Confessions of a chronic klutz

I was lying on my back, under a crab apple tree, thinking I might die out here if I didn’t do something.

I had told my three-year-old brother, Sam, to go inside and get Mom. But that felt like forever ago. So, I started to drag myself towards the house.

***

I’ll make no bones about it, “graceful” isn’t the first word to describe me. Words like daring, clumsy and accident prone fit much better. My parents accepted this reality after my first accident.

I grew up on a dead-end road about a kilometre and a half long. Lined with potato fields and barns, four farms sat on either side of Shipyard Road, mine was the second on the left.

A large, grey farmhouse, built in 1890, my parents had just bought it and moved our family of five in. It was an especially muddy spring in 1995.

Sam and I were playing in the grove of trees lining our house. We were looking up a large crab-apple tree that my cat, Meco, had decided to climb. My five year-old self felt adamant on ensuring Meco’s safety, and so began to climb, getting a boost from a rock that had been at the bottom of the tree.

Half-way up, a branch snapped, and I plunged to the ground. My right leg landed, hard, on that blessed rock. That’s when Sam went to get Mom.

About fifty metres and a garden were between me and my back door. With my one good leg, I slowly drug myself through Mom’s perfect carrot and pea patches to the house. More mud than little girl, I finally knocked on the back door.

I later learned my brother, who couldn’t really form sentences at the time, had told my mom a string of words before sitting down for some chicken noodle soup. They included a combination of, “Tree, Laura, cat. Laura, tree, cat.”

I broke my right ankle in three places.

It would be the first of many.

***

Scratched and bruised, bumped and broken, whether literally or metaphorically, these twists in the road mould people into who they are today. I completely and wholeheartedly believe this is true. I’ve broken enough bones to fulfill an entire football team’s injury stats. But each time I’ve come out tougher, ready to conquer and fall again.

The second bone I broke was less than a year later. There’s no heroic story to this one. I was called inside for lunch, and tripped in the doorway.

I broke my right wrist. Two bones down, but room for more damage.

A year later, I fell down the stands at a rink. Landed on my head. I spent a night in the hospital for a second degree concussion.

I mastered two broken bones and one concussion by the age of seven.

***

I took a couple years off and gave my body a break. I signed up for softball at age 10. Only one of two girls on the team, my parents were a tad weary.

I went up to bat against a strong, twelve-year-old pitcher. His pitches were hard, fast and accurate. You can see where this is going.

They tell you to put your elbow up when you bat. I landed in the emergency room with a cracked elbow.

The count: three broken bones and one concussion. I had the most impressive track record in all of Grade 4.

***

In middle school I tried out for volleyball.

I didn’t make the team, because the coach told me I wasn’t strong enough to play. So I signed up for rugby instead.

I loved rugby. I played for four years.

Year one, I strained my left quadriceps.

Year two, concussion number two. I had a pretty clean year three.

But by this time, my parents were pretty against the sport. Yet the exhilaration of being able to tackle someone, full force, without any repercussions, was addicting.

It was in Grade 12 during one of the first games of the season where I really screwed myself over. I had the ball and was running. A girl tried to catch up and tackle me, but could only grab one of my legs. I tumbled forward, literally crushing my other leg with the weight of my body.

In rugby, if you go down, you “post” the ball firmly on the ground, toward your teammates. With several pairs of cleats stomping around me, I knew I was adding another broken bone to the list.

I had recently started dating, and my boyfriend was the only one at the game who could take me to the hospital. Covered in mud, with mascara and tears dripping off my face, two people had to put me in the back of his car. It was a great start to the relationship.

I had a painful “spiral” break to my left tibia. The weight of my body had caused the break to wrap around the bone. I had to wear a cast that went all the way to my hip through prom and graduation, with the hopes it would come off in the summer.

Four months later, I had seven screws and two plates holding the bone together.

I got the surgery two days before starting university, and was known as “crutch” to my roommate.

I finally got the cast off a year later.

I was so relieved for the ability to walk to my first class of second year. Another surgery at the beginning of third year freed me of the metal.

***

I’m not looking for sympathy. I just truly believe everyone should experience a bump in the road, whether it’s a broken bone or losing someone close.

We need to climb more trees, play hockey, sky dive or travel, and not think about the “what ifs.” We also need to hold onto those close to us, phone our grandparents and go out for coffee. People need to build a stronger backbone.

Today, I am oddly grateful for the bumps and bruises that I have accumulated over the years. I have a much higher pain tolerance and I am deeply empathetic to those in pain. I also have acquired a plan for how to improve the health-care systems on Prince Edward Island and in New Brunswick.

Since being able to walk again, I added a new set of broken bones to the list.

About six months ago, I cracked a couple ribs slipping in my drive way. Once accident prone, always accident prone.

Five broken bones and two concussions later, I have the strongest backbone ever.

Knock on wood.

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