Back in elementary school, I used to think that breaking a bone was a rite of passage into becoming “cool”. When a friend would come in on a Monday morning with a cast on I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Anyone who could get their hands on a sharpie would sign the person’s cast and help them out with everything. It also indicated that you were doing something dangerous enough to cause a broken bone, like going off of a jump on your bike or playing in a sports game. I went through an assortment of different accidents but was never left with a broken arm or collar bone (the usual injuries of your youth). My freshman year of college I was playing in a men’s league just before the school year wrapped up and I transferred to Oregon Sate. When the play was purely for fun and the last thing on my mind was getting injured, I broke my leg.
I remember the lead up to the break so vividly that it still makes me sick to think about. We were playing on a basketball court, so the ground was sometimes slippery from dust and sometimes sticky from moisture. We were playing against the best team in the league and hustling our asses off to compete. There was some sort of jumble up and the ball popped out of a group of players perfectly between me and the captain of the other team. This guy was the former coach of some school on the east coast (can’t recall which institution) and had a huge build. He was six-foot-something and had legs the size of tree trunks. We both sprung for the ball at the same time. I beat him there by a fraction of a second and poked the ball away. All of my weight was on my forward, right leg when the other guy’s challenge landed. Our shins collided right on the tip of our tibias and a loud crack echoed around the room. I knew instantly what had happened, as did everybody else, and jumped up and down on my left leg before I hit the floor. I briefly looked at my leg and had to look away because it was bending in an unnatural direction and hurt like nothing I had ever felt before.
The first three things I said after the break was I had someone call my dad, had someone call 911, and tell one of my buddies to start praying, the latter being a joke, which now looking back I find it insane that I had a sense of humor when experiencing horrific pain. The game stopped and a bunch of my buddies helped to ease my discomfort, and for that, I am eternally grateful. After awhile, the ambulance showed up and prepared me for transport. On the way to the emergency room, I casually talked with the EMTs about life in general. I’m sure they were trying to distract me from the pain, but I was too in shock to even think about the throbbing in my leg.
The worst part about my brief stay in the ER was having to take X-rays. When I arrived, it was around 11:00 at night and most of the staff had gone home. On the X-ray platform, I had to shift myself around in order for them to get the proper images of my bones. My lower right leg was, for all intensive purposes, disconnected from the rest of my body, so I had to move my torso then move my lower leg as my broken tibia and fibula rubbed and clicked against one another, causing ridiculous amounts of pain. After this awful experience, they took me into the rest area where they pumped me full of morphine. After taking that powerful of an opiate you realize why people are prone to becoming dependent on the drug, it feels amazing, too amazing.
That same night I was driven to Cooperstown where I was prepped for surgery. The next morning at 9:00 a.m. I had a rod inserted into my tibia and they assembled my shattered fibula as best they could. By noon, I was coherent and rather happy, which I thought strange. My entire sporting career rested on the health of my legs, and now that one was seriously compromised, one would think I would be distraught. After my leg broke I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. The stress I had been going through over the past year was suddenly alleviated now that I had one new goal ahead of me, recovery.
Recovering from this injury was, in all honesty, really easy. After two weeks, I was walking again, although not very attractively. I worked my way off of the pain pills within those same two weeks and was surrounded by my dorm mates, who still to the day are the best group of people I have ever been surrounded by. My bones ended up healing nicely and my muscles didn’t atrophy too bad. Within a six month period, I was back to playing the sport I loved, although my mind had definitely been altered by the experience, even to the point where I encountered a slight bout of PTSD from the incident.
After my injury, I can guarantee everyone that breaking a bone (or two) isn’t all that cool. It did teach me, however, that having a healthy body is something that everybody takes for granted. You don’t know how valuable your limbs and health are until you have them taken away, so be thankful for your health and do your best to maintain you body, it’s your greatest tool. Another thing I learned from being seriously injured is that there are great people in this world who are willing to sacrifice their own energy to help you overcome adversity. I think I was insanely lucky to be surrounded by people who I loved and trusted when my injury happened, and I hope I have the opportunity to spread this empathy that was given to me to anyone who is in need of the same.