "fighting words." To poke a little fun at myself and raise more money, we sold special autographed t-shirts that said "Attorney General Mark Shurtleff Was Here" with tire tracks running across it. We also auctioned off my "crash helmet" from last year. It was a black "8-Ball" helmet and I autographed it next to the "road rash." I thought maybe we could raise a couple hundred, but some great charitable folks bid it up and ultimately Eric Schanz bought it (and dinner with me at Ruths Chris) for $1200! Thanks Eric!

We raised a lot of money and are very close to having the $1.3 million dollar memorial completely paid for. During my first two years in office, I attended eight funerals of police officers killed in the line of duty. The best and the brightest cut down in the prime of life because they kissed their wives and kids goodbye and went out to protect ant serve all of us. The memorial is to honor them and their families for giving the ultimate sacrifice and is also for all Utahns who want to say thank you. For more information on the memorial, including information on all Utah officers killed in the line of duty, the dedication, or to make a contribution, please visit and join us at the capitol on September 6th at 10 am.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Unveiling of the Declaration of Independence


Today is an historic day for the State of Utah, and I had the great opportunity of unveiling at the State Capitol rotunda, one of the few remaining original copies of the Declaration of Independence! My pride and love of this country swelled in my heart as I spoke of the experience I had as a teenager to travel across country with my parents to be in Washington D.C. on July 4th, 1976, the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence! I still remember the reverence, awe, and patriotism (and the accompanying goosebumps,) I felt the day I gazed on the original Declaration at the National Archives. I felt the same way today.

I spoke of the fact that those brave and inspired founding fathers who signed it pledged in the last sentence "our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor." During the subsequent decade of war, many of them gave exactly that. You can read about "The Price They Paid" at

Everyone knows the inspiring words Thomas Jefferson penned in declaring the self-evident truth "that all men are created equal" and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." But many don't know what follows immediately thereafter: "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed."

This means that elected officials, like me, can only govern by the consent of the people, and that consent is given every four years (or two or six) by voting.

It is my hope that everyone who gazes upon these words of the Declaration of Independence at the Utah State Capitol will also think of all those who have given their all to preserve us a free nation, and immediately register to vote! If you can't make it up here, please watch the above video and then go to and register online, and then get out and vote on November 4th and "Declare Yourself" and give your consent to whomever you choose to make or enforce the laws of this great state and our dear Nation.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Using Technology to Protect Utah Children and Families

I spent last week in Seattle, Washington at the summer meeting of the Conference of Western Attorneys General. I was honored that the new interactive website of the Office of Utah Attorney General won the "Waggie" award for the Best Overall Website. I have talented people in my office, including Paul Murphy, Scott Troxel and Chris Earl to thank.

In the past four years, I have worked very hard to use technology to better protect the people of Utah. During the CWAG conference, I shared a PowerPoint presentation on websites we have been involved in developing to provide information and assistance in further protecting our citizens. I invite you to visit the following websites for more information on how you might better protect yourselves and your families; or drop by my official Utah Attorney General website for information on these or a host of other issues.

Identity Theft:

Internet Safety: and

Get Amber Alerts on your cell phone or PDA:

No-porn List:

Youth Access to Alcohol:

Free subsctiption to crime reports in your neighborhood: