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