Anatomy Of An Injury

What a broken tequila bottle taught me

Anatomy Of An Injury | A Practical Wedding

Yesterday, after running six miles along San Jose’s Guadalupe River trail, I slipped on a sliver of glass on the sidewalk and landed, knee-first, on a broken tequila bottle. I sat for a moment on the concrete, staring at the jagged gash on my right knee, stunned. I’ve had my fair share of tumbles and falls, but this was different. The cut was clean but deep. I couldn’t look at it. My iPod blared and my insulin pump was still safe on my hip.

I propped myself on the corner of the busy street and the trail, and within a minute had attracted a passing car. The driver was a man with a kind face. He asked if I needed help, and for a split second I considered saying no—I felt wobbly but was more shell-shocked than anything, and our apartment was only two blocks away. Some small voice inside insisted that I could do it—I could get home alone.

I looked at the man’s face. He looked like someone’s father. I thought of my own father, about the times he had been injured, and how he had, over time, learned exactly how and when to ask for help. “Yes,” I said, “if you don’t mind, I only live a block away.”

The man, whose name was Frank, sat me down in his passenger seat and gave me a t-shirt to wrap around my leg. He asked me a few questions, and told me that I’d be all right, and I gave him directions to our place, and he insisted on walking me all the way to our doorstep. The white tee he’d loaned me was soon red and brown. When I got to our door I sat down and cracked it open. Ryan was eating breakfast and watching the Olympics, and when I saw the look on his face reflecting it all back—the blood, the dirt, the sweat—I panicked.

Ryan kicked into high gear, wrapping me in towels and getting me water, helping me test my blood sugar, and packing a bag of gear to take to the ER. I sat on our rug, focusing on a mental checklist of everything I’d need—ID, health insurance card, extra test strips, water, ibuprofen, cell phone, glucose gel. I thought of that day thirteen years ago, when the doctor told me to pack my pajamas, because I’d have to spend the weekend in the hospital learning how to live with type 1 diabetes. I told Ryan to get a pair of clean clothes, and made him promise that no matter what happened at the hospital, he wouldn’t let the doctors touch my pump.

He helped me hobble to the car and we drove to the ER. I thought about the placement of my feet on the run. Had the tread disappeared on my shoes? Were there rocks hidden on the trail? How, exactly, had it all been orchestrated? For the duration of the run, I had been thinking of all the things I had left to do in the four months leading up to our wedding—all the things we could afford, all the things we couldn’t. All the things we needed, all the things we didn’t. I had been thinking of scholarships I had worked hard for and still didn’t get, meditating on all the half-finished stories saved on my laptop, the doodles I’d sprinkled around my office. I had been thinking about my nine-to-five job, daydreaming, really, of all the projects I’d love to do, if someone would finally give me the permission.

And then, suddenly, I was on the ground.

It must have been a slow morning at the ER because I was seen immediately. The doctor assured me that there had been no damage to the tendons or ligaments. They x-rayed my hands, which had spread evenly over glass when I fell. The x-ray technician told me that Ryan was cute, and I agreed. They wheeled me into a small room, where I was attended by a nurse and the ER doctor at the same time. They numbed my hand and my knee, and for twenty minutes one of them was on each side. By the time we left, I had eleven staples grinning in a jagged line across my right knee.

We stopped to get lunch on the way home, and I was aware of the stares we were getting. My white racing shirt had been stained with blood and dirt. My fingernails smelled of iodine. I hadn’t eaten since the night before. I changed into a spare shirt in the car, which is when I noticed another long scrape starting above my right breast and reaching almost as far as my belly button. I looked like I had survived a fight with a dragon.

Once home, I stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror, trying to figure out how to take a shower. I was amazed at all of the parts that still work. My knee still bends. I can bear weight. My hands are free of glass. My blood sugar is fine. The bruises will fade. When the staples are gone, they’ll leave behind a stronger skin. I heard Ryan bustling in the other room, setting up our spare bed in front of the television so we could watch the Olympics. How lucky I am, to live this life, to be outside on beautiful spring days, to spend time with people I love, to have a partner like him, to have gainful employment. How lucky that Frank stopped his car, that Ryan was ready right away, that there was no wait in the ER, that my overall health is good. This was the year I’d resolved to no longer observe my anniversaries as a type 1 diabetic—in four months there will be other more important anniversaries to observe—and yet it seemed that February had still left its lasting impact.

Yesterday I was reminded that when we refuse to slow down, our bodies slow things down for us. I love and respect my body—imperfect pancreas, stapled knee, scraped stomach and all. I’m just grateful to Frank, and Ryan, and the ER staff, and the world at large, for reminding me to focus on the goodness around us, to breathe it in and soak it up, because it has a way of multiplying, once you stop to notice it.

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  • Kelly

    “When the staples are gone, they’ll leave behind a stronger skin.” Love this – whatever is painful and doesn’t kill us, tends to make us stronger. Lovely piece, and a great reminder to be grateful for the big AND little blessings in life.

    Also, fellow trail runner here :) Trail running is such a great escape but this piece highlights a big fear of mine – being injured while alone out on the trail. Scary stuff, glad you’re okay.

  • scw

    what a great piece!

  • Ellen

    Thank you for incorporating your T1D into this so matter-of-factly. Even in a moment of relative crisis, it’s still something that has to remain on your mind. I know it was far from the point of your piece, but I’m glad that your insulin pump survived the fall!

    • Thanks for your comments! I am *so* lucky the pump stayed safe. When we went to the hospital, I was worried that the doctors would somehow get really focused on T1D (I’d heard horror stories about ER docs cutting the pump tubing or removing the pump without informing the patient), but honestly, no one noticed, and everyone was so kind and attentive. Also, one perk of this accident is now Ryan feels compelled to go with me on trail runs! :)

  • Laura C

    This is lovely. Just the other night I was thinking of my body as sturdy and functional and serving me so well, and then I thought “hold up, you’ve had two surgeries in the last 10 years and you have celiac disease.” And then I thought “yeah, but each of those things made me stronger and healthier in the end.” And my surgery last year, just four days after we decided to get married, gave us a great excuse to hole up and watch Netflix for a couple days, which was probably just what we needed.

    I don’t know if it’s simply because I think about so many different things in a given week or because our thoughts proceed along paths that are more predictable than you’d think, but so often I have a vague thought and a day or two later APW serves up something that speaks so directly to it.

  • “Yesterday I was reminded that when we refuse to slow down, our bodies slow things down for us” This is so true! My MOH called me on Monday to break the news that she had stepped wrong off a curb on Saturday and had broken her ankle in 3 places! She was freaking out because my wedding is so soon (a month from today!). But she is always doing something and was overwhelmed with all she had going on and had refused to slow down. Now she has no choice but to slow down! It’s amazing how things work like that.
    Such a great story, thank you for sharing!

    • oh my goodness! I hope she’s all right. I remember reading a piece on APW that featured a bride who had just recently broken her leg, and how all her bridesmaids had made a joke out of it by coming down the aisle in wheelchairs, etc. That piece made me feel so much better because it reminded me that all of these little stories can be spun to make the day unique. :) hope she feels better soon! and have a wonderful day!

  • This is so great. And so timely. I’m a runner (and a bride-to-be as well), and I get so lost in it sometimes that it never occurs to me that something like this could happen. Wonderful, wonderful piece.

  • Kayjayoh

    Ow! I’m glad you weren’t seriously injured and that it all worked out ok. That sounds seriously painful.

    [thinking dark and terrible thoughts about people who break glass in public spaces and just leave it there]

  • Daniella

    Great read! Thank you for sharing.

  • Maggie

    Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. Last year my fiance (boyfriend at the time) was hit by a car while riding his bike. A man that saw the whole thing happen pulled over, during rush hour, and insisted on calling an ambulance, even though Danny didn’t think he needed one (in shock). He ended up needing five stitches in his head, which he probably wouldn’t have gotten if that man hadn’t stopped and said, “Look, you didn’t see the accident, I did, you need to go to the hospital.”

  • “when we refuse to slow down, our bodies slow things down for us.” This. So much this.

  • Alicia H

    I’m glad you’re ok Julia!

    • Thanks Alicia! :) I’m swell–got a pretty badass scar. Hope you are well!

  • “Yesterday I was reminded that when we refuse to slow down, our bodies slow things down for us. ” – yes yes yes yes yes. I notice this a lot when I get sick..if I’m super anxious or not dealing with feeling or just not being mindful of ME it’s like my body yells TIME OUT and forces me to stop everything and just be in my body. So true.

  • wow. I found this quite moving. Glad your okay.

  • I’m pretty sure I love this post.

    Life does have a way of reminding us to slow down and be grateful.

    We also found ourselves in an ER a few months before our wedding where we learned I have kidney stones, lots of them. It’s one of those engagement era stories that makes us smile.

  • Crayfish Kate

    Oh Julia this was a wonderful read! I know this wasn’t really the point of your post, but my FH was diagnosed w/T1 last year. While we’ve adjusted well (I think) to all the changes, it has still been really hard at times. I love that you don’t count your anniversaries anymore, hopefully we’ll get to that place too someday! Would it be okay to contact you? FH & I have each other, but it has been a struggle connecting with people who are familiar w/T1 – I’d love to have someone else to talk to! :-)

    • Hi! Oh, I’m sorry to hear this…the first year is really challenging, and if it’s at all possible to hear this now, it is the most difficult year. I have gotten so much strength from meeting other diabetics–I have one very special friend who is basically my big diabetic sister, and I’ve learned so much by following her lead. The very fact that you are so committed to your FH means that she already has a supportive network, one that can grow. Let me know if I can send any resources your way!

      • Also – you can contact me through my website: :)

        • Crayfish Kate

          Thank you, will do!

  • LifeSheWrote

    Well, you’ve left me tearing up at my desk. What a beautiful, thoughtful meditation. And I’m glad you’re ok (in all the important ways).