U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will fly to Boston for medical treatment on Monday after breaking his right femur while riding his bike over the weekend near Scionzier, France – an accident experts say will likely involve months of recovery.
One of the biggest questions is when the 71-year-old diplomat will be able to hit the road again, especially as the U.S. and world powers try to hammer out a crucial nuclear deal with Iran by a June 30 deadline. Kerry, after all, is used to a jam-packed travel schedule. According to the State Department, he has been to 63 countries and traveled 356 days since taking the job in 2013.
Kerry, who was in Geneva over the weekend for nuclear talks with Iranian officials, took to Twitter on Monday to say that while he was heading back to the U.S., he wasn’t planning to slow down his work anytime soon. “Look fwd to getting leg set & getting back to @StateDept!” he wrote. “Meantime, work goes on. Big thanks for well-wishes. #Onward.”
Similarly, deputy spokesperson of the State Department, Marie Harf, said despite the weekend’s injuries, Kerry’s main focus for June will be the Iran negotiations. “I want to be very clear about this,” she said. “He and the entire team are absolutely committed to the same timetable and we are working toward the June 30th as the deadline for these talks.”
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry never lost consciousness and stressed that the injury is non life-threatening and that he’s expected to make a full recovery. Kirby also said the injury is near the location of Kerry’s 2009 hip surgery, so Kerry will go the Massachusetts General Hospital to see the same physician, Dr. Dennis Burke, who handled his initial operation.
Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Lemieux Sports Complex, told msnbc that it can take six to nine months for a broken femur to completely heal. “It depends on the type of break and his bone quality,” she said.
Harf confirmed Kerry would undergo surgery sometime in the next week, but did not go into detail about what the surgery would entail. Robert Molloy, an orthopedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic (who has not seen Kerry’s X-rays), told msnbc that doctors would likely first determine whether or not the injury was the result of a loose component from his prior hip replacement surgery, something Molloy surmised was not the case because Kerry is an active individual. He said any potential surgery would likely involve stabilizing the bones with plates and screws.
But Kerry won’t be completely bedridden. Molloy said Kerry would likely move around with a walker soon after any surgery to prevent blood clots and bed sores. He would likely need such assistance to walk for up to 12 weeks in addition to continued physical therapy, with full recovery taking place anywhere from six months to a year.
Molloy added, depending on the severity of the injury, it can realistically take two to three months before a patient is given the green light to travel, due to the risk of blood clots. That would, of course, coincide with the Iranian negotiations. “I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question,” Molloy surmised, “but I would say it would be unlikely for the doctors feeling comfortable for him traveling that soon after surgery … But [Kerry] may say this is serious stuff, it’s gotta go down and he might go anyways.”
Kerry is no stranger to sports injuries. Back in 2012, the then-senator sported two black eyes and a broken nose — the result of a pick-up hockey game. He has attributed his 2009 hip surgery and another 2005 knee surgery to years of playing hockey and other sports.
“He’s committed to an aggressive, ambitious and responsible recovery timeline,” Harf said of Kerry. “Beyond that, we’re not going to speculate about what the recovery will look like, what time table that will take.”
Kerry cancelled his scheduled meeting on Sunday in Madrid with his Spanish counterpart. He also will not be able to attend a meeting in person in Paris about combating the terrorist group known as ISIS on Tuesday, but is expected to participate remotely.