I see sprains, strains and many broken bones nearly every day of my life. That’s the nature of being a surgeon specializing in children’s orthopaedic issues, especially here at Los Angeles Orthopaedic Hospital (LAOH), where we treat many thousands of kids each year. But I had never personally suffered a fracture until this summer.
When I slipped and landed hard on my left knee, I didn’t initially suspect the extent of the injury; when I continued to feel pain, however, I knew something was wrong. I went to the Urgent Care for an X-ray, and the film showed that I had fractured my patella – my kneecap.
My reaction was actually relief. I could see that the fracture wasn’t displaced. This minor type of injury is relatively common in kids, and I have treated it often here at LAOH. I knew it would take about four weeks altogether to heal, and that I wouldn’t need to have surgery and take time off to recuperate.
Naturally, as this was my first fracture as a patient, this was also my first cast. The experience of wearing it was ... awful! Mobility was difficult; it was hard to get out of the car, to shower and keep the cast dry. It was a challenge to conduct surgery: you have to make a place for the cast amongst all the equipment. Happily, we managed, and I was able to work through it.
In the clinics, everyone seems surprised, at first, to see the doctor in a cast or on crutches. Then, the kids will ask what happened. We begin to talk, and discover we’re going through the same thing, and that connection seems to make their own injury seem a little more ordinary or bearable for them. For my part, I appreciate gaining this additional perspective on what my patients are going through. It is tough! Knowing that from direct experience will enable me to be more sympathetic.
Apart from that lasting awareness, which is valuable, this will soon be behind me. You keep going. The kids understand. Once they’re through their episode, it’s done. They’re on to the next thing, and life continues. It will be the same for me. It’s just a fracture!