Hospitalized During The Great Blizzard of 1978 - An Ohio Farm Boy's True Story
I originally wrote the following in October of 1986. This is a true story.
It was cold that day in rural Ohio - January 10, 1978. I was a fourth grader and had taken advantage of the school "snow day" by playing outside. Jumping off our barn roof into large snow drifts and sliding on the ice on the frozen creek near our house were my main activities that day.
Later that evening, while sitting at the supper table with my parents, an older sister, Darlene, and my elder brother Kevin, I asked my mom, "after we eat is it O.K. if Darlene, Kevin and I wrestle in the front room?" Her usual and predictable answer was "No, someone will get hurt." So after Darlene, Kevin and I finished eating, we started wrestling in our front room while mom and dad were still at the table.
We started by jumping on top of each other - trying to throw the other to the floor. I seldom had any success because I was much smaller but always had fun and a great time. We kept wrestling until I was thrown on my back with my left leg in a very awkward position. The momentum of the fall brought both my sister and brother down on top of my leg. Panicked and in great pain I told them to get off but In their excitement and laughter they never heard me. I then screamed "GET OFF", but it was too late. I heard a loud snap similar to the sound of a broken bat play in baseball. I could not move and could barely talk.
My parents rushed in, took one look at me, then cautiously carried me to the car. The last thing I recall before I passed out was my brother hovering over me in the back seat, tears running down his face, saying, "I'm sorry Leland, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to."
I awoke the next day in a bed at Clinton Memorial Hospital in Wilmington, Ohio. I had severely broken my left femur. I was flat on my back and my left leg was hanging in the air and had a large pen protruding completely through it just below the knee. What an awful way to be! I had no way of being in any other position and no place to look except straight ahead at my leg lifelessly hanging in the air . I was in agonizing pain. The doctors told me I might never walk again. I would be in this position for the next six weeks.
My mom was with me as much as she could be. Cousins, friends, and family sent cards, visited and were nice. Kevin and Darlene came to visit their "baby brother" but didn't stay long because of their uneasiness towards the sight of me.
Two weeks into my stay, the historic blizzard of 1978 hit with paralyzing force. I watched television not wanting to believe the incredible sights I saw on TV, particularly sights of my own county. Cars were buried and entire herds of cattle were lost and/or frozen to death. Walls of snow were on every road; even on the Interstate highways. Some houses were covered in snow and some people were actually starving and freezing to death. For three days it was like this The majority of motorists caught in the blizzard were trapped. The situation was so grave that police threatened to arrest those who ventured out.
At 10:00 A.M., on the second day of the blizzard, my Mother and Father, stubborn as they were, climbed into our truck and began their journey to the hospital. Looking like death, they arrived that night at 8:30 P.M. It had taken them 13 and a half hours to travel 12 miles; the distance from our house to the hospital. They told me they had been stuck numerous times and had helped many stranded travelers, but through hard work, luck, and according to mom, Dad's stubbornness, they made it. They had come just to be with me. The tale they told of their journey could make a huge story in itself.
Four weeks later, I was taken out of traction and put into a body cast. I had to walk on crutches and practice how to balance myself as if I were a baby learning to walk. Two months later I was taken out of my cast, but to my horror, my leg wouldn't bend or respond. I had to go through many hours of physical therapy and after several months could again walk. After missing nearly a semester of school I finally was able to return. I was treated like a long lost friend; like a celebrity almost.
It was several years before I once again could run and do all my friends could do. Now I think twice before I do anything rough or foolish. On all school snow days since, I have found wrestling with my pet dogs sufficient.
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