"And we are put on earth a little space, / That we may learn to bear the beams of love." William Blake.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Four Fractures

Toe. Right Pelvis. Right Wrist. Right foot in one tarsal. Left femur where the ball joints the pelvis. Dull aches. Spear-pain. Certainty of brokenness. Skeptical doctors. Insistence upon x-rays.

Three stress fractures. Two accident fractures.

One of them saved my life.

The week that my shin splints shuttered my return to running, I remembered what old wives say "you never forget:" how to ride a bicycle. Rather, how to check a road bike for air pressure, settle onto its sleek ax-like seat, how to stream-line your body and settle in for a twenty-five mile ride in the dawn. It took a week. On the eve of day one, I asked my husband to refresh me on unlocking the bike from its perch on our porch. He said I should know how to pressure up the front tire, which had a habit of deflating now and again for reasons he didn't understand. I listened. I practiced the bike lock. I set my alarm for five am, checked the weather, set out running clothes. I don't have one of those padded bike pant sets. I had no idea the seat would jigger its way up my pelvis, which it did not the first morning.

I never got that far. I rustled my husband out of bed at five-ten because I still couldn't unlock the bike. I set out from our house, down the empty thoroughfare, across the railroad tracks. Thump, thump, thump. At CVS, a half mile from our house, I realized the front tire was too low. I stopped to pump it up and deflated. In the darkest hour, I couldn't see to resolve the issue. I walked the bike home, drove to the community center and paid a couple of bucks to ride a stationary. By the following Monday, I'd switched from the road bike to our ten-speed. At seven am, the first day school was out, I skipped morning Matins and head out towards 32W towards Waynetown. Down the summer-empty thoroughfare, toward the tracks, thud, thud, thud. I listened for the horn of the Amtrak that comes whipping through town around seven am on Mondays. I must have missed it, I thought and peddled fast. It blew. Lights flashed. Crossing bars began their elegant descent. I saw a flashback to eleven years before, when I'd thrown my car into reverse without looking to get the hell off the eight tracks, side-by-side in Illinois. I'd been three months pregnant. I hit the car behind me that day, went to court but saved a life. In the danger red blinking, I squeezed hard on the brakes and my ten speed stopped immediately. I did not. Head over handle bars. My helmet grazed the pavement but I landed on my right wrist. I was kneeling on the sandy sidewalk. Bruised, clear of the tracks with a healthy looking bike and a wrist that look just a bit funny.

The homeless guy across the street, pulling his junk wagon -- a get-up of dog cage on wheels -- asked me if I was okay. Folks in cars leaped out with cell phones.

"I'll all 911," they all offered.

"I'm fine. I'm fine. I might have a broken arm, I'm fine."

I called my husband, though I knew he was chanting and incensing. I called my daughter, though I knew she was sleeping. I used my forearm to push the bike  home. I woke my girl and asked her to drive me to the ER, where the staff doctor told me my arm wasn't broken.

"X-ray it again," I said. He ordered a funny table shot, a low-angled zoom. Sure enough a funny little fracture, right on the joint. He splinted it. He took views of my clavicle, examined me, and my husband finished his service and replaced my daughter, letting her go back home and back to bed.

He drove me to the bone density scan I had schedule for 11am. At 1pm, arm splinted, appointment with a orthopedic surgeon in Indianapolis set, I went for a nine-mile run. I would not be stopped. Even after the surgery to plate up the wrist, I rode a stationary bike with my right arm sweating in a cotton club dressing. Sometimes, I unwrapped the bindings to give it air, to keep sweat from fermenting and rotting the stitches, or whatever gross infection I imagined.

That fracture healed fast. I could use the arm in a few weeks. It felt great, stronger than ever.

So when another orthopedic specialist told me this February that the stress fracture on my left femur was "not bad" but in a very scary spot, and that I should stay off it unless I wanted him "to put a rod in there," I wondered, would it heal as fast, feel as strong? Pain and the four recent fractures reminded me, I needed to mind my mortal coil. Fasting, praying, resting.  Learn again the art of restraint.

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