Fracture via Friendly Fire?

I was 7 years-old and sat with my legs sprawled out in the crib with my younger brother, he wasn't even a year old yet. As I held his stuffed animal I watched as he pulled himself up to a stand,
"Andrew, Andrew, look at what I have here!" Earlier in the day my mom had told me to repeat his name to him so he can learn it. His pudgy fingers gripped the bars of the crib and he pulled his diaper cushioned bottom up, his chubby legs fumbling underneath him until I saw the light bulb flash over his head, he had figured out what the soles of his feet were for. He turned his head to look at me and before I knew it I screamed in agony, Andrew had let go of the crib bars - his plush baby's bottom had snapped my tibia.

How many of us have had friends or family members unintentionally injure us? For me it has happened for every school I have ever been in: playing 4-square in elementary school, goofing off in Spanish class in middle school, at lunch by the vending machine in high school, and in college -- well, I don't exactly remember what happened that time. As I got older I had the capacity to feel guilt and understand the finite details and genetic line that separated accident from "it's just the way my life is." Most of the time though, particularly when I was much younger, that line was blurry and smudged with tears of frustration, x-rays, and isolated time in casts. At once the x-rays would show very clearly that my bones had broken because I have OI, yet for a young child the jagged mountain of understanding to climb can be overwhelming -- I broke a bone because Johnny bounced the ball too hard at me. But I know Johnny didn't mean it, but now Johnny still gets to run around and play and I'm sitting in class while everyone else plays. After I turned about, 9 or so -- I began to "get used to it" and understood that these things happen. So the next time a friend accidentally injured me my face would freeze, I would try to give only the slightest hint of a wince, stifle my "ouch!", but we would look each other in the eyes and just know, like kids who broke their parents' best china, that something terrible had happened.

We all have different ways of dealing with fractures, depending on how much or little it hurts. For me I tend to lean towards laughing it off as quickly as possible. I'm eager to get over it, race into the appointment, get the cast put on, enjoy the immediate warmth of the cast over my broken limb and then move on with life. Regardless if it's my brothers, my friends, my best friend, a doctor, a nurse who unintentionally injures me -- the ability to heal, recover, understand, and forgive are skills in life that I think everyone could learn more of. If you are my friend or family I could never get angry about accidentally fracturing because of something we were doing. The time spent with those individuals mean more to me than the hours "wasted" at the hospital getting a cast and x-rays because of the pain. Because in those moments I am able to learn. I am living.

Other suggestions on 'friendly fire' situations:

  • Allow your friend/family/other individual to feel bad. They should! But also let them know that such incidents are bound to happen and little could have been done to stop it.
  • Inform the other party about what the injury was, be gently honest with the facts i.e. "yeah I'll be out of commission for a few weeks but I'll heal.." 
  • If you have a young child be sure to focus on how s/he could be more careful next time; don't criticize the mistake - it was a mistake/accident after all!
  • Embrace the awkward moment when you and the other person realize that a fracture has occurred. Don't try to cover up the situation or pretend it didn't exist/happen
  • Every minute spent healing should be a milestone spent understanding. 
My father hoisted me out of the crib and I began to cry. He lay me down on my parents' bed and I grabbed my leg where I could already feel the skin heating up. The sharp ache mixed with a dash of numbness began to creep down my ankle and towards my toes. I looked up at my dad as he held an old splint in one hand and the phone, ready to call my orthopedic doctor in the other. I turned my head and saw that my baby brother was looking curiously at me through the bars of the crib, suddenly he began to cry and at that moment I stopped my tears. I knew that no matter what happened I didn't want him to feel badly. 

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One Response to Fracture via Friendly Fire?

  1. My stepmom was carrying me on November 2nd of 2009. She tripped, I fell about a foot. Broke both tibias, both femurs, both radii, and both ulna. She felt SO bad but I tried to keep telling her, "It's OK, it was just an accident." In the hospital for 8 days (pain management) and then stuck at home/out of school for 2 months.


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