Chapter Six – The Splint
The first spasm occurred seconds later. Apparently, muscle reacts when the jagged end of a shattered tibia digs into it. What happens is akin to a twitch. And that twitch has the adverse effect of causing the jagged bone end to dig deeper into the muscle. Kind of like an endless loop of shock, agony, and misery.
When the first spasm occurred, I screamed and dug my fingers deeper into the field. The comfort team held me even more tightly.
Andrea recognized what was happening. The pain subsided slightly. “Spasm?” She asked calmly.
I nodded. “We need to get your leg splinted. You’ll feel better after that.”
Tommy placed a small stand containing an IV bag filled with a white liquid next to me. “This is ringer’s lactate.” Tommy said softly. He took my hand from Mary Agnes and began to insert an IV.
I closed my eyes. I hate needles. I felt a prick and then tape being placed over my hand.
“What’s ringers’ lactate?” I asked trying to move my focus from my leg.
“It’s something that will keep you from getting dehydrated.” Tommy said. I thought the answer was lame but was in no shape to question the guy who was about to splint my shattered leg. Christ. If I am dehydrated, give a bottle of that new concoction was taking sports teams by storm – Gatorade. I learned later that they started the ringer’s lactate IV because they thought I would need surgery to set the leg.
Another spasm and I screamed again. This time louder. The comfort team pressed me down.
For some reason, I thought breaking a bone was a time limited event. The most intense pain was in the moments after breaking the bone. I was now realizing that assumption was wrong. The treatment for the break could possibly be worse than the break itself.
That damned morphine pill was doing nothing. The pain was getting worse and that was not possible.
I stared at the orange splint resting next to my leg. I began to look at is an enemy. I knew at some point Andrea and Tommy would have to insert my grotesquely disfigured leg into that neat, straight splint. Any movement of my leg caused intense, life altering pain. But lifting my leg? And dropping it into that orange thing? No way! I would prefer to die.
As if on cue, Andrea said. “Lynne, your doing great. A real rock star you are!”
Rock Star. Fuck. I felt anything like a rock star right now. Did I look like Mick Jagger or Janis Joplin?
Andrea continued. “Lynne. We’re going to splint your leg. You’re going to feel a lot better once the leg is stabilized.”
I looked at Mary. My friend for years. Her eyes were filled with sorrow. She knew what was about to happen.
It took me a few days to piece things together. When someone is in as much pain as I was that afternoon, they will believe anything – absolutely anything – a trusted care giver like an EMT tells them. The truth is, EMT’s are taught to lie.
Over the course of the next five minutes, I heard phrases like “this won’t hurt much’, you’ll feel much better in a second”, “we’ll be done soon”, and “the worst part is over”.
I will not bore you with the details. The splinting process was actually pretty simple. My deformed leg was lifted off the ground by Andrea and Mary while Tommy slid the splint under my leg. Andrea gave my foot a little twist to get it into somewhat reasonable alignment, and my leg was then lowered into the soft padding of the splint.
Sounds straight forward. Right?
Never in my life had I felt such pain. In those brief moments I prayed to God that I would pass out. No such luck. I started screaming when they lifted my leg and I felt the leg sag. Jagged bone digging deep into healthy red muscle. I continued screaming through out the splinting process. The comfort team held me down. The crowd in the stadium was deathly quiet. Agnes was crying as was Lizzy Coleman. My ‘comfort squad’ was losing it.
I was assured by Andrea and Tommy that I was doing great during this process. “Rock Star” they kept saying. “Great job!” “You’re wonderful.” All I was doing was laying on a grass field on a hot August afternoon and screaming.
When things did not seem like they could get any worse – they got way worse. With my leg finally resting in that damned orange splint, Agnes told me that we were now getting to the ‘hard part’ of the splinting process. The ‘hard part!!!” Holy fuck. What had I just been through?
The foot of the splint had a leather hitch that was placed around my instep. And there was, apparently, a nasty, infernal, demonic, pagan invented by a sadist wheel on the heel of the splint. Andrea turned the wheel which stretched my leg.
I can’t give you any words to describe what I felt when that damned wheel was turned. For some strange reason Andrea and Tommy had the comfort team count the number of times the wheel was turned. “ONE”. “TWO”. My screams were now animal like. “THREE”. I was writhing like a fish out of water. Trying desperately to get off the ground. To get away from these sadistic ass holes. “FOUR” I managed to free my hand from Lizzy and was clawing wildly at the moist turf.
I did not make it to “FIVE” or what came after. Thankfully, mercifully, I passed out.
I awoke a couple of minutes later. I was on a stretcher being rolled toward the red Cadillac station wagon with the word AMBULANCE stenciled on its side. I wondered what in God’s name I had done to deserve such unremitting pain. The playing field was not level and the stretcher wobbled and made creaking noises.
“She’s awake.” Mary said from behind me. “Andrea and Tommy who were guiding me from the sides of the stretcher both turned and smiled.
“Great job Lynne. You did super.” Andrea said. “We’ll have you at the hospital in 10 minutes.”
I tried to smile but failed miserably.
As we approached the ambulance, the stretcher hit a hole in the field. The stretcher rocked front to back and side to side. Despite the splint, I felt the bones moving in my leg and screamed loudly. Bile was rising in my throat. Moments before I was about to get sick, I noticed that the crowd, all 1,500 strong in Myers Park High School’s stadium, were on their feet and clapping. I swallowed hard. Instead of tossing my cookies, I raised my hand and waved to the crowd.
A picture of this scene had been displayed in a 4’ by 2’ black and white picture at our 25th high school anniversary party at the Charlotte Marriott.
What wonderful memories of high school I had.