Four Quarters

We were outside doing yard work when we were kids—maybe I was nine-ten-eleven….when the whirl of a couple-three days was set in motion by a bone-cracking scream by my brother. He ran toward the house, most details fuzzy at best, incomplete at worst as it was decades ago…..he ran toward the house while either mom or dad ran out or around to us. Brother continued the vocals, parents quickly figured out what happened and at some point one of them smartly grabbed a bag of ice to put the digit clipped off by the mower on to save. Accidents happen and Brother had not-smartly-yet-accidentally stuck his hand a little too far up the underside of the mower before the blades stopped. Ouch. The rest of us kids were shuttled off to the other side of town to spend a couple days with cousins while Brother was taken to the hospital.  As I recall we were only at cousins for a couple days, the amount of time Brother was in the hospital, then back home. Within a few more days, again as I recall, a heavily bandaged brother was back at it with some low degree of normalcy. Painful, in some small ways life changing yet oddly rather quickly moving forward. 

A few years later I was lined up at tight end at an away game, Maquoketa as I recall, against Chad B., an all-conference and I believe all-state linebacker. We were not a great team, outmatched in many ways. Even as I was a passable blocker and decent receiver I was clearly outmatched. I went in for a block, giving all I was able, became caught up in his much larger frame and was cut down. Result: loads of pain relievers over the next several weeks and the subsequent basketball season cut short as the extent of the injury became known: torn left ACL. Surgery to follow. On Valentines Day even. Yet a review of my report card shows only two and one-half days of class missed. Crutches, yes but slowly and steadily back at it down the halls and classrooms of my ruralish(sp) high school. 

Forest Lake: Memorable Cabin #1
Circa 1977-78-79? Apparently we were the Sharks one year at church camp

Youth surely plays an outsized role in healing yet I didn’t have the experience many kids had of falling out of my tree house and breaking an arm or tripping over the giant canoe racks at church camp and breaking a leg to understand differences how those worked. My experiences through the growing years were all relatively minor.  

Years, nay, decades ago, I played adult city-league, coed sand volleyball. As I recall we were toward the upper scale of the leagues and one year we even won our league. (I wonder which member of our team has that trophy?!?!) A bunch of punk kids mostly new to town handing it to league teams largely full of townies or somewhat locals. We straightened up enough a couple times a week to bounce around between half-dozen sandpits around town to pull together a few sets of pretty quality ball. 

Too long, way too long, ago to remember which season/s or pit/s but I do recall the feeling: on typical-for-me body dives to save a ball I suffered a couple rounds of nondisplaced finger fractures. Quick trip to the Doc, piles of pills, few weeks of splints and good as new! Mostly. I never broke anything growing up; that’s how I thought it was. Bone healing on the other hand… that’s something!

A comminuted femur break– that’s the game we’re playing now.  On the upside the game can be broken down into four quarters:   Injury, Inflammation, New Bone Growth and Bone Remodeling.

  • Q1-Injury: yeah, we got that
  • Q2-Inflammation:  Redness, swelling, hematoma occur. Had plenty of that. With it includes pain. Yup. For awhile though I was growing a second hip in a space built for only one. Almost immediately white blood cells start fast-tracking toward the injury—they cause some of the swelling and also act as defense leading the transition into the next step. 
  • Q3-New Bone Growth:  Various types of semi-hard substances begin to form. Callus (primary/soft/hard), Type 1 and Type 2 collagen and bridging of these to get the broken pieces pulled together (where I am now)
  • Q4-Bone Remodeling: The good stuff. Each stage is critical but man, this is the one that’ll put that strong patch at the fracture. Without that I’ll be confined to a future life of walking vs. running, riding flats vs. riding hills and walking freely for many years vs. picking up the cane years before I’d like. (partially where I am)

My six week post-op follow-up is later this week. I’m realistic—I’ll walk in on crutches and out on crutches, I’ll crutch in non-weight bearing and likely crutch out still non-weight bearing. I’m hopeful the new set of films reveals material forward progress with bone growth, well into Q3. At this point I’m resigned to hope for all positive, no negative, as slow as that may be.