When I was a teenager, I was stupid. Okay, I may still be stupid, I know, but I really was when I was a teenager. I was hunting in the fall of 2001. The morning hunt had ended, the dear had all bedded down. I was taking my 4 wheeler down the road back to camp, where, like everyone else, I’d have lunch and take a nap. The problem was that I was taking my 4 wheeler MUCH too fast. I lost control on a particular right bend. I hit a tree. The sudden stop threw me into another tree (a good thing, too, or else I’d have gone head-first into a rock… with no helmet). In the year’s past people have said that I got into a fight with a tree and lost. NO SIR! That second tree, about 8 inches in diameter, was chopped straight down by my right femur… which was also chopped in half. But I’m still here today. that tree is DEAD. I won that fight thankyouverymuch… well, as much of a win as can be expected with a broken femur… in the wilderness… by myself… with no one around… oh, crap.
I would love to say that I kept my cool. I’d love to say that I was calm… but that wouldn’t be true. I tried to get up, and I could feel my stump moving, but the leg didn’t. odd sensation. There really wasn’t any pain yet, just… bubbly? I’ve never really been able to describe that feeling, but bubbly is the closest I can come up with. I took out my radio (2 mile range, I think, on a straightaway. I couldn’t have been closer than 5 miles to camp through a winding valley) and calmly (oh, I’ve already fessed up to the truth?), okay, a little less than calmly screamed in to the radio “HEEELLLLPPPP!” a couple of times. I didn’t hurt yet, but I knew I was in trouble. You’re not supposed to have two knees, right?
I was fortunate… that word doesn’t really do it justice… there, in the middle of the wilderness, less than 100 yards away two hunters had stopped for lunch. At least that’s what they said. I’m still not convinced they weren’t angels. They were for me, at least. They literally saved my life. That broken stump inside my leg was millimeters away from severing my femoral artery… which doesn’t end well, though it ends quickly. They got my dad and MIKE WOOD from camp (fortunately our wall tent was easily recognizable with little description). As my dad, MIKE, and my two angels were trying to best figure out how to get me out of the wilderness, they began to look for a log, or board or SOMETHING to splint my leg. (ADD MOMENT: a splint, by definition, must immobilize both the joint above and the joint below a break in order to be truly effective. for a broken femur, start the splint at the armpit, and go all the way to the ankle). I decided then that I’d have a good attitude about the whole thing. When someones asked for a saw, I screamed at the top of my lungs “you’re not cutting off my leg!” I’m pretty sure my angels where worried that I’d hit my head. My dad already knew the extent of my brain damage and chuckled.
After they got me into the SUV, my dad and I endured 9 hours of washboard road. It might have only been 30 minutes, I’m not sure. It hurt. Bad. every bump (look up what a washboard looks like, there are a lot of bumps) was… how do you say? “ouch?” Once we got onto the main road, I realized that I wasn’t going to make it to the school dance that night. that made me sad. The first person that I talked to was my cousin Chris Shirts, who agreed to fill my place with Kaytie Gritton Miller at the dance. I vaguely remembering my dad calling the Mud Lake police. I vaguely remember him asking for a police escort through town, as he declared that he wasn’t slowing down for the 25 MPH speed zones (I think he was going 90?) I vaguely remember the dispatch telling him that they wouldn’t authorize him to break the law. I vaguely remember him saying something along the lines of “then stay out of my way, because I’m not pulling over!” I find it fortuitous that we didn’t see any police that day. Finally, after calling my mom, I remember my dad calling the hospital to explain the situation. I vaguely remember him telling them that I had a possible broken femur. I remember asking him why he said “possible” – he told me that, in his experience, medical personnel don’t like it when we small folk diagnose ourselves, and that it’s best to let them do the diagnosing. I also remember, perhaps with more embellishment than really happened, the WRATH of my father when the hospital greeted us with a wheelchair (“I CALLED AHEAD AND BROUGHT YOU A PERSON WITH A BROKEN FEMUR, AND YOU BROUGHT ME A WHEELCHAIR!?! GO GET A STRETCHER!)
ADD MOMENT: For those who didn’t know me at the time, I used to ride my bike… a lot…. like 20-40 miles a day, a lot… my legs were… big.
They should have been able to get me into surgery quickly, but traction took a while. A long while… my quads were too strong and kept pulling the traction machine out of place. I remember from my drugged daze, that the strap around my ankle to pull my leg straight was more painful than the break had been up to that point. The surgery should have taken a few hours. If I remember correctly, it took 8. My legs were too strong.
When the group of my friends (and my cousin) came to visit me before the dance, I had only been out of surgery for a few minutes and I wasn’t yet conscious, though I wasn’t quite unconscious either. I remember them coming in, but I don’t really remember who “them” was, nor do I remember anything else about the experience. The stories that spread around school over the next couple of days, however, embellished my stupor – I’d been in a hunting accident, and I wasn’t coherent… I’d been in a hunting accident, and I was in the hospital, in stable condition… I’d been in a hunting accident, and I’d been shot, which is why I wasn’t coherent, but I was in stable condition… the hunting accident, in which I’d been shot, had caused me to be in unstable condition: things are touch and go… I’d been killed in a hunting accident… the stories got gloriously out of hand, and quickly.
I spent the next 2 and half years getting multiple surgeries. My leg didn’t heal. it WOULDN’T heal. I approached my doctor in the late summer or early fall of 2003 to ask him if I’d be able to go on a mission – he told me that because my leg was still BROKEN (though an internal rod kept it in place) I would not be able to go, short a miracle. My dad gave me yet another blessing, by laying on of hands. He commanded my body to heal. By December, I was fully healed, and left on my mission just 3 months later. Miracles are real.
What does this have to do with the price of eggs? Well, not much, really. It’s a story that most of my friends and family know, at least in part. And when people see me with a cane now, they assume it is because of this experience. It’s not. The only lasting effects of my broken leg are this: a small limp and a $250000 barometer (when that weather changes, whoo! Do I feel it in my bones!)