And by that I of course mean Jay Broke His Leg in 2 Places And Now We’re In 2 Different Cities Trying To Not Fail At Life And Also Recover At The Same Time On The Busiest Week Of Our Lives.
Let’s get some history first before we start down this long road together. As a child, Jay broke his right leg twice, in VERY short succession. He had the cast off for 1 day, did something dumb, and was right back in the OR. So now we know that.
Then, last weekend! We headed down to Sullivan’s Island for a beach weekend with Jay’s family. Then, the plan was to come back to work this week and go BACK to the beach next weekend for an entire week with my family. Our families rent the same beach house and this year the weeks happened to be back to back. That’s key to this story later.
So, on Saturday we woke up and walked on the beach, which is my favorite thing to do almost in the entire world. Then, the family got ready to head to the marina where we’d rented a boat for the entire day. The entire day! On a boat! With 9 family members and 2 kids! Besides obvious family drama jokes everyone was excited and the plan was to boat around the waterway, have lunch on the water, stop at a beach to play, and head home where Jay and I would make fish tacos for dinner.
We managed to get in the boat, to the random beach 20 minutes away, and Jay broke his leg. That was the entire day. When we pulled up to the beach there was a question on where/how to anchor since none of us are technically boaters, so we threw the anchor in a few times unsuccessfully because the water was deeper than we thought and the tide wasn’t coming in, so it wasn’t holding. So, we pulled the boat up reeaaalllyyyy close to the beach, and Jay tossed in the anchor. It felt like it stuck, but he wanted to go check before the kids jumped into the water. So, Jay jumped into the water. Water which turned out to be much more shallow than the thought, and his leg broke in two places on impact. Of course, at the time we didn’t know that.
The actual breaking of the leg is what baffles all of us. His knees were bent, there was SAND, he wasn’t being silly, we just have no clue. When Jay jumped in he came up for air kind of crumpled in a ball just YELLING, and of course for 30 seconds or so we all thought he was kidding. It’s such a dad joke – yell that you broke your leg to make the kids giggle! But then the laughter never came, and there was something protruding from his leg so…in jumped Jay’s dad and brother in law. In took me about 30 additional seconds of not wanting to jump in in case there was something dangerous in the water (since we still didn’t know what had happened), and “fuck this, that’s my husband.” The second one won out, and in I went.
Those moments in the boat before I got to Jay replay in my mind over and over. I want him SO BADLY to just laugh and say he’s kidding and stand up so we can finish our day, get home, go on vacation, and close out our summer the way we’d planned. The pain that followed (and is still following) was awful, and I wish I could change the ending of the story so much. Hindsight is a funny thing, and there were tons of other bad moments in the day, but for some reason that very first instant hasn’t left me yet. Jay says he knew as soon as he hit the ground that he’d broken his leg, so his mind started to kick into high gear a few minutes before ours did.
Once we got to him in the water, a few onlookers offered to help and give advice, the biggest piece being “don’t move him.” You know how people are afraid to get in ambulances because of the cost? It’s a thing. Jay is one of them. But, when you’re in the middle of the ocean on an uninhabited beach sometimes you don’t have many choices. The bone wasn’t poking through the skin, but was sticking out on the surface of Jay’s left lower shin area. Remember how he’d already broken one leg twice? Different leg. Everyone assumed that he’d broken his already-weak leg but, no, now he has broken three legs like a champ. Two people called 911 and a fire department rescue boat was dispatched to us. We were on the beach for 20-30 minutes waiting on the boat, and I’m sure to Jay it felt like the longest half hour of his entire life. Jay’s sister had the idea to splint the leg on a life vest, so we had the leg propped up which turned out to be key in keeping the leg comfortable while it moved to the hospital – the foam helped the bottom part of the leg not feel like it was dangling so painfully.
The beach onlookers kept being helpful. Someone set up a tent for us so we weren’t in the sun while we waited, a supremely crusty fisherman offered a water bottle of whisky and the oldest aspirin I’ve ever seen, which sounds gross but in the moment was incredibly thoughtful and sweet. Other people called emergency services to get any advice we could, and family formed a barrier so that dogs running on the beach couldn’t get too close. There was ONE dog, a full-sized poodle, that was running up and down the beach all excitedly, and we couldn’t figure out for the life of us why it’s owners didn’t keep it away from Jay. Every time it circled back the though of it touching the broken leg made Jay’s entire body flinch, even though it never happened. Incidentally, that same dog had taken a massive poop in the ocean just moments before this happened, so maybe these people weren’t really great at having their dogs on the beach in general. We’ll never know.
While all this was happening, I rotated between hovering over Jay to block the sun and sitting behind him so he could lean on my chest. He couldn’t figure out if lying down or sitting up felt better, so we alternated back and forth. The tide was coming in, so we kept having to move him back, which of course was incredibly painful every time, but his leg floating in the water as it came up was worse, so our brother in law held his leg and Jay pushed himself back. Every time we did it we thought surely this is far enough, they’ll be here soon, but we had to move up the beach 3 times before help actually arrived. I think in those 30 minutes I must have said I’ve got you or some variation thereof a million times.
When the fire department arrived, they did a quick assessment of Jay’s leg that included not feeling a pulse in his foot (scary, because of the thought of tearing a major artery) and trying to keep him as comfortable as possible to move him to the backboard and onto the boat. We ended up keeping the life vest on his leg and folding a piece of cardboard around it, then securing THAT with tape to keep the leg as straight as possible. He had realized that anytime he could move himself it was easier for him because he controlled when the pain happened, so he was a big help getting onto the backboard, then carried into the boat. The boat ride back to the marina was a blur, and Jay alternated between making jokes and weepily asking me if I meant that whole “in sickness and in health” thing. It was heartbreaking, and also painful because BUMPS FROM OTHER BOATS’ WAKE. Holy poop. The boat driver was trying to find a fine line between getting there quickly and gently, and he did a great job. While we were in the boat the firefighters asked what hospital we wanted to go to, because they can’t advise on such things. OMG. Kill me now, medical system. Obviously we had no clue, so I think I said something like “closest that can handle his injury.” They went for it.
When the boat got back to the marina there were about 8 more service people lined up on the dock waiting to get Jay. I hopped out of the boat first to get out of the way, and very quickly tried to give a rundown to the family members on the dock (that hadn’t been with us in the boat yet), then got in the front seat of the ambulance. There was some question about me being allowed to ride in the back with Jay, and for some reason it was decided that if I wanted to be in the vehicle I had to be buckled in the front. I don’t know if that’s a rule for everyone or knocked up people. You can tell me what you know on that. My sister in law threw me her bathing suit cover up, I hollered to Jay that I was there and he was going to be just fine, and we were off (no flashing lights, disappointingly) to the hospital. When we were in the ambulance I tried my darndest to call the insurance company to tell them what we were doing, because there’s (maybe a myth?) this thing where if you call ahead it might be easier to get things covered? WELL, Blue Cross’s pre-cert department is only open during regular business hours. So, no pre-cert for you, insurance company, sorry.
The ambulance was where, for me, emotions started getting cloooose to the surface, so I pushed them back down like any good repressed therapist does. No time for that nonsense, and Jay was in the back of the ambulance regaling the EMT with the OTHER TWO TIMES he’s broken a leg. And telling jokes, so I ignored the lump in my throat and rolled my eyes. I didn’t cry until much later in the day, and that was because I had way too much free time with my thoughts and started catastrophizing, which I wouldn’t recommend doing ever. It did occur to me at some point during this that I was (am) pregnant but felt fine, so I figured until I had contractions or any kind of weirdness we’d just let the uterus do what it does and let me do what I do, which is joke with my husband when he’s in agony because that’s kind of what he needs in those moments.
Quiet moments in the ambulance and other kind of interval times during crises are always when things start to set in and you start to wonder what real ramifications you’re facing due to this split-second fluke. Will jobs be affected? Health besides just fixing a leg? Finances? We’re having a KID, why is this happening now? I found in these moments and rest of the day that as long as I could focus on exactly what was happening to Jay I could calm those thoughts, but too much down time or silence was just deadly. And, when you’re at the mercy of caretakers, there is a LOT of down time where you wait for other people to tell you your fate. Every second that Jay had to wait for medicine was terrible, and the entire time we were just trying to get to the hospital was agonizing for him. Since we were so close to the hospital (thank goodness) the ambulance started an IV but didn’t use it for anything, so Jay didn’t get any relief from the pain until we made it through a boat, an ambulance, and several service people, all of whom were wonderful.
And that is where Part 1 ends. It gets good next.