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The Story of My Half Body Cast

by Meghann on July 13, 2011

By special request, here’s the story of how I ended up in a half body cast in my youth.

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I was nine when I broke my right femur. I was climbing a neighbor’s tree when a small branch snapped and I fell 15 -20 feet to the ground. It was a clean fall that left me with a sharp pain in my right leg and gasping for breath.

Though that was well over 17 years ago now, the memories of that day are still very vivid in my mind. I remember my Mom and neighbor trying to move me. I remember the ambulance arriving and the small neighborhood crowd that had formed on the other side of the fence. I remember the blue flowered shirt I was wearing that the paramedic had to cut off. I remember the paramedic’s name was Mario and he told the driver to go slow over bumps. I also remember being disappointed when they told me it wasn’t an emergency so they weren’t allowed to use the sirens and lights (total disappointment!).

I remember waiting in the emergency room for what seemed like hours on a gurney. Eventually I was wheeled back to surgery where my leg was placed in traction (meaning my leg was up in the air and I was forced on my back), a metal rod was inserted into my shin to keep my leg stable and a cast covered my leg from the knee down.

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(the ONLY photo I have of my month long hospital stay and sadly it contains a creepy clown)

That night I experienced my first bout of pain on top of my right foot. I felt a lot of pressure. It hurt, but it took a while to convince anyone what was going on. Two days of complaining later…they finally cut a hole in the top of the cast.

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The too tight cast had basically killed my nerves and left me with what looks like a permanent bruise on the top of my foot. It’s still there today and it’s still numb, but it doesn’t bother me. I wear it as a badge of honor from my past.

Staying in the hospital, strapped to a bed, the month before Christmas was complete torture for a nine year old. I couldn’t go anywhere! If I had to potty, I was presented with a bed pan. If I needed a bath, they brought out the sponge. Hospital food was the bane of my existence and staged hunger protests would usually force my parents to bring in my favorite fast food just to get me to eat.

I had lots of visitors, but it was still a very lonely time. I missed my class’ Christmas party, my family’s annual Christmas caravan, my soccer team’s second place championship finish, hanging out with my friends, etc. etc. This led to a lot of tantrums and personal pity parties.

The goal was to heal up and get out of the hospital before Christmas. That meant I had 3 weeks to tell my bones to mend together as quickly as possible.

Everything was going great until the night my traction collapsed in the middle of the night. Set back #1.

And then it collapsed again. Set back #2.

Ughh… I think my Dad remembers those nights more than anyone. I can’t even imagine hearing the string snap that was keeping your daughter’s leg up in the air and witness the painful aftermath that followed. My Dad still tells the story with sad eyes, it makes my heart melt every time.

Luckily the set backs didn’t deter my miraculously healing leg. On December 23 (two days before Christmas!) I was wheeled back into surgery for the second time. A few hours later I was released with a half body cast that went down my entire right leg, halfway down my left leg, and all the way to my belly button. A hole was cut in the crotch and a bar was placed between my legs.

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Finally I was mobile again. Sort of. My parents mostly had to carry me or wheel me around, but I got to sleep in my own bed and I quickly learned to crawl and ‘walk’ with my cast. I refused to stay still.

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Even though I was somewhat mobile, I was still unable to return to school with the awkward cast on. A private tutor was assigned to me and I was homeschooled for the remaining two months my leg took to heal. I remember enjoying homeschooling. I basically watched tv all day and only had to spend a couple of hours doing various assignments on my Mom’s cool laptop (which ran on Ms-Dos and had a memory smaller than the tiny chip contained in my current smart phone). What wasn’t to love?

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I know this is going to come up in the comments section (curious people need to know!), but, yes, the cast did have a hole in the crotch for, umm, body breaks. My Mom and Grandmother made special boxers for me that had velcro on the crotch to keep my privates, well, private.

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Thankfully the cast only lasted six weeks and a couple of weeks before my 10th Birthday (on January 26th) my cast was removed. It was a painful experience that left me in tears, but I was not sad to see it go.

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Recovery from there was quick. A week later I was taking my first steps and three months after that I was performing in my dance studio’s ballet recital. Thankfully, no physical therapy was required and I was able to continue living my very active kid life.

And here I am (17+ years later) running marathons, ultra marathons, and training for a half ironman. Looks like the doc knew what he was doing when he fixed my leg. ๐Ÿ™‚

1 Cait's Plate July 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Oh my gosh Meghann!!! I can’t believe that happened to you! What a crazy, crazy experience! So glad everything ended up okay and you’re still able to be as active as you are now!
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2 Heather @ Side of Sneakers July 13, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Holy cow, now that’s a story! And it makes it even more amazing you’re accomplishing all that you’re accomplishing! ๐Ÿ™‚

3 Holly @ The Runny Egg July 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I cannot imagine having that sort of cast on — that metal rod keeping your legs apart is crazy!

And the Precious Moments clown isn’t scary! He’s probably the only non-scary clown out there. He’s cute!
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4 Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat July 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Wow, that is quite the story Meghann! I’ve never had a serious injury (knock on wood) but stories like this, as well as those that don’t turn out to be as lucky, always make me thankful for my health. Thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚
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5 Hillary July 13, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Good Lord! I’ve (thankfully!) never done more than sprain an ankle, so I cannot even imagine the process that you had to go through. Way to be a trooper ; )
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6 Gina @ Running to the Kitchen July 13, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Holy cow! That is insane! I have to admit the picture of you laying down with the bar between your legs in that cast made me laugh. What a ridiculous contraption! I can only imagine how miserable that must’ve been at that age.
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7 karin (allpointswhole) July 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

So glad to read this…badge of honor is right!!

8 Hope July 13, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Oh, my! I can’t believe you went through all of that! I’m sorry that you had to deal with that! Look at everything you accomplished though! That is something to be proud of!
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9 April B July 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

OUCH! Bless your little heart. You were so tiny and cute. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable that must have been, and I’m sure it was hard to miss out on school! Thanks for sharing your story. I’m really glad you were able to make a full recovery, otherwise we might not have gotten to enjoy your healthy living blog!
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10 Jen July 13, 2011 at 2:17 pm

That part about your dad being so upset by the sound of your leg falling left me in tears. I’m clearly hormonal.

Awesome story! You need to go back and tell the Dr what an amazing job he did ๐Ÿ™‚
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11 shelby July 13, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Actually, this is the vein of your existence: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulmonary_vein

I think you mean “bane,” yes?
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12 Kelly July 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

also, it’s metal rod, not medal rod.
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13 Liz July 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

I came here to say this, Shelby, but you were much more hilarious about it, lol.

14 meg July 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm

haha, always so many typos.

15 Liz July 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I’m an editor by trade, so I notice these things, and I want people to have proper English, dammit! lol ๐Ÿ™‚

16 Meghann July 13, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Well, when you put it that way, I think I prefer vein. Makes more sense to me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I corrected it though.

17 Dori July 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm

WOW. I am actually really surprised that you went through all of that and are such a strong, mostly injury-free runner now. Amazing how the body can heal. Makes me feel more positive about my own much more minor injuries recovering.
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18 annelies July 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

What an inspiring story Meghann. It seems this injury helped contribute to the strong person you are today! I feel like our scars can be badges of honor and remembering what we’ve gone through to make it this far. Thanks for sharing your story with us.

19 Ashley O. @ The Vegetable Life July 13, 2011 at 2:29 pm

Wow you must have really done some damage to go through all of that! Its amazing you are such an amazing athlete today!!!
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20 Hilary July 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm

My son had to wear this same type of cast when he was 7 months old…he’s just over two now and shows absolutely no side effects, but I always worry. Hearing your story, and knowing all the amazing physical things you can do, gives me such a peace of mind for my baby! Thank you so much!

21 Heather @ Dietitian on the Run July 13, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Meghann, OUCH! Being in the hospital for a few DAYS is miserable to most people – little 9-year-old you was such a trooper! I can’t imagine having a full leg cast, much less one that basically immobilized you (well, in a sense ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). Most of the details here made me kind of nauseous, ha, definitely not meant for the medical field.

22 Mary July 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Like I said when you first brought this up on twitter… I’m SO glad I’m a cardiac nurse!

that looks SO tortureous!
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23 Laura @ Backstage Pass July 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

What an interesting experience. It’s beautiful and remarkable that you are now so active, having overcome such a crazy injury! Thanks for sharing your story.
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24 Christina July 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Oh my goodness, I’ve never heard of anyone else that was in a body cast before. I broke my left femur when I was 6 at recess right before our Christmas party. My cast wore a hole on my heel and I still have scars from it! I remember everything too…and traction was HORRIBLE. I hated the outfit I had on that day and was so happy they had to cut off my skirt haha.
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25 Juli D. July 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Holy cow – what an experience! I’m glad it all ended up okay and you don’t have any serious permanent damage. PS – the expression is “bane of my existence” not “vein.” ๐Ÿ˜‰
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26 Meghann July 13, 2011 at 3:17 pm

My bad. Could have sworn it was vein. Guess I’ll go back to school for that English degree one day. ๐Ÿ˜‰

27 Juli D. July 13, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Doesn’t really have anything to do with your English/writing abilities. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s more one of those funny things you realize you’ve had wrong all your life. I didn’t realize that the Washington Redskins were from DC until I had a friend move there a year ago – I always thought they were from Washington state!
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28 Lizz @ Leading the Good Life July 13, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Really, they’re from DC? I had no idea!
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29 Meghann July 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Wait, they’re from DC? I thought they were from Washington the state too!

30 Lish July 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm

And the Washington Redskins’ training camp is in Virginia and their actual stadium where they play their games is in Maryland. Totally, completely makes sense, right?

31 Juli D. July 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

Ha ha, glad I’m not alone! Crazy, eh?
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32 Amanda July 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm

Is that a 101 Dalmations bedspread?!? I think I had the same one! ๐Ÿ˜‰
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33 Anne @strawberryjampackedlife July 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Your cast is very similar to my brothers cast. He was born with one leg shorter than the other as well as hip dysplasia. Among his many surgeries throughout his lfie, when he was in 8th grade he was in a half body cast with a bar between his legs. For some reason he chose a hot pink cast, too. He still went to school, and I rode on the short bus with him for three months. I like to tell people “Don’t go knocking the short bus!” ๐Ÿ˜€
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34 Cassie @ Back to Her Roots July 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Wow! That is SO crazy! I never broke any bones until I was 21 (and then it was a bone in my foot that couldn’t have a cast on it). I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be in a body cast!

35 Katy (The Singing Runner) July 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Dang! That is quite the story! I NEVER would have guessed that something like that happened to you! Here you are today, doing marathons, triathlons and training for a HIM!

Definitely an interesting story to tell!
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36 Brooke @ bittersweetb July 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Wow, your story is pretty amazing. I can’t imagine being in the hospital that long or having a cast like that. You’re a trooper! And look at you now, about to run a half marathon, pretty darn impressive.
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37 Erin@JustBreathe July 13, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Awesome, crazy story!
I’m pretty sure I had those same Christmas pajammas as a kid!
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38 kristen (inspiredbydooce) July 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm

No physical therapy? I guess that goes to show how resilient a child’s body is! If that happened now you’d be doing physio forEVER…
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39 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey July 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm

That is absolutely insane! I can’t believe your traction broke TWICE! That must have been so painful!
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40 Krystina (Organically Me) July 13, 2011 at 3:38 pm

You poor thing!
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41 Annette @ EnjoyYourHealthyLife July 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm

whoa!! That is quite the cast. And look how far you’ve come!! Inspiring!
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42 Julie July 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Wow! I have heard stories of how my dad was in a body cast for several months during his youth due to a back injury. He has no pictures of it though, so this definitely gave me a better perspective. Thanks for sharing!
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43 RhodeyGirl July 13, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Oh my God I had no idea. I can’t even imagine going through that as a kid. I broke my wrist/forearm in a freak stupid accident in 1st grade and that was torture- I can’t imagine going through what you want through. You are one tough cookie!
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44 Theodora July 13, 2011 at 3:56 pm

You look so sad in the first pic ๐Ÿ™ Glad you recovered so well!
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45 Samantha @ Bikini Birthday July 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

That half body cast is ridiculous! That’s the most awkward thing I’ve ever seen!

Luckily, I was a ‘fraidy cat as a child and did nothing that would harm me even remotely… no broken bones ever!

46 Samantha @ Bikini Birthday July 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

P.S. That crazy precious moments clown rocks. seriously. that would have made my day.

47 Hayley @ Hayley Daily July 13, 2011 at 4:25 pm

WOW — that is crazy!! How that must have sucked, so hard **cries**. I second the notion that it definitely seems like your doctor fixed that leg up right though. Goodness!
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48 Kate (What Kate is Cooking) July 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm

Poor kiddo! That’s so sad ๐Ÿ™ I totally had the same nightgown that you’re wearing in the first picture!
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49 Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) July 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Oh my gosh- I cannot even imagine being in a full body cast, esp as a kid. I was couch-bound for a couple weeks due to getting my foot run over/surgery a couple years ago, but this is far worse. Thank you for sharing this.
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50 Brittany @ Itty Bits of Balance July 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm

HALF BODY CAST!? Oh my lordy you brave brave soul!
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51 Lisa @ Sunny Seed Stories July 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

COOL story. I mean, it’s awful that it happened, but kind of fun to tell and watch people’s faces. I have a badge of honor and story as well. Not ashamed of it at all. ๐Ÿ™‚
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52 Shannon July 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm

That’s crazy! When I was three years old the same thing happened to me. I was swinging on a swing and fell off breaking my right femur. I was also in traction for a few weeks and then had a full body cast like yours for about 8 weeks. My mom made velcro underwear for me ๐Ÿ™‚ What hospital were you at when this happened? I know you grew up in titusville, Im from melbourne and I was at Holmes Regional!

53 Meghann July 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Parrish medical center

54 Lish July 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm

The exact same thing happened to a girl in my class when I was in the 3rd grade. Her mom brought her in for our end of the year party and I remember “how do you pee??” being the first question asked. She had velcro undies, too and everyone was kind of letdown by that answer b/c we’d already constructed elaborate ‘peeing devices’ in our heads. Bummer.

55 Aleyta July 13, 2011 at 7:06 pm

omg you were the cutest kid ever! A smile on your face even with a cast ๐Ÿ™‚
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56 RunToTheFinish July 13, 2011 at 7:45 pm

This makes it all reasonable that you were able to take smiling pictures during the biking incident, that was child’s play! I always love when you talk about your family because they are great, so I know I don’t comment often but I’m lurking and wanted to say glad you were ok this time around and not afraid to get back out there
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57 Pam July 13, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Congrats to you for surviving that experience. I am a pediatric orthopedic nurse, and we still use those casts. We call them 1 1/2 spica casts and the girls do best to wear sundresses and panties that are split on the sides and attatch with velcro. I know that pottying with one of these casts is not much fun.

58 Lauren July 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Wow, I had no idea! Thanks for sharing this story Meghann. You have been through so much at such a young age but when you think about it, it’s amazing how the body can heal, especially at such a young age. Imagine if you did that now. I almost guarantee you wouldn’t have healed nearly as fast or as well.
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59 Amy July 13, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Holy crap! What an insane story !
And yea you were right the yogurt dressing = weak.
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60 Hilary July 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

GREAT story! Thanks for sharing….and obviously has not set you back at all!
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61 Trish July 13, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Oh you poor thing. How awful that must have been.

62 Jess@atasteofconfidence July 13, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Oh my! It must have been difficult to go through that so young, but you certainly bounced back quickly!
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63 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy July 13, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Wow…this actually gave me goosebumps! That was a lot for you to go through at that age- I can’t imagine! Do they still do that…or is there advanced technology that would keep kids out of body casts for that type of injury?
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64 E July 13, 2011 at 11:59 pm

They still do those casts for a broken femur….

65 Emily @ Perfection Isn't Happy July 14, 2011 at 11:18 am

Hmm..you think they would think of something that allows kids to be more mobile. Hopefully one day!

66 Stephanie July 14, 2011 at 12:34 am

I’m a nurse at an orthopaedic hospital and we have TONS of kids with traction and spica casts (the ones with the bar in the middle). It’s so tough to watch them, but they come up with the most brilliant ways to get normal tasks done without help. It’s so inspiring
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67 Liz July 14, 2011 at 12:38 am

Poor thing. And I swear I wasn’t laughing at your misfortune, but I cracked up when I saw the clown pic. That is my childhood worst nightmare.

68 Meg Maher July 14, 2011 at 8:29 am

Wow! I cannot imagine being in that body cast for 6 weeks. I broke my left femur 3 years ago (I was 28 at the time), but I didn’t get a body cast. Just a temporary traction pin in the trauma center and then surgical IM rod and nails. I always feel a kindred spiritness and connection when I meet/know of someone else who has broken their femur, since it’s such a large and difficult bone to break. Your description of how you felt right when it happened, the sharp pain in your leg and gasping for breath. I relate so much. That’s exactly how I felt. I always describe it as feeling like the wind got knocked out of me, but in my leg….that intense deep muscle spasm pain. It’s funny, the details and things that are forever etched in our mind.

69 Kristen @ The Concrete Runner July 14, 2011 at 10:32 am

Wow, that is crazy! Do you ever feel any sort of pain or aching from your break? My uncle broke his femur playing football with the neighbor kids about 10 years ago (he was 34) and all they did was cast up the leg and give him a wheelchair and walker. I wonder if it depends on where you break it or if medical procedures have just changed that much in 17 years? Glad it hasn’t affected your running at all, because you’re blog would be WAY different if it did!
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70 Halley (Blunder Construction) July 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

That photo from the paper is horrifying. Seriously, way to make a sad little girl even sadder!! Seems like you were just as active as a 10 yr old as you are now! Nothing can slow you down!
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71 Halley (Blunder Construction) July 14, 2011 at 12:35 pm

10 minutes later, I’m still laughing at how messed up that hospital photo is!
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72 Katie G. July 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Wow, what an experience! I can’t timagine going through something like that at such a young age! Despite all of the pain and discomfort, you seem to have a smile on your face in all of the pictures!
ps: that clown thing is scary
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73 Kelly July 14, 2011 at 3:11 pm

My story isn’t as extreme, but I can definitely relate to vividly remembering a broken bone from 14 years ago. I was 11 and broke my fibula and tibia while playing soccer. Landed me in a full leg cast for 4 months. No fun at all!

74 Sarah K July 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Wow, what an experience!
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75 Alan March 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Hi there my sister was fourteen she broke her femur and was in cast like you about 4 years ago they first had her in the old plaster my mom could hardly move her then they put fibreglass casts on her bar was a bit wider so I know wahat you went through . She never stoped moaning she eventually started walking in the cast then she broke it and they put two bars one at the knee and one at the ankles,Regards Alan south africa

76 Carol Lancaster March 9, 2013 at 1:22 am

Glad it hasnโ€™t affected your running at all, because youโ€™re blog would be WAY different if it did! They still do those casts for a broken femurโ€ฆ. Heโ€™s probably the only non-scary clown out there. Itโ€™s so tough to watch them, but they come up with the most brilliant ways to get normal tasks done without help.

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