A Humerus Tale - among others.

I tripped outside my house and broke my ankle this weekend.

Yes, you can laugh, particularly if you’ve known me a long time.

But, see, I was overdue.  I haven’t broken a bone since 2008.  And really, this is by far the least spectacular of my skeletal injuries.

When I was a toddler, I fell down the stairs.  1990 or so.  And I broke my collarbone.  Luckily, I don’t remember this.

I do remember, however, breaking both my arms six years later.  Imagine little Claire, running around at the Zilker Park Kite Festival, in a bright red skirt.  I tripped, landed face forward with my arms crossed in front of me.  I believe each arm had multiple hairline fractures.  A couple of splints and six weeks later, I was as good as ever. 

Another six years, another injury.  I rode horses most of my life, and in 2001 started at a new stables.  I should have realized that this place was not great when I was thrown three times in a six month period.  Still, I wasn't hurt and I persevered until May 2002 (I don’t generally think of myself as stubborn, but maybe I should rethink that).  Then I started riding Scout.  He was a really beautiful horse, well-trained.  But he had been abused and was very skittish.   As long as you didn’t try to touch his head, he was a doll and perfectly mannered, if a little prone to start at sudden noises or movements.  It took two of us to bridle him.  I worked with him twice with no problems, and felt for the first time like I had really started to become a good rider. 

The third lesson I rode him, though, was in an arena with many other students and horses.  He spooked, I came off, and found I couldn’t put any weight on my left leg.  I passed out at one point.  My mother and instructor loaded me into a golf cart to get me to the car.  Despite this, I insisted on going home, not to the ER.  Friends were coming over for a movie party!  I would sit on the couch and not move – if my leg still hurt in the morning, then we could go to the hospital.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get out of the car when we got home.  When we did get to the ER, EMTs had to use a backboard to slide me out.  This, of course, is how I broke my femur – the thigh bone.  A spiral fracture in the middle, and a hairline fracture at the top inside the hip joint.  I spent the summer recovering from the break and surgery - my leg is now reinforced with titanium.  I started high school with a cane.

Six months later, I was riding again.

And it was great!  I switched barns twice, but both places were wonderful.  I fell off once, but in a six year period that is not bad at all.  And, no injuries at all.

Until 2008.

My summer plans were amazing.  I had a job with Texas Parks and Wildlife.  I was leasing a horse for cheap from a woman who was spending the summer in China.  I was going to Siberia! 

The first time I levered myself on to Sterling, he took off at a trot the moment my butt touched the saddle.  Not very good manners, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  He calmed down after a couple of loops around the arena, and we had a pleasant ride.  However, the next time I rode, I asked someone to hold him for me.  He did not react well to this.

I had just barely mounted when he tried to take off.  Foiled by the woman holding his bridle, he reared and spun instead.  I remember coming off, curling as I fell to avoid hitting my head on a rail.

I knew my arm and shoulder were messed up.  One of the other riders gave me a ride to the hospital, since I was definitely not in any condition to drive.  My orthopedic surgeon said my upper arm bone shattered like an 80-year old’s – ortho surgeons are not known for their bedside manner. 

Really, it was just a very high impact event – I don’t have a calcium deficiency or anything.  But, I am that much closer to being a bionic woman.  A plate and thirteen pins now hold together my humerus. 

And once again, six months later, I was back in the saddle.

I don’t ride anymore.  I would love to, but graduate school in South Texas does not lend itself well to such things.  Someday I'll get back into it, when I have the luxury of a postdoc salary – all $40,000 of it.  It has been almost seven years, however, since that last broken bone.  Apparently, I’m on a schedule.

Which brings us to this weekend.  No dramatic story.  Just tripped and landed wrong, resulting in a "non-displaced fracture of the lateral malleolus".  That’s the outside ankle bone, which doesn’t actually bear any weight.  I have a giant boot, and crutches that I don’t use as much as probably should.   But, it will heal cleanly and quickly, so I'm mostly alternating between laughing at the whole ridiculous thing, and annoyed that walking upstairs is such a pain in the ass.

Next time, more science!