As I wrote last week, my husband and I are dealing with his broken kneecap. He had surgery, which successfully wired the bone pieces back together, and he is moving pretty well a week later, but he will be in the knee immobilizer for several weeks longer.
His broken patella brings to mind my first experience with a broken bone. It was my collarbone. I was three years old . . . I think . . . making it about 1959. Some moments of that episode in my life are etched in concrete on my brain, but the specifics of time and season are not. I know it was a time of year that was cold enough to wear footie pajamas because those play into my memory. But it could have been anywhere from fall 1959 to spring 1960, though I don’t remember Christmas being spoiled by a broken bone, so probably in the fall or spring.
My family lived in Corvallis, Oregon, at the time. My younger brother and I shared a bedroom. He slept in a crib, and I slept in a big-girl twin bed my father had built. That bed served all four of us children over the next twenty years, but at the time the bed was new, and it was mine. Our family then consisted only of my parents, my brother, and me.
My brother, who was about two years old, could climb out of his crib. And he did almost every morning. He would toddle over to my bed, and we played there. We weren’t supposed to jump on the bed, but we often did. Particularly on weekend mornings, when our parents tried to sleep in, as much as any parents of two pre-schoolers can sleep in.
One Saturday morning we were jumping on our mattress trampoline. I jumped off the foot of the bed (an accident, I assure you) and landed on the rocking horse stabled beside the bed.
Pain! I started crying.
Our parents woke up and called us into their room to chastise us. “My arm hurts,” I wept. Mommy told me that’s what I deserved for jumping on the bed when I wasn’t supposed to.
Over the next few days, I continued to complain about my arm hurting, particularly when Mommy dressed me. Finally, on Tuesday, she took me to the doctor, who ordered X-rays.
I remember the X-rays. I had to lie on a huge table, with a sandbag on my aching arm to hold it in place. It hurt as much as when I fell. I cried and pulled the heavy sandbag off. The nurse held me down and put the bag back in place. She told me I was going to have to stay there until the picture got taken. So I did, but it hurt the whole time, and I cried.
“Her collarbone is broken,” the doctor said. And he fitted me with an instrument of torture to hold the shoulder in place for the next few weeks. It was some type of brace that involved a lot of straps and D-rings to tighten the straps (remember, this was pre-Velcro days). It hurt to put the brace on, and I had to wear it all the time except for when I was taking a bath.
Over the next few weeks, I threw many tantrums over having to wear the brace. Meanwhile, Mommy told all her friends what a horrible mother she was for not taking her child to the doctor sooner.
Finally, it was time to go back to the doctor. More X-rays. More sandbags. It didn’t hurt as much this time, but I still raised a fuss.
A few days after the X-rays were taken (remember, this was pre-digital photography), the doctor’s office called right as Mommy was getting us ready for our naps. I was already in my footie pajamas and brace. The doctor’s office told Mommy I was healed enough that I didn’t have to wear the brace.
“We’ll take it off after your nap,” she promised.
“No—now!” I insisted, and I whined enough that Mommy took off the footie pajamas and the brace, and I took my nap a much happier girl than I had anticipated. Freedom never felt so good.
What do you remember about early injuries?