A nanosecond between me and death, but I never paused: I leapt from that window like a deranged chimpanezee, smartcard clenched between my teeth, reaching reaching reaching for the strut of the helicopter and climbing inside.
“Arrrrgh!” yelled Mr. Big’s frustrated henchman, hurling manhole covers after me. One struck my knee as I shoved the dead pilot aside and took the controls. “My god! Your leg!” said the kid, pointing a shaking finger. My toes now pointed backwards, blood and bone bursting from my thigh.
“No time!” I growled, “Shut up, strap the leg down with the seatbelt, and let me fly this damn chopper! We’ve got the secret codes!”
Later, they told me my femur was shattered. Small price to pay for saving the world.
In the world of catastrophically injured people, he who has the best story wins. I keep losing.
On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)
I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.
There was Darien, who modestly attributed HIS shattered femur to a game of dodge-bullet. “I thought the bullet was gonna go left,” he shrugged, “So I went right. I guessed wrong.”
Marlene, who crushed her leg discovering her very own sinkhole. “It swallowed my car,” she said impressively.
Gene, who was testing a rollcage in a customer’s Corvette when the rear axle split in half, sending the car into a wall at 150mph. “Well, it probably wasn’t THAT fast when I hit,” he said, “Maybe only 140.”
There wasn’t much left of his femur (or a bunch of other bones) when they cut him out of the wreckage, “so they replaced it. They gave me a choice of metal or shark cartilage. I chose shark; it’s a guy thing.”
“So…” they all ask avidly, eyeing my leg brace, “How did you break YOUR leg?”
“Fell down three steps,” I mumble, blushing.
“Excuse me? I didn’t hear you?”
“I FELL DOWN THREE STEPS,” I say, which gets me The Pity Look.
“Honey, you really need to come up with a better story than THAT,” said Marlene, sympathetically.
I wiped the sweat from my brow and set up for the last run of the match. I’d only been doing parkour for three months, but I was in second after the preliminaries. If I beat the leader’s time by a full second, I’d become world champion.
GO! I ran up the outside of a four story building, onto the roof, and swung across a full city block, tree by tree. At the halfway point, I was still behind by a half-second so I picked up the pace, sliding across rails, leaping onto roofs, and hurling my body through 100-foot drops.
I’d made up my half second, added a quarter, and hurtled onto the last obstacle…just as an unwary popcorn vendor spilled butter on the floor. Spleeeeeee–I slid right off the edge of a 20-story apartment building!
I stayed calm, extending my leg to catch the last balcony awning as it flew by. I felt my legbone crunch, knew it wouldn’t bear my weight, so I immediately bounced into a handstand and rushed the finish line.
“My god,” said the announcer, over the deafening cheers, “She’s finishing the course on her HANDS! A new world record!”
“I know,” I told her, “But so far nobody’s buying the stories I make up.”
“Well, couldn’t you at least say you were really drunk?”
Like Jim, the guy who survived firefights in Vietnam, capture by the enemy, grenades and flamethrowers…only to drink one Jim Beam too many at his platoon reunion. Shortly after, he discovered that he could no longer vault over park benches. Splat.
“Naaah,” I said gloomily, “That sounds even dumber than ‘It was dark and I didn’t see the stairs.'”
“Yeah,” she agreed.
It was Jeremy’s last ballroom competition; the cancer had gone too far. If he didn’t win this time, he’d go to his grave without the international trophy he’d coveted for so many years.
And we’d been dancing so well: The rhumba had clicked into place like clockwork. The cha-cha cha-chinged! Our quickstep was a thing of beauty.
Then, tragedy struck: Weakened by chemo, Jeremy stumbled and fell, his leg breaking with a sickening crack. We had one dance to go for the win, but with his busted femur, our rhythm was off. “If only we could find some way to compensate,” he moaned, tears coming to his eyes, “Somehow make your two wonderful legs work with my one and a half legs!”
“Hand me that hammer,” I murmured…
I dunno. Maybe I could say I ran into a burning building to save the last bottle of Fever Tree. Interposed my body between a small child and a crazed orangutan with a baseball bat. Slipped on a thermonuclear bomb fuse and disarmed North Korea.