I had a call today from a long time friend and fellow soccer enthusiast, wanting to go to lunch which unfortunately, I could not fit into my schedule. It got me thinking that he was one of the first people I knew when I first joined the Austin Soccer scene, not because we played together in the early days as we did later on but rather under the most bizarre of circumstances.
He was watching a game probably thirty years ago, in which I was playing when I had the misfortune to break a leg after a heavy challenge from a player of the opposite team. This players name was Michael and he was a big ole boy. His thighs were as big around as my stomach was (at least back then). We were nowhere near as organized as we are today and cell phones had not yet been invented so my team mates did the next best thing and threw me into the back of my soon to be, long time friend’s small pickup truck and he drove me to Brackenridge Hospital to get it treated. I can’t remember too much about that ride but by then, nature was running its magical course and my leg was numb and I didn’t feel any pain. Just as well because it was a very bumpy ride. He dropped me off at the Emergency Entrance and disappeared into the afternoon sunset. I was still married at the time and my wife was with me so she checked me in and I was not without company while I waited to get the leg treated.
For some reason, the Emergency Room was packed. They were so busy that they had beds out in the hallways. We literally waited a couple of hours or more before this old-looking guy wandered up. He had on a white coat but didn’t look at all like a doctor and when he introduced himself, his Texas twang was so heavy, I couldn’t understand a bloody word he said. Turns out, he was the Orthopedic Surgeon on duty and like it or not, was going to try to set my leg. I should point out that I had broken both bones, tibia at the top and fibula at the ankle. I can’t remember the surgeon’s name. Don’t know if that is due to the old age memory thing or my mind purposely shutting out memories of that event.
It was interesting because of all of the time in the Emergency Room and during the time the Surgeon was trying to set my leg, I had not received any medication or pain pills. As I stated previously, my leg was numb and I was not feeling any pain so didn’t think too much about it until the Doc said, “I’m going to set this, are you ready”. Of course I wasn’t ready even though I was mustering up all of this bravado because when he twisted the leg in an effort to get it back together, I almost passed out with the pain. I didn’t know that anything could hurt so bad. He was having trouble in setting it and after a couple of attempts, he gave up and decided that I was going to need surgery.
So he sent me home with a soft cast, a wheelchair and orders to come back in a week when the swelling was down. If you have ever experienced being tied down to crutches and a wheelchair, you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t, then hope you never do. We were renting a small apartment that was at the basement level and required going down a flight of stairs. The apartment was not roomy and it was tough manoeuvering that wheelchair around.
At that time, I was working as a Superintendant of Construction for a small local construction firm and we were building schools in North Austin. My boss was an Italian from New York and as luck would have it, was on vacation in that State for the week. The project that I was managing was just at the completed slab stage and on the Monday, we were due to start framing and erecting steel so I had no choice but to go to work in a wheelchair and crutches in order to do the layout work. Sure raised lots of eyebrows from these hardened construction workers to see me rolling around the job site in a wheelchair. My boss came back for the following week and I went back in to the hospital to get the leg set. To this day, still embedded in my leg, are two screws that were used to pull the bones back together. Never bothered any of the metal detectors down the years though, Guess that only works in the movies and only if you have a steel plate in your head. I was back at work after a couple of days but at least I had dumped the wheelchair and was now full-time on crutches
I spent almost five months in a long leg plaster cast and had to use crutches all the time, Showers were a real pain having to wrap the cast in a plastic bag every time I took one which also made for a long five months. Finally, it came off and it was such a relief to get rid of that thing but then there was another month in a boot which also included lots of physical therapy. Six months later, I was back out on the soccer field playing again and wouldn’t you know it, the guy that broke my leg, Michael, was on the other team. Talk about fate and we greeted each other like long-lost brothers even though we didn’t really know one another. Such is the camaraderie of playing soccer. It took a long time to get the muscles back into shape as they had atrophied a lot because of the lack of movement under the cast. Except for the six-inch scar, I have not had any after effects from that incident and have remained friends with the driver of that beat up pickup truck over all of these years. Don’t know what happened to Michael…
As a footnote, my job did not come with any Health Insurance so I had the foresight of purchasing a Blue Cross, Blue Shield personal health insurance package hoping of course, that I would never have to use it for anything major. How was I to know that it was one of the smartest moves I ever made and how much money it was to save me down the road.