Post Traumatic.. Fracture..Disorder?

My mother was rushing to her doctor's appointment at Brigham & Women's Hospital. Hurriedly she plopped me into my stroller and made sure my legs were through each of the holes, and my hands on the lap bar that went across. She pushed me over the old cracked sidewalks of Boston and headed over to the curb cut. The stroller's front wheel hit a stubborn cobble stone that jutted out, as if a button was pushed that's when I soared out of my seat and face down onto the pavement. My leg broke on impact.
Several years later I was wheeling around in my room in my manual wheelchair. Once again I had neglected to listen to my mother and didn't clean clutter in my room. My front wheel hit a scattered sneaker lazing about and my wheelchair tipped forward. I fell face down onto the ground in a puddle of blood that had begun to collect around my head. Both of my femurs had snapped.
A year or so later I was sitting in the dining room at the table. I refused to finish my string beans and firmly insisted that I was done with dinner. My walker was parked to the side of my chair and as I prepared to slide off the seat and stand on the floor, ready to walk away in my usual manner - I miscalculated. Suddenly my walker seemed miles away in front of me as I fell face first onto the dining room floor, and again both of my legs broke.

Though these accidents happened more than 10 years ago, not only do they replay in vivid slow motion in my head but the pain that they caused still makes me wince to this day. When I think about my femurs or legs breaking the muscles in those areas tense, and I give them a slight wiggle just to make sure that they aren't actually broken and that everything is okay. It is no surprise then that not only do I break my legs most frequently but that I am terrified of tipping over, landing face first, and of uneven outdoor surfaces. And when I mean terrified I mean that if you didn't know me you would think I have a really irrational fear of slanted curb cuts, or of insisting that my medical equipment  is firmly in front of or next to me. I am now overly cautious when going down curb cuts, and when I sense that it's too steep not only do those accidents replay in my head but there is even a slight horror that comes over my face. My eyelids may slam open in alarm, brows arched with uncertainty, and my lower lip twisted into a writhing fear. When all of these things happen I quickly swivel around and go down the curb cut or hill backwards. I figure if the chair tips it can tip backwards, I will be seat belted in, my head rest will prevent my skull from shattering, and those anti-tip wheels in the back better be working! I also turn around and go backwards because quite honestly I just don't want to see another disaster happening again.

I call this Post Traumatic Fracture Disorder. I'm sure every OI person has it, we have all experienced a particularly terrible break, a horrendous accident, or some kind of equipment or playground that brings back a particularly painful snap. While these are painful and makes our stomachs churn, and our hands grip our joystick or wheels a little tighter - I have come to find that there are ways to help ease the extreme discomfort that these situations may bring on.

Overcoming Traumatic Fractures:

  • Inform the person who is with you or pushing your wheelchair if their 'pushing style' is making you uncomfortable or feel unsafe. It's not you being picky! Chances are, the person pushing may be uncertain of whether or not you can tell the difference anyway. To them a push might just be another push - but of course if you're a chair user we can all tell the difference.
  • Learn from past incidents! Those details might bring terrible memories to you and you might start breaking out in a cold sweat if you see that see-saw again, or remember the slide. Were you positioned in a funny way? Were you not being as careful the first time? Go over the situation in your head with your eyes closed, try to recall what went wrong and focus on what tweaks you might make for a more successful experience.
  • Be confident in yourself. O.I. shouldn't be a diagnosis that prevents us from living a fulfilling and rich life. If you are about to do something again that wound up in an injury in the past, remind yourself how you got through the first time. Be calm. 
  • For parents, watching their kids get injured over something they did can be traumatic by itself. Maybe you picked your child up in a funny way, or put a seatbelt on too snugly? Remind yourself that it wasn't YOU who caused the fracture. Accidents happen, your child will grow stronger, love you all the same, and heal. 
  • Don't be afraid to say "no." There have been plenty of instances where I have wisely turned down opportunities to jump into a ball pit, crawl through a jungle gym maze, or whoosh down a twisting water slide. Kids with O.I. know their bodies and limitations the best, telling your child that it's okay if they don't feel comfortable doing something is key to allowing them to take control over the O.I. Saying "no" isn't always limiting, sometimes it's actually liberating and the wiser option. 

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3 Responses to Post Traumatic.. Fracture..Disorder?

  1. When I got older I learned that it was a "displaced" fracture. I never had another one since. I don't know how to describe it but even today I still have a "feeling" there in that spot. It's not a pain, it's just an annoyance feeling. I have this little, tiny lump there that hurts when I put too much pressure on my leg or if I walk a lot, or exercise too much. A few years later I asked my mom "Do you remember when I fell down the steps..." and that's all I need to say, lol. Yes, we all remember that! She later told me that it looked like I had two knees. That's how bad it was.

    But yeah, your definitely right about that. I think there really is a "post traumatic fracture disorder." Sounds a bit silly but it's true. Every now and then I have nightmares about that break and I have a lot of nightmares where I am walking with my crutches and I am falling into the cement and right when I hit I wake up. It takes me a few mintures to realize that it was just a dream because it's so realistic. Or I will be watching a movie and one of the characters breakes a bone and I have to look away, like the scene in Misery or GI Jane or even Dark Knight. Those movies come to mind.

  2. I don't know what's going on but this is the first part of my post:

    I actually debated whether I wanted to talk about this one or not because it was just a really bad break. If you were to ask me to describe it verbally in (complete) detail, then no way would I be able to without bawling. But every now and then we talk how everything went wrong that day and we all (even me) end up laughing about it. But it was still a very bad break. To tell you the truth I don't even rmember how old I was. My childhood friend was still living across teh street. So that would make me about 7ish but no more than 10.

    It was later in the afternoon and we were playin in the living room. My mom told her that she needed to go home because we needed to go and pick up my dad who works at the hospital. She went on and I followed behind her. I was walking pretty good with my crutches and I was even strong enough to walk down the steps. I remember looking up and watching my friend run across the street and she stopped to pet her dog in the driveway. I kept my eyes on them and on the VERY last step I slipped and went face first into the cement. I think I passed out for a few seconds because all of sudden I woke up at the top of the steps and my mom was trying to get me to stand up. That's when I LET IT OUT, I SCREAMED and just crumbled to the ground. She didn't notice my leg until then. I even looked over to see where my friend was and she just boltd straight to her front door to get her mom...

  3. Part Two:

    My mom carried me to the couch and I just remember the pain! I screamed and screamed. I had no idea why this break hurt so much worse than the others. This was not a normal break. I still hadn't looked at my leg. Next thing I know my friend's mom is there asking if she needed any help. My mom got on the phone and called my doctor. I think she spoke with him because I remember her saying, "It's bad, really bad. You can SEE IT." The whole time I am crying my eyes out. I swear I thought I was dying. And when I heard her say that, I had to look then. So I lifted my head to see what she was talking about and I remember seeing this big bump between my knee and ankle, not really registering that it was my bone. I don't remember seeing my foot. So their freakin' out, I'm screaming as loud as I can, My friend's mom told her to go find her brother, my brother was there, plus my friend's infant sister. After all of the kids were back, they picked me up and placed me in the back seat of the car. So there are four kids, plus me screaming, in a tiny car cramped together with our family friend hold my leg and my mom driving. That was seriously the longest car ride ever! We got every freakin' red light and my mom managed to hit every single freakin' bump in the road! We finally arrived at the hospital and I remember the nurses brought out a wheelchair and my mom's friend (LOL) got on to them saying I needed a gurney, there was no way I would be able to sit up. That was the funny part. I'm laying in the back seat dying, and they are all standing there arguing how to get me out of the car. lol. I think they sedated me because next thing I know I'm waking up in the hallway and seeing my dad standing there against the wall. He said something to me but I can't remember what it was. I remember I tried to sit up to see if my "bump" was still there but I couldn't do it. And that's all I remember...which is enough, lol.


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