It was the spring of 1998. I was in first grade, old enough to know better about the dangers of jumping off the furniture, yet young enough to find it far too thrilling an experience that it was worth taking the risk. I’d pulled the two square cushions out of my dad’s basement chair and stacked them on the floor. My younger brother, who’d become less of a pest and more of an accomplice, was there to partake in the fun as he and I took turns jumping off the cushions.
I bounced with glee over and over, springing toward the ceiling before landing on my feet. My brother, roughly half my size, didn’t quite jump as high, but I was determined to jump a little bit higher each time. Thus, I jumped off the cushion once more, this time extending my arms above my head in hopes to touch the light fixture above my head. I didn’t quite reach it, and when I came down, I didn’t land on my feet. Instead, I crashed to the ground, the weight of my upper body landing hard on my right arm.
Immediately, the fun ceased.
I was numb, my body in shock from my hard landing. I lay there on the ground, disoriented, not quite registering how badly I was in pain. Finally, I looked at my brother, who stared at me with fear in his round brown eyes, and in a weak voice, I implored him, “Get… Mom.”
He took off in a frenzy, storming up the steps as he repeatedly called for our mother. I didn’t move, and all I could think was this is the reason parents tell you not to jump off the furniture. Moments later, both my mom and dad appeared, and I could hear the quiet urgency in my mom’s voice as she instructed my dad to carefully pick me up. He carried me upstairs to the living room couch, and as the franticness of the situation subsided, it was clear my parents were far more concerned that I’d hurt myself than they were upset with me over how I hurt myself in the first place.
I evidently had a large bruise on my head, though I couldn’t even feel it as the pain in my right arm was far more searing, pulsing through my body in aching waves that left me unable to vocalize how severe it was. In truth, the possibility that I’d broken a bone hadn’t even crossed my young mind. My mom, meanwhile, was determined to make me as comfortable as possible. She gave me some vanilla ice cream, my favorite flavor. I instinctively kept my arm close to my body, barely able to lift my hand to my mouth to eat a spoonful of it. I tried to focus on the TV, where The Little Mermaid was playing, and as I struggled to fight the pain, I started to cry. My mom mistook my tears for me getting emotional from the movie. I knew that wasn’t the reason, yet still, I was voiceless—coincidentally, like Ariel.
Assuming I wanted to watch something more lighthearted, my mom turned off The Little Mermaid and switched the channel to Nickelodeon, where a rerun of the first episode of CatDog was playing. Again, I tried to focus on the TV, my cup of melting ice cream still in hand, but it was no use. My dad knew before either my mom or myself that I had broken a bone, and he said I needed to go to the hospital. I was in far too much pain to protest, and so he and I went to the emergency room. A few hours and x-rays later, I learned I’d fractured my right elbow. I remember staring incredulously at the x-ray of my elbow, the bone snapped in two, hardly believing it was real even with the proof right there for all of us to see.
I was given a soft cast and a sling, not one of those plaster casts you see on TV. I have to admit, I was disappointed about that, as having everyone write little get well soon messages and sign their names seemed like one of the few advantages of having to wear a cast. Alas, no one was allowed to sign my cast, since I had to regularly remove it and perform exercises in the bath. At school, I was given some semi-special treatment strictly to ensure my own safety and a full healing process. For starters, I wasn’t allowed to go outside and play with everyone during recess for the first couple of weeks, so each day one of my friends would volunteer to stay inside with me. When my best friend at the time stayed with me during recess, we played with Beanie Babies as we did when we’d have playdates, so that was one of the upsides to the whole ordeal.
What was particularly frustrating, however, was relying on others for simple tasks we all take for granted. My mom, for instance, had to help me get dressed in my school uniform every morning. Also, since I’m right-handed, I couldn’t write anything, so my classmates had to take notes for me and help me with in-school projects. For one project, we had to decorate brown paper bags for Easter, and since I couldn’t draw, one of my friends offered to decorate mine for me. We sat together and I instructed her what to draw, a pink egg over here, a bunny over there. While I appreciated her taking the time to help me, it was frustrating to have to tell someone else what to do instead of being able to do it myself.
As the weeks wore on, I diligently kept up with my exercises while adjusting to the temporary routine of having less independence. A huge step in my progress came when the doctor finally removed my bandages, though I still had to wear the sling a little while longer. I had shown up to school the following day and proudly presented my cast-free arm to my teacher, to which she said, “Ooh! Be careful with it.”
I was most definitely careful, as that has since been the only time I broke a bone (knock on wood). I’m fortunate to have such a wonderful support system of family and friends who helped make my healing process that much easier. It just goes to show how kind and caring people can be to help you out in times of need. Not to mention, I was never tempted to jump on or off the furniture ever again, so as they say, you live and learn.