A Leg Can Be Broken but Not A Cowboy’s Spirit

I remember it like yesterday, I was in the house putting away clothes while the guys rode and did the work outside. It was around 3:00 pm on Sunday and I didn’t expect anyone to come in until closer to dark, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard Casey yelling for me from the mudroom door. “Babe, you’re going to have to come here and help me with my boot.” “What?” I replied. I really wanted to say “get your own boots” but I could tell this wasn’t the time for a confrontation as I approached the doorway and saw Casey’s pale face.

Casey followed up the initial instructions, as we made our way out onto the deck to dump the sand from his boots, with the comment “I think I broke my leg”. Now this sounds serious to many of you, but to me it was fairly standard. Like a boy crying wolf, Casey had joked for years every time he’d been kicked or slammed into the chute working cattle, “I think I broke my _____(wrist, arm, leg, foot-take your pick)”.

As I began to pull on the boot, tight on the injured leg, I asked “Do you think it’s really broken?” Casey looked like he was going to be sick, but responded with “I don’t know. Just get my boot off before it starts swelling or they’ll cut it off.” Leave it to a cowboy to worry about his boots first, leg second.

The scrape marks on his shin and swelling was beginning to show from the horse kick Casey had endured. He tried to convince me (and himself) that maybe it wasn’t broke. He’d just made the walk from the barn, to the deck, to the back door, without assistance; Crayton had stayed in the barn to continue the horse work. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as he first thought.

His stubbornness continued into the house where he insisted on taking a shower before making any decisions about treatment. I knew he was in severe pain when it didn’t take much convincing that the next step was the hospital for x-rays. Off we went on the 30 minute drive to the nearest hospital, hoping that it was just a bad bruise and the x-rays would alleviate any concern over broken bones.

Fast forward through the next few hours of waiting, getting x-rays, waiting, receiving confirmation that the leg was broken, traveling another hour to the next hospital, waiting, more x-rays, waiting, waiting. Finally around 11pm Casey was taken to a patient room to prepare for his overnight stay and more waiting, this time on a MRI and the possibility of surgery.

By the next morning, November 25, we received news that he had suffered a tibia plateau fracture. It would require surgery and other treatment associated with a broken bone. By Monday evening, Casey’s leg was complete with a 6 inch metal plate and 7 pins, a lot of wrapping and an extensive brace.

The recovery story is no different than most. The use of crutches and no weight bearing was prescribed for several weeks. We were grateful for the lack of solid cast, so showering and re-wrapping was a tedious process, but better than attempting to keep the leg dry.

Rest and immobilization was challenging for Casey. It was difficult on the rest of us also. He was unable to drive, for a while anyway- until he started driving left-footed, insert eye roll here. The boys felt an increase in the workload but accepted the challenge like champs- Taking turns waking up early before school and scheduling chores and horse riding around school and practices. The horses headed to an upcoming sale still needed rode, the hay still needed hauled and the ranch still needed to operate despite the boss being propped up on the couch.

On December 12, his 33 stitches were removed. We made it through the holidays, embracing the slower pace and extra heeling time. We finally knew Casey was improving when he hooked tennis balls to his crutches and braved the snow and ice on the path to the barn. He critiqued our riding in the arena, as we had three horses booked to an auction Feb. 1, and now three riders. Yes, that included me; riding every day in January!!!

After seven weeks on crutches, he was released to only wear his brace when needed and begin putting weight on the leg. By February he traveled with a slight limp, but was without the need of extra support devices. In March he was praised by doctors on his recovery and released from his physical therapy shortly after. With a recommendation to avoid jumping and full force running, he was released and “set free into the wild”.

A year later, Casey is fully recovered. Occasionally he thinks he can feel the pins or the plate. His legs are so skinny that I think you could feel a mustard seed stuck to a bone. But he does not complain about pain. His leg and knee are probably stronger now, with the addition of the plate and pins, than ever before. He is not held back by the injury. He has competed in ranch rodeos, worked cattle as usual, played sports and now has a tough scar as only a reminder of the pain and frustration he endured.

Related Posts:
How to Treat a Sick Calf Without Stressing the Calf, Cow or Rancher
Reading… That’s Cowboy

16 thoughts on “A Leg Can Be Broken but Not A Cowboy’s Spirit”

  1. A hard life lesson for sure. I had surgery on my leg for a ruptured Achilles and it takes a lot of determination to get that muscle and movement back. Good for him. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. My mom has a plate and pins in her leg from a bad break. It’s amazing what they can do now to get you up and running again.

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