Thirteen weeks ago today, as the summer drew to a close, JT broke his leg. Today, the final cast was removed. We both feel lighter tonight.
The drive to JT's doctor's office follows the path of the Raritan River in western New Jersey. When we first went to Dr. T's office, it was a drive through the green woods, thick with foliage. The air outside was still warm; warm enough for the air conditioner in the car. JT carried his leg and its new white cast gingerly, suddenly dependent on me in a way he hadn't been for the last few years. We were both learning to manage the crutches and the immobility of a broken leg. The prospect of weeks and weeks with his leg in a cast hung heavy in the humid air.
Four weeks later, autumn was starting to emerge. The weather had cooled enough to roll down the windows as we drove through the woods. The trees were still heavy with green foliage now preparing to turn. By then, JT was a whiz with his crutches, swinging himself out of the car before I could get to his side. The four-week-old white cast was showing the wear of life with a seven year old; the heel had unraveled and it had a funky smell. The cast was removed for x-rays that afternoon. The bones were healing. That Friday, we left the doctor's office with a new bright red walking cast around his leg. It was solid and heavy to protect his fragile healing bones.
Another four weeks passed and as we drove to the doctor, the trees along the river were vibrantly red, yellow, and orange. The woods were cool now, preparing for the coming cold. We both had on long sleeves and JT had exchanged his shorts for long pants. The heavy red cast had served its purpose and was – literally – ripe. It was removed for yet another set of x-rays. This time, he received an air cast. Now we could see his knee. The removable cast led to greater mobility. And, for the first time in 8 weeks, JT could bathe without the hassle of wrapping his leg in heavy blue plastic. That night, he positively luxuriated in the bathtub, soaking for nearly two hours.
Five weeks later, this afternoon we once again headed through the woods in Flemington. The trees have lost their leaves and we could see the ducks skimming along the river. The air cast has been coming off for bathing and the occasional leg stretch and he confidently removed it to show off his healing leg. The x-ray once again brought good news. The tibia has healed and it takes a careful eye to see where the breaks once were. The air cast has done its service and is no longer necessary. As JT slipped a sneaker on his foot, a foot that hasn't worn a sneaker in 13 weeks, he announced to his healed leg, "you're back in business."
There are some restrictions remaining ----- no jumping, running, or pivoting for another 4 weeks. Dr. T says this might be harder than we think ------ boys like to try out their new bones, she says. But we plan to take it easy until that final x-ray informs us that the healing really is complete.
Thirteen weeks ago, on the second night after he broke his leg, JT and I both cried ourselves to sleep. That night, as JT found the pain unbearable and I tended him alone, I felt unlucky and afraid. I was scared for my boy and frightened for us. In my first year as a single mama, I had come to depend on his independence. The cast altered that. He could no longer dress himself or get up and down the stairs. Bathing was a chore. It took two trips to get things to the car for school. I was overwhelmed. But I should have remembered what a remarkable child my son is. He took it all in stride and demonstrated a resilience and patience that I will admire for the rest of my life. Slowly, but surely, JT regained his independence and his ability to move around. We adjusted to the new demands. We even came to make jokes about the broken leg. Tonight, I realize that like the new bone growth in his leg, we two are stronger than ever.