top of page

Snapping Out of It: Lessons Learned From a Leg Break

Click-clack. Click-clack. The chorus of my cleats works to outpace the racing of my

heart. Lub-dub. Lub-dub. Arm in arm, our army of thirty-seven soldiers of scarlet and silver

march down the concrete ramp to the coliseum like stadium that is Bettendorf’s “Touvelle

​​Stadium.” The orange November sun is setting at our backs--setting the stage for a wild west like

showdown set to kickoff at seven o’clock. Seemingly weightless, we stride to our sideline and

are met by the uproar of energy unraveling from the overflowing visitors section. Shoulder to

shoulder, we strongly stand and face the flag to pay our righteous respect. The trombones of the

band let loose their last note, and we fasten our gear before we set to face the odds stacked

against us.

We are ready to kickoff. We are ready to win. We are ready to make history. . .

Joe Theismann, former NFL quarterback for the Washington Redskins, once described it

as, “two muzzled gunshots,” in his infamous injury. Dennis Golinghorst, my dad, described it as,

“a tire getting popped,” from his viewpoint in the second row of the bleachers. Personally, I

heard the sound of two rocks being hit together, accompanied with a tingling sensation like “Pop

Rocks” in your mouth, shooting down my left leg. What I saw when I looked down I can not

describe in words. But what I learned about all that accompanies breaking your leg, and what is

special about living in a close knit Iowa community, I will keep with me forever.

The life has seemingly been sucked from the air of the stadium, as all eyes turn towards

me (and those closer look away) as I writhe in pain, and scream like I never have before. As my

instinctive responses of shock begin to settle, I am calmed and comforted by the people around

me. Medical personnel, coaches, and my parents all contribute to calming and comforting me. “I

never thought this would happen to me” is all I can utter, as I see the red and blue flashing of the

ambulance approaching in my peripherals.

As the medics address my issue, they are pleased to be equipped with an inflatable splint,

the latest and greatest in treating a broken leg. The leading First Aid Supplier of the United

States defines the inflatable splint as, “a plastic piece of first aid equipment that is premade in the

shape of a limb. It is used to hold the bones in an immobile position until the patient is able to be

taken to a hospital to have the bone set and put in a cast. An inflatable splint is only used to

immobilize a broken limb temporarily” (“When”). Very similar to the air pump used to check

blood pressure on your bicep, the splint keep all parts together, and allows for as little handling

as possible of the broken bones. With my leg stabilized, I am lifted into the ambulance at the

applause of the crowd from both ends of the stadium. Divided in their hopes for the game but

united for their hopes in my well being, they applaud as the operating room table awaits my


The white and bright ceiling walls of the hospital room blur together, as the small talk of

the middle aged female nurse pounding away on her keyboard, and the nurse with the soft and

sweet voice from across the room talk with one another. Having never been on an anesthetic

before, the feeling of numbness is new for me, as I comprehend that I have just undergone

surgery. I hear the wheels of my gurney as they bump over each floor tile, and the blank ceiling

tiles pass overheard, coming to my senses of the reality of my situation. I am wheeled to what

will become my temporary home for the next few days, a more calming atmosphere, that is my

own patient room, where my parents are there to greet me. Initially I overlook him, but then I see

the man in the white lab coat holding what seems to be x-rays of the surgery he just conducted.

Holding the news of my future in his hand.

The surgeon explains what has just occured, in attempt for my brain to wrap around the

situation. Both the tibia and fibula have been completely snapped, and I have undergone

intramedullary rod surgery for my tibia, the shin bone of the leg. When I ask about the fibula, the

surgeon explains that it is less of a big deal, and that it will heal on its own. To express the

explanation given by Wayne State University School of Medicine in terms everyone can

understand, a titanium metal rod has surgically been inserted into my leg, basically replacing the​

​bone. Before that, the inner cavity of the bone was reamed out to make room for the rod to be

inserted. Then a pair of screws were inserted at the top and bottom of the rod, to keep it from

being jarred with movement. Later on in life, the screws may come out if they are to bother me

in any way, shape, or form (Glowniak). The surgeon explains to me that the surgery is far from

pretty. Being frank, a cut is made at my knee so the surgeon has access to the top of the tibia,

then a sort of drill is used to hollow out the bone, next the metal rod is pounded into place in my

leg, followed by some screws being attached to assure it is in place, and then the cuts are stitched

back together. This concept and idea I found to be astonishing, and made me ponder who was

crazy enough to come up with this idea of replacing someone's bone with something artificial. A

team of doctors at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases report the origins of intramedullary

surgeries, “Bernardino de Sahagun, a 16th century anthropologist who traveled to Mexico with

Hernando Cortes, recorded the first account of the use of an intramedullary device. De Sahagun

witnessed Aztec physicians placing wooden sticks into the medullary canals of patients with long

bone nonunions” (Bong). With due reason, I am thankful to have the ample medical technology

available in our world today, to be able to go through the process of this surgery seamlessly.

However, the marathon of a process simply does not end when the surgeon puts in the

last stitch. Following the surgery is a span on months involving x-rays, physical therapy, and

other appointments much like any other surgery. I came to the realization that this process is

inevitable, and learned to get through it all with the most positive mental state possible. But what

you can not learn from any database, or in any library, is what it is like to undergo a negative

experience in a close knit community, in small town Iowa, like that which exists in the North

Scott district.

It takes special people who are doctors and surgeons in their day job, to then go volunteer

their time on Friday nights to be of assistance at football games, and have to put some kid’s leg

back together. Nobody told the teachers or coaches that they had to visit me in the hospital, or

take the time to write me a nice message telling me I am in their thoughts. For students, some of

whom I have never talked to, to gather in unison in prayer to think of me, is a feeling and emotion

that instantly brought me to tears and is unlike any other. It became apparent to me that life truly

does mean very little if you are experiencing it by yourself. It gave me a new way of being

empathetic, and a new set of shoes to put myself into the understanding of others. From this, I

have learned to be of comfort to others who are going through hard times, now that I understand

how that experience is from that perspective. I have grown to appreciate the community I live in,

and this experience has made me strive to give back to this community.

I learned far more from that November night than I ever thought would be possible. I

learned to appreciate the advances in technology that allow me to walk today, and most of all I

learned that the community I live in is one that is irreplaceable by any other.

Works Cited

Bong, Matthew R, et al. “The History of Intramedullary Nailing.”

Bulletin of the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases​, vol. 64, 2006, pp. 94–96., /pdfs/581.pdf. Accessed 5 May, 2018.

Glowniak, Jerry V, and Peter R Miller. “Intramedullary Rods and Nails Overview.”

​Orthopedic Hardware Atlas​, Detroit Medical Center,

2003/rods_and_nails_atlas.htm. Accessed 11 May, 2018.

“When and How to Use an Inflatable Splint.”​ 1stAidSupplies.Com​, 2018, www.1staidsupplies.

com/blog/2017/06/26/when-and-how-to-use-an-inflatable-splint. Accessed 8 May, 2018.

33 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page