The Broken Leg
Forty-two years ago this past week-end, I took my SAT’s as a senior at Morgan Park High School on the south side of Chicago. I had dreaded that Saturday, as I usually didn’t do very well on those sorts of standardized tests, but I really wanted to go to Northwestern University and they required the SAT’s. I was relieved when they were over and the rest of the week-end was spent in relative calm, catching up on homework in anticipation of my return to school on Monday.
My schedule had me going to gym first period on Mondays. Who does gym first thing in the morning – especially on a Monday? And for those of you who know me personally, you must admit that I’m built for comfort, not speed. We were in the middle of a series of games each weekly gym period and today was line soccer. I don’t really remember all the rules, and they’re not germain to the story, but suffice it to say that around 8:15 am, right after the start of class, I collided with a great friend of mine and fractured my lower right leg, right above the ankle, in three places. Honestly, it sounded like somebody had fired three gunshots. The reverberation off the walls left no doubt that I had seriously fractured my leg. I hobbled off the floor and was told to wait until class was over before heading to the attendance office.
By then, I could barely see my ankle, my lower leg had turned black and blue, and I actually had to walk across the school to the attendance office to get an early dismissal. The coach said he didn’t think it was broken…..
Well, after being picked up by Mom, we went to the hospital for x-rays and sure enough, I had a compound spiral fracture. The doctors would have to wait 2 days before they could cast it to see if the swelling went down enough or whether I would need surgery. We headed home, with codeine pills for the pain, and there was plenty of that. I remember it like it was yesterday.
Now by Monday evening, I was still in agony. My bedroom was two steps down from the top of the stairs, and in the middle of the night I had to go to the bathroom. Somehow, I managed to navigate up the two stairs and called to my parents from the landing. I wasn’t feeling too well….
Now you should know something about my Dad. And that is, no matter what, even if the house was on fire, if he got up in the middle of the night, the first thing he did was go to the bathroom. So, as he moved from the bedroom across the landing to cut in line for use of the bathroom he asked me to lean up against the wall and wait for a minute. Then he would be pleased to help me – next. Apparently, as I was later told by my mother, while Dad was busy, I passed out. I fell down the stairs, shattered my crutches and came to rest with my head hitting my bedroom door frame, which kept me from falling down the other 13 steps in our home to the first floor.
As I came to, my mother was hysterical and was screaming at my father. I don’t think I ever saw her so angry. When he saw I wasn’t dead, he kind of started laughing – that kind of nervous laugh that somebody does when they know they screwed up but don’t know what else to do. Well, that was it…. and boy, did I hurt – from every pore in my body.
Mom wanted to call an ambulance and take me to the hospital as she was sure I had broken my leg more severely than the first time. I was resolute in that I wanted nothing to do with hospitals or possible surgery. Finally, I won out and spent the next several hours literally trying to crawl back into my room, more like a worm squirming, until I was finally able to get back into bed right before dawn. For the record, I never made it to the bathroom….
Well, the end of the story is that Dad headed to the hospital to pick up replacement crutches for me. I stopped taking the codeine pills as I was afraid that I was allergic to them, and to this day, I don’t know that I have ever had another dose of codeine. Wednesday morning, I went back to the hospital for more x-rays and the doctor was surprised to learn that I had not done any further damage to my leg. No surgery necessary, thank God, and the cast went on. The rest, as they say, is history. I recovered and have no severe lingering effects from the break. But it was quite an experience for me, and my parents – especially my Dad.
So, tonight, in remembrance of that fateful night, an obscure verse from Psalms 6:2, “Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony.” This whole psalm is only 10 verses long and has to do with restoration by asking God for mercy.
My encouragement tonight is to let you know that when you are having a hard time, God is still there. And my prayer is that you will turn to Him and ask for His healing power to be with you. Not just when you are in physical distress, but even when you need encouragement. After all, we all need God to hear our prayers and and to be restored from time to time. May you feel the presence of God – all the way down in your bones….