Those Frackin' Fractures (Part III)

Continued from previous post

After fractures happen and when the broken limb is all snug in the cast I tend to sleep a lot. This is particularly true right after the new cast is put on - my body is exhausted, relieved, worn out, and it's a self-reliable consolation technique for me. The ability to just close my eyes and drift, even if on the bed next to me a 4 year-old is crying, and on the other side a cast saw is buzzing as a 13 year-old is getting his cast off. For me this is my lull period, and in high school I remember one teacher asking me "when you fracture and get a cast, does it slow you down a bit?" And yes it most certainly does. It slows us down but it doesn't stop us.
Whether I am drifting off or slowing down these are all parts of my healing process. It's a time when I remember, in a very literal sense, who I am and what I have. In doing so and when I wake up in the mornings to pull rubber bands over the plastic bag before my shower, I am realizing that I am different but it is working out, the challenge I am dealing with is going to be okay. But I wasn't always like that.

After this femur fracture I lay in bed unwilling to even move to go to the bathroom. I told my mom that I could hold it for the entire day, but she would insist on helping me get out of bed - shift into my wheelchair and then onto the toilet. I hated the lag, the dependence, and the weight of the physical burden of the fiber glass cast. During my morning routine whether I was brushing my teeth or pulling pants on, I would always be frowning at the broken limb; silently holding a stare down contest with it, and the only thing I knew was that I was determined to win. But as the days went by my cast would be covered with scrawls, signatures, and silly doodles from friends and family. It would get harder for me to be grumpy with it and as I grew older it occurred to me that it made little sense for me to be irritated about the fracture. First off, I knew that I was born with a genetic condition and breaking bones "just happens." Secondly, it also dawned on me that being mad about the cast only made me angrier with myself. It was my leg that broke, my pain that I had to deal with, my healing process that I needed to get through. If I own all of that then why shouldn't I make it better for myself? And so over the years, and after numerous casts, hospital visits, and surgeries I began to slowly learn how to take charge. The learning process is never completed, to this day I still go through patterns of this behavior every now and then. And it will take me 2-3 days to remind myself of what my rehab process is.

"Winning" that staring contest with the cast happened the day I realized that OI is a characteristic of me, not my entire being. It doesn't define who I am, the condition doesn't hold the reins of my life, and it will only run my life as much as I allow it to. The subtleties are tiny, but once they are recognized you can begin to see how such pivotal points can tilt a perspective almost 180 degrees.

"Mom I don't want to go to my piano lesson today."
"Why not? I will help you get in and out of the car, it will be fine."
"I'm tired and I just want to sleep. I just don't want to go."
"You made a commitment to your teacher and to your music lessons. You need to follow through on your plans."
"But I broke my leg! They will understand if I skip just this ONE lesson!"
"No, you are going." 

I remember this conversation over 10 years later because my mother was always big on "keeping your commitments." But more than just another one of her lectures, I am able to appreciate what she was trying to show me:. My commitment to the O.I. ends after fractures are on their mend, and the appropriate accommodations have been made. I am now always committed to living my life first, and the O.I. second. And because most of the rest of the world doesn't have O.I., I will grow to be the stronger person if I am able to "keep up" with them - regardless of whether or not "they will understand if I skip just this ONE..." That is how I am able to continue, and it is how I know the brittle bones will not ever affect my spirit or will.

Fracture Management Suggestions:

  • When a fracture has sustained, listen to the child. If s/he is unable to communicate yet, pay attention to body movements and the difference in cries
  • Keep calm. Being frantic and making a huge fuss makes it incredibly hard for the injured person to keep themselves calm; being calm allows less muscles to be startled and accidental jostling
  • Let the person know when you are going to move anything, what you will be moving, and where. Only move the person when s/he has given you permission
  • Allow the injured person to be as involved in stabilizing the fractured limb as possible
  • Every person is different, some kids are able to bounce back into a regular routine within hours (and this also depends on the fracture) - others may take a few more days. Rushing the process doesn't help anyone. 
  • After fractures have occurred and the person is in a cast, do not over condescend or over-assist. Just help where and when you're needed! Figuring out strategies to be independent when injured is incredibly important. Frequently when I was younger I would attempt to get out of bed on my own, or take showers on my own - completely freaking out my parents but my "childish risks"  are actually incredibly useful to me now as an adult!
  • Gently encourage children to return to their "normal" routine and if accommodations or a different approach is needed to complete a task, allow their in-put into the situation. Don't just automatically "fix" or "alter" the situation on your own, you'll be surprised to find how innovative we can be!

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