"Now count backwards from 100." I figured that would be no problem but didn’t even get to 90. I was in a hospital bed waiting to be knocked out by an anesthesiologist. As a kid a week out of second grade, I had no idea any word could be that long, but I knew I was being put to sleep so a doctor could drill into my leg like a two-by-four.
For the next 13 weeks my leg might as well have been a wooden board for all the walking I could do. It took me five minutes to get up a flight of stairs, which was an eternity to eight-year-old me. Using that as a reference, I had to endure several thousand going-on-third-grade eternities before I could walk again. You never know how much you love something until it is taken away.
I had always loved swing sets. It was about as close to flying as you could legally and safely get as an elementary student. So there I was that Memorial Day weekend, having a good swing at a bed and breakfast with a homemade swingset that looked like a great place to pass some time.
I swung high, the set jumped high. I swung higher, and the set jumped higher. Unfortunately, gravity would only let the back two legs of the set jump so high without the whole thing tipping forward. I saw it start falling and tried to dash away as fast as I could. Straight forward. The timing was perfect. As I ran, a five-inch-wide iron pipe collided with the top of my head and began a sharp descent down my back. Then I felt the twist, the snap.
The doctor called it a spiral fracture. My left femur had been twisted and broken like the sealed cap on a bottle of Coke. I would need four pins in my leg for 10 weeks. To most the word "pin" means a small object similar to a needle. A doctor’s definition is much broader. In my case, I considered what they called pins to be six-inch screws. They stuck out of my thigh two or three inches and were held by a large bar outside my leg. The whole thing weighed four pounds.
After two days of bad food and painkillers, I was allowed to go home - in a wheelchair. I had to sleep on the sofa downstairs; it was weeks before I managed to scoot my way up on my backside one step at a time to my own room and bed.
Everything I had taken for granted suddenly became extremely valuable to me. What could I do? I could sit, or lie down. I could move with crutches or a wheelchair. That was what I could do. Sure, there was TV and Nintendo, but that was just a variation of sitting. I could bend my knee nine degrees on a good day.
The day finally came when I was able to walk on my own. There was a limp, but nothing a few months of physical therapy wouldn’t fix. Then I could run. Running was amazing. It told me I was no longer confined to a chair or bed. Running was freedom. I felt freedom to move, to go, to be. I felt like I could fly. I could fly across the ground, and no swing was going to catch me.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.