• Cindy

A Shared Memory - Three Women Who Broke Femurs As Children

The post is about three women who share a common memory from childhood. The women are roughly the same age. Each woman broke a femur as a child, spent time in traction, and was placed in a spica cast. Although the accidents occurred over 20 years ago, the women have an amazingly detailed recall of the injury and subsequent treatment. Each woman will tell there version of their accident.


Current day Heidi is a writer. She is married. She and her husband are exercise fanatics and vegans.

I can't believe that it's been 22 years since I broke my leg. It seems like yesterday.

It was Saturday 1/14/95. I was in 6th grade. The day after my dad's birthday. The day after a Friday the 13th. I went skiing with our school's ski club. It was only my second trip skiing and we were at Brandywine. The first trip didn't go all that well and I found myself frustrated. By my second trip I had started to find my confidence in it. Enough to make it to the step above the bunny hill aka Frosty. The hill was named Easy Rider....it still is. It was a warmer day meaning there was a ton of ice. Near the bottom of the hill there was a patch of bumpy ice. Everyone was going over it, including me. It was just after 2pm and was going to be our last run. I headed down the hill, saw the patch of ice, went over the patch of ice as I had done a million times that day, and "whoosh!" there it went. Immediate pain. To this day I'm not sure if I blacked out. If I did I came to very quickly. I found my legs tangled in a mess, I was in an amount of pain that I couldn't even imagine. The type of pain that makes you warm. I remember looking up and seeing a girl on the lift who I didn't know laughing loud at how I had fallen. Little did she know. My rental skis had crossed one over the other. One had released the other did not which torqued my leg and broke it. At that point we didn't know the severity of my accident. After a few moments of my friends trying to get me up and me not being able to. They ran for help. Finally the ski patrol arrived in the snow mobile. I was strapped to a stretcher, placed in a toboggan and taken to the ski patrol hut. I remember watching the sky, feeling the pain, and the smell of the gasoline from the snowmobile.

When we got the the hut they started to examine me, only to find they wouldn't be able to get my pants off. I was in so much pain that if they tugged on my legs I'd scream. The only answer was to cut off my clothes, so that's what they did. There I was, down to nothing on my bottom. I didn't know what was going on but I was attached to oxygen and my sister had arrived after being notified to come off the slopes. Within 1/2 hour I found myself being strapped to a back board and taken to Bedford Heights hospital via ambulance. The ride was horrendous. I had no pain control and they took me on a bumpy road. There was even a sign that said "Bumpy Road" per Andrea. I just wanted to die. Give me something, anything. We arrived at the hospital and I was immediately taken to radiology. I remember the technician being the biggest wench. She was rude and inconsiderate. She tried to place a black block under my leg and I about went through the roof. At that point if you touched even my arm I flipped. She was finally able to place a smaller block under my leg and take a successful shot.

Heidi with her leg in traction

I was taken to a room in the ER. My parents arrived after racing from home. They presented the radiographs. Big as day, my femur was broken in half. It had not only broken but also contracted. They weren't sure what to do. Without a thought my mom said, "Take us where we need to go then. We won't be staying here." They started an IV gave me morphine...finally! and I was shipped to Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. Just to let you know. I do not recommend going to Rainbow on a Saturday night. It's one of the most busiest places on the Earth. I laid strapped to that hard backboard for hours. Although I had pain medication I was still in pain. I was hungry and I couldn't move. I couldn't use the restroom. Finally they placed baby diapers under me so I could relieve myself. I remember Dad and Andrea coming into the room. They were trying to be quiet but I could see out of the corner of my eye that they had a candy bar. Snickers! I wanted it badly but couldn't. When my mom had enough of waiting she stormed out of the room and hollered at someone. Come to find out they were trying to comprise a team to perform surgery on me. They were going to place a pin in my leg and place me in traction. That would pull my bones apart, allowing them to heal. By 11:30pm Dad and Andrea left Cleveland and my mom stayed with me. I was finally heading to surgery. They didn't have a surgical suite available so I was to have the surgery performed in the trauma center. I didn't care. Give me more pain medication and get me off of the backboard.

Taking me to surgery was a blur but I do remember while it was being performed my anesthesia became too light. I was asleep but could feel something being screwed into my leg. I couldn't feel pain but could hear it and could feel the pressure. Finally I sat up and remember someone pushing me down. I don't remember anything after that. Later that evening I was awoken by a nurse. My IV had busted open and I had a bloody mess on my hands.

Heidi home from the hospital with her candy cane cast

The next day I had a roommate who had been hit my at RTA bus. She was in one piece but her kidneys were bruised. I remember the horrible muscle spasms I experienced those first few days. They'd wake me up from sleep and it was once again the pain I can't describe. Relieving myself was once again impossible. I had to use a bedpan and couldn't lift myself on to it with the amount of pain I was in. Thankfully they found a wedged one that was at least somewhat possible even though it still hurt immensely to be placed on it it.

The hardest thing was having mom and dad would visit for a few hours. Although they'd visit I knew there were drained from having to work all day and the long drive back and forth. That's when we became determined to get me to Firelands. Through some work it was made possible. After 4 days in Cleveland I was finally shipped to Sandusky via ambulance.

My stay in Sandusky wasn't bad. I had my own room, a tutor I loved, people would come to visit, and the pain finally subsided after a week or so. I loved my nurses, hated the food (thank God for spaghettios) and dreaded my nightly pin care. But I made it. One whole month in the hospital. After a month I was taken out of traction and placed in a body cast. I was then able to go home. Able to use a real toilet and be on the computer. Ahh. After a month in the cast I was able to have it removed and start physical therapy. The day it was removed we had hoped to celebrate only to find that my leg was quite painful trying to re-adjust to free movement. Not only that but due to laying for 2 months without having to support myself I had no muscle tone in my back. Making it from the doctor's office to the car was a chore. It was amazing after the first day of physical therapy how much I was able to do. I worked on my exercises religiously. I was determined to get up and moving as fast as I could.

Megan a few weeks later with a well autographed cast

That's my experience in a nutshell. I still have some residual problems such as flexibility and aches but I still think it's amazing what I've been able to do since my injury. I skiied again. I rode horses. I was a cheerleader. I now run. Amazing.


Modern day Nancy is married with two kids. She is a devout Morman. One of her bucket list goals is to visit every LDS temple in Utah

Do you know what a backstop is? Imagine the tall fence behind you when you're up to bat. They're all over school parks and are commonly used for kickball during recess. Now imagine one backstop in particular. I guarantee you've seen it before. It's right across the street from the University Mall at that elementary school. It's the one in the corner next to the big marquis/businesses.

And yes, for those of you who have been fortunate enough to ride with me past that spot, you know exactly where that is. :)

It was a nice April morning and my best friend and I had gone to the park. We played a game where we would climb up the backstop to the first bar (maybe 5 feet high) and then jump off. Well, I got brave. I climbed ALL the way to the top, and even went on the part where it bends over. That is brave! I started back down, and felt my foot hit a bar. The first bar? Ok! And I jumped. And I knew that that wasn't the first bar. And I also knew that if I landed on my arms, I would break them. Badly.

Nancy in her traction apparatus. How amazing is her recall of the injury. I can't remember what happened yesterday much less when I was 5 years old.

Instead, I broke my leg. Badly. My right femur broke right in two. I went straight to UVRMC in an ambulance where they put me out and did surgery. Good old Dr. Schow. I woke up with my leg in traction (a giant pin through my knee and up in a sling) and had to stay that way for about a week. We had to cut my underwear and pin it on. And the food was so good. I also made a friend. His name was Cody and he would come visit me in his wheelchair.

My last day in the hospital, they put me out again, removed the pin, and put a giant spica cast on me. (Too bad I couldn't find my better pictures. Those ones must be at my parents.) I stayed that way for a couple weeks, I believe. I got my own bed set up in the living room! I also got a wheelchair! And my own bottle of chewable grape-flavored children's Tylenol!

Nancy captioned this picture herself. A) Cast goes completely down my right leg and around my foot. Hello little toesies! (B) Cast goes around my pelvis, as well as a stick placed over the thighs to stabilize my hips. (C) Cast continues down my left leg and stops right above the left knee.

They removed my stabilizing stick in the middle (B) and that allowed me a little more freedom with which I used to scoot around on my bum on the ground. Afterward, they removed the cast (to all my ortho friends: I screamed. I screamed and screamed and screamed. Don't you just love those little buggars!), and I got crutches! My mom couldn't afford physical therapy, so every night after my bath, she would bend my leg for me. To which I also screamed and screamed and screamed.

To this day, my right leg is still smaller than my left. It is ever-so-slightly shorter, and there is a difference in my calves when compared side-by-side. I also have two pinhole scars on either side of my knee that are so common to me that sometimes I look at my left knee and wonder why there aren't scars there either.

So word to the wise: Don't climb tall fences.


Modern day Meghann

I was nine when I broke my right femur. I was climbing a neighbor’s tree when a small branch snapped and I fell 15 -20 feet to the ground. It was a clean fall that left me with a sharp pain in my right leg and gasping for breath.

Though that was well over 17 years ago now, the memories of that day are still very vivid in my mind. I remember my Mom and neighbor trying to move me. I remember the ambulance arriving and the small neighborhood crowd that had formed on the other side of the fence. I remember the blue flowered shirt I was wearing that the paramedic had to cut off. I remember the paramedic’s name was Mario and he told the driver to go slow over bumps. I also remember being disappointed when they told me it wasn’t an emergency so they weren’t allowed to use the sirens and lights (total disappointment!).

I remember waiting in the emergency room for what seemed like hours on a gurney. Eventually I was wheeled back to surgery where my leg was placed in traction (meaning my leg was up in the air and I was forced on my back), a metal rod was inserted into my shin to keep my leg stable and a cast covered my leg from the knee down.

(the ONLY photo I have of my month long hospital stay and sadly it contains a creepy clown)

That night I experienced my first bout of pain on top of my right foot. I felt a lot of pressure. It hurt, but it took a while to convince anyone what was going on. Two days of complaining later…they finally cut a hole in the top of the cast.

The too tight cast had basically killed my nerves and left me with what looks like a permanent bruise on the top of my foot. It’s still there today and it’s still numb, but it doesn’t bother me. I wear it as a badge of honor from my past.

Staying in the hospital, strapped to a bed, the month before Christmas was complete torture for a nine year old. I couldn’t go anywhere! If I had to potty, I was presented with a bed pan. If I needed a bath, they brought out the sponge. Hospital food was the bane of my existence and staged hunger protests would usually force my parents to bring in my favorite fast food just to get me to eat.

I had lots of visitors, but it was still a very lonely time. I missed my class’ Christmas party, my family’s annual Christmas caravan, my soccer team’s second place championship finish, hanging out with my friends, etc. etc. This led to a lot of tantrums and personal pity parties.

The goal was to heal up and get out of the hospital before Christmas. That meant I had 3 weeks to tell my bones to mend together as quickly as possible.

Everything was going great until the night my traction collapsed in the middle of the night. Set back #1.

And then it collapsed again. Set back #2.

Ughh… I think my Dad remembers those nights more than anyone. I can’t even imagine hearing the string snap that was keeping your daughter’s leg up in the air and witness the painful aftermath that followed. My Dad still tells the story with sad eyes, it makes my heart melt every time.

Luckily the set backs didn’t deter my miraculously healing leg. On December 23 (two days before Christmas!) I was wheeled back into surgery for the second time. A few hours later I was released with a half body cast that went down my entire right leg, halfway down my left leg, and all the way to my belly button. A hole was cut in the crotch and a bar was placed between my legs.

Finally I was mobile again. Sort of. My parents mostly had to carry me or wheel me around, but I got to sleep in my own bed and I quickly learned to crawl and ‘walk’ with my cast. I refused to stay still.

Even though I was somewhat mobile, I was still unable to return to school with the awkward cast on. A private tutor was assigned to me and I was homeschooled for the remaining two months my leg took to heal. I remember enjoying homeschooling. I basically watched tv all day and only had to spend a couple of hours doing various assignments on my Mom’s cool laptop (which ran on Ms-Dos and had a memory smaller than the tiny chip contained in my current smart phone). What wasn’t to love?

I know this is going to come up in the comments section (curious people need to know!), but, yes, the cast did have a hole in the crotch for, umm, body breaks. My Mom and Grandmother made special boxers for me that had velcro on the crotch to keep my privates, well, private.

Thankfully the cast only lasted six weeks and a couple of weeks before my 10th Birthday (on January 26th) my cast was removed. It was a painful experience that left me in tears, but I was not sad to see it go.

Recovery from there was quick. A week later I was taking my first steps and three months after that I was performing in my dance studio’s ballet recital. Thankfully, no physical therapy was required and I was able to continue living my very active kid life.

And here I am (17+ years later) running marathons, ultra marathons, and training for a half ironman. Looks like the doc knew what he was doing when he fixed my leg. 🙂

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