January 16, 2019 2:05 pm

Broken Leg

In December 2017, my friend and coworker Tarra told me she was going to start participating in a “Fresh Meat” (newbie) roller derby program in the bigger town about an hour away from where we live. She offered to be the carpool “derby car” if I wanted to come along, and I definitely did!

Four women smiling after completing their first roller derby practice.
Tarra, Bronwyn, Tatum, and Meggan smiling after their first Fresh Meat roller derby practice.

I started January 2018 and went to practice twice weekly, and I loved it! Roller skating is super fun.

I graduated from Fresh Meat onto the actual team in May (I won the “Brave Little Toaster” award for trying everything even if I wasn’t sure about it at first) and then in the fall I got to participate in my first scrimmage and then a Halloween bout!

On November 1st, I ran a bunch of errands before practice. I went to the book fair at Wesley’s school, went and got us both flu shots, and then decided to early vote in person “just in case,” knowing I had two derby practices between that day and midterm Election Day on Tuesday. I wanted to be sure nothing came between me and voting for Paulette Jordan for governor and voting to expand Medicaid coverage in Idaho.

I was the carpool car that day, so I drove Tarra and Bronwyn to practice. It was a pretty difficult practice for me – I’m okay at skating but horrible at endurance work and I was exhausted. I kept taking breaks to regroup but was still overexerted. Finally, our coach told the few of us that were struggling that we could do our own thing for a bit until we felt like we were ready to rejoin the group.

Once I gathered myself, the group had started a new drill to practice jamming. You skate up to a group from behind and try to make your way through. I felt good enough to try it.

I skated up to the group and started bulldozing my way through. I made a little bit of headway and then took a strong hit from the left that knocked me up and off balance a bit, and as that was happening, I took another strong hit from the right and immediately felt my lower left leg break while I was still off-balance. I screamed and fell to the ground where I screamed again as I landed.

Practice stopped right away and the girls confirmed that I really was hurt and needed an ambulance. Someone called, and as we waited for the EMTs to arrive, my teammates removed my skate and cut off my sock so they could assess the damage. They told me my ankle looked pretty swollen and bruised, but I could only focus on how badly my leg hurt and kept saying there wasn’t anything wrong with my ankle. (Spoiler alert: there was.) One of the first non-injury related things I said to them was that I was SO THANKFUL I had early voted so at least I had that out of the way.

My teammates were amazing and even though I was in a lot of pain, I wasn’t ever scared. I felt like they handled my injury and getting me emergency help really well.

I was lying in a very awkward position – I was on my back with my left leg stretched out forward but with my foot tipped out, so the outer side of my leg rested on the ground and my inner ankle was toward the ceiling. My right leg was bent with my foot on the ground, and my right hip and buttcheek were off the ground slightly. This was admittedly difficult to maintain but it was truly the only position that felt remotely “comfortable” if one can really be comfortable with a broken leg.

I didn’t cry, but it hurt a LOT and I definitely squeezed my eyes shut and did some very deep labor breathing. My friend Bronwyn later told me that she wasn’t sure if I was even hurt that badly because I seemed to be handling it fine, and once the EMTs arrived I felt like they made a similar assessment!

My friend Tarra brought over my wallet and phone, got close to me and said, “Here’s your phone and wallet. I am coming in the ambulance with you. Your gear is in your van and I’m giving Bronwyn the keys to your van, and we will meet up with her later.” SHE IS PERFECT, A+ HOSPITAL BUDDY, COULD NOT HAVE ASKED FOR BETTER.

I texted Daniel that I had broken my leg but that the EMTs were on the way and I was being taken care of – no reason for him to get the kids up or drive to meet me or anything. That must have been a horrible text to receive, but I wanted him to know what was happening even if he couldn’t help!

Once we were in the ambulance, one EMT kept putting words in my mouth to describe my accident. Like, “so you were skating and twisted your ankle?” and I’d say “NO, I got hit and it BROKE my LEG. My ankle is not even an issue” and he’d say, “so… you got hit and then you landed on your ankle and hurt it?” And I’d have to repeat that I FELT MY LEG BREAK and had no idea what happened to my ankle but that I did not land on it. I felt very frustrated at this point but I think he finally got it in the end. I rated my pain at an 8/10 at this point and Tarra told me later that it surprised everyone in the ambulance – they didn’t expect it to be that high based on how I was acting.

We arrived at the hospital and I’m not going to lie, I was more nervous about my impending hospital experience than I was about my leg being broken. I have a well-documented history of trauma in hospitals and while I trust them to repair whatever physical injury I have, I remain very concerned with how they will treat me as a human being. Fortunately, everyone was very kind and (once I got pain meds) it was actually kind of a jovial atmosphere.

Once I got X-rays, the doctors determined that I’d broken my medial malleolus (inner ankle bone) clean off and had fractured my fibula (outer lower leg bone) in two places.

Two fibula fractures.
Fracture of my medial malleolus.

The ambulance driver came back in to check on me at this point and since the X-rays were up, he asked if he could take a non-identifiable photo of them and I said sure. He couldn’t believe the breaks were that bad! I said I told you all that it was my leg, and he laughed and said sometimes people just know!

The worst part of the whole thing was when it came time to splint my leg. Tarra semi-jokingly asked if I wanted to hold her hand during it, and as I was about to decline, the nurse was like “YES, great idea, get over here!” Tarra grabbed my hand and they assigned someone to hold my foot in place, which meant keeping it bent at a 90° angle and it was excruciating. They applied the splint materials and I firmly squeezed Tarra’s hand while she asked me about what my kids did for Halloween and what they dressed as and where we went. It was the PERFECT distraction. Easy questions to answer, which gave my brain something to focus on besides the pain as the medical professionals wrangled my broken body.

We were told they needed to consult with an orthopedic surgeon before discharging me since it was clear I needed surgery but they weren’t sure if I could wait or if it needed to be done that night. Unfortunately for me, the ortho on call just… never responded to the hospital’s calls (which is VERY BAD, if you are on call you HAVE to answer) and they tried and tried but couldn’t get ahold of anybody. Ultimately, they got someone to consult — I noted they did not say they got an orthopedic surgeon to consult — and decided to discharge me and have me follow up with an orthopedic surgeon in the morning.

Overall, I felt like I did a good job advocating for myself during my time in the ER. I asked to take photos of my X-rays! I asked doctors to repeat things to make sure I understood them! When they tried to have me leave the ER at 2am with a prescription for pain meds but no actual pain meds to make it overnight until the pharmacies opened, I voiced my concern about this and we got it sorted out before I left.

We connected with Bronwyn, who was in charge of my minivan, and she came by to pick us up.

To get me in the minivan, the nurse recommended we lay the front seat down and have me scootch up so I’d be sitting on the flat back of the seat with my leg out straight. We got me into this position with some effort and then I realized the headrest was between my shoulder blades and my whole head and neck would be hanging semi-upside down for the hour drive home and I was like… nope. We need to do something else. We were all laughing pretty hard at the sheer absurdity of the situation.

Somebody pointed out that the seat was so far back that if I just kept scootching up and over, I’d eventually come to land squarely in the backseat, which is exactly what I did. This let me prop my injured leg up on the center console between the two front seats and it was actually comfortable and I could even use the seatbelt. Tarra drove my van home with me in the backseat.

When we arrived at my house at approximately 2:30am, I texted Daniel to move the car so we could pull the van really close to the house. He did that, and then as I was getting out of the van and attempting to make my way to the porch stairs, I heard Daniel mumble something about “not feeling well” and looked up to see him white as a sheet. I told him to go inside and sit down so he didn’t pass out and he agreed, so Tarra and I were left to figure out how to get me into my house. I eventually sat down on the steps and scooted up them on my butt, which worked better than I expected.

Tarra’s husband had arrived at this point and I couldn’t help but laugh as they stood on our porch, looking down at Daniel and I who were both sitting on the floor, wondering if they should actually leave us in this condition. We waved them off, thanked them profusely for their help, and then spent the next fifteen minutes sitting on the floor and talking.

I eventually butt-scooted my way to the couch, where Daniel went about setting up the funniest (to me) barricade for the children so they wouldn’t unknowingly jostle me when they got up in the morning.

A screencap from my Instagram story that night, showing the sign Daniel made.

The story of trying to schedule surgery and then actually having surgery and the subsequent recovery is too long for this post, but MAN it has been a wild ride.

Huge thanks to Tarra for being the absolute best hospital buddy a girl could ask for — she kept saying I was “easy” to help but truly, she was such a good friend to me in my time of need. May everyone have a friend like her!

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