My wife and I made an unexpected detour in the midst of our errand-running last Saturday after an unwelcome phone call. The news, of course, was bad: my brother-in-law had a motorcycle accident and was in the hospital undergoing surgery. The prognosis is good but the injuries were grim: a severely broken leg that will require another surgery and plating and a broken wrist that will also require surgery.
Scotty and I have a lot in common besides the fact that we’re both fond of his sister — motorcycles, shooting, the Cowboys, barbecued red meat, you know, guy stuff. Now we’re both also unfortunate members of The Broken Leg Club. This is a fairly exclusive club not open to just anyone. You had to have snapped your leg at some point and undergone mind-numbing pain and months of rehabilitation to walk again in order to be part of our click.
My own injury came about 10 years or so ago during a hockey game. I was skating in to shoot on goal when I lost my edge, or came off of my skates. I still don’t know how it happened, but a heartbroken teammate told me a year later that he fell behind me and took me out, or so he thought. To this day I don’t know the cause but I live with the result daily. When I fell I hit the wall feet first going at my maximum speed. I hit so hard that the blade of my skate dug into the wall and when my body twisted my leg did not. The result was a tibia and fibula that snapped in half above the ankle. After I hit the wall I tried to get up but couldn’t feel anything below my waist and briefly wondered if I was paralyzed. But then the pain hit, and hit hard.
Not knowing what had blown up inside my leg a referee and my coach tried picking me up but when they set me back on my feet my lower leg bent at a 90-degree ankle. It wasn’t supposed to bend that way; there was no mistaking a broken leg at that point. Three days later, I got a titanium rod hammered into my tibia (yes, they actually hammered it in starting at the top) and aluminum screws to hold it in place at the knee and ankle. I still sport that hardware today. I spent three months or so on my back and then another five months learning to walk again and building up my atrophied leg muscles. I had suffered broken bones before playing sports — a broken big toe in basketball, a broken right foot in soccer — but nothing ever dealt me as much pain as this broken leg.
So, I feel for Scotty on a completely different level than most people are able. I get a sick feeling in hospitals now after my stay and felt the blood rush from my face when I saw the metal gizmo screwed into his leg to stabilize the injury. He has a long way to go to get back to form but I’m walking proof that it can be done. And while crutches will be a constant companion in the months ahead the simple joy of shedding those instruments of underarm torture will make life worth living again.