Marina Sirtis is popping up all over the place these days. Look! Here she is as a sickly Iranian mother on Greys Anatomy! Look, over there! Sirtis as a hot-shot doctor on ABC family favourite Make it or Break it. The latter, should make clear, is not set on a spaceship or in a hospital. Why do I watch it then? Because it is awesome. The dialogue is poor, the ethos is uncomfortably Christian-Right-Republican-conservative in tone and the girls don’t do their own stunts, despite adamant (badly punctuated, misspelt) assertions to the contrary made by youtubers with usernames that include hearts, crosses and the word ‘babe.’ However, the stunt doubles are actual elite gymnasts worth watching, and the hairstyles are increasingly inventive.
It centres on four Olympic hopefuls training at a gym in Boulder Colorado nicknamed ‘The Rock’ (geddit?). Like the other famous foursome’s Miranda Hobbes, she is the only remotely plausible character, and the only one whom you could be trapped in a lift with without one of you killing the other. The most dedicated of the ‘rock rebels’, Payson breaks her back trying out for the National Gymnastics squad and is told that, though in time the fracture will heal, she can’t ever return to competitive gymnastics.
Enter Dr. Anna Kleister. In her Deanna Troi-y reassuring but firm voice, she explains a new groundbreaking procedure that involves making a small incision in Payson’s back and injecting‘cement-like’ filler into her spine. If it works, she can return to the world of chalky hands and delayed puberty. It’s risky though. Payson could be paralysed or DIE.
This I had to check out. I doubted Make it or Break it has a medical advisor on set to make it all kosher, I doubted whether the programme’s target audience would even call into question the plausibility of such a procedure. After all, these are the same girls that think actors can perform the skills of world class athletes with a few weeks of training and a spunky can-do attitude.
But guess what! It’s real! Percutaneous vertebroplasty was first conceived in 1984 in France and involves ‘injection of a mixture of polymethylmethacrylate bone cement (PMMA) and a contrast agent, typically barium sulfate, into the vertebral bodies using fluoroscopic or occasionally computed tomography guidance, or rarely both’.
Mainly used to relieve pain in patients with osteoporosis, it is unlikely that vertebroplasty would be offered as a treatment option to a young elite gymnast keen to continue her career. Two studies published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 found no benefit to vertebroplasty over a placebo procedure.
So…mixed reviews then. Vertebroplasty is real, but it wouldn’t have worked for our bendy young heroine. Shoulda called Dr. Callie Torres. She would have sorted Payson out in a jiffy. Accurately. On a special Make it or Break it/Grey’s Anatomy two-hour-long crossover special in which Osteo becomes the new Neuro. Yeah.