What I remember most about breaking my arm is that it didn’t hurt. Not at first. It hurt, sure, but that crazy pain, the kind that chews on the nerves at the source and radiates throughout the entire body, that waited. My body paused to assess the situation, and once I knew the arm was broken, my brain and body worked together to flood my world hurt.

Then, it hurt like hell.

I’ve been thinking of that broken arm a lot lately, only because its dubious anniversary is coming up. It happened Oct. 19, 1987, 30 years ago, so I guess I buy my right arm what, pearls?

The rest of the world knows Oct. 19, 1987 as Black Monday. That day, stock markets across the globe took a historic plunge. I was 15 and didn’t own any stock, but it wasn’t a great day for me, either.

I was a sophomore at Mt. St. Joseph Academy, and it was the fourth quarter of our junior varsity football game at South Burlington High School in Vermont. We had a big lead, and we had kicked off a lot. As I ran down the field in coverage, I was hit. That wasn’t unusual. That I was hit from behind, illegally, was the odd part. I went down, and when I pulled myself up, I saw my right arm.

Between the wrist and elbow, my arm swung freely. My arm had developed a new, busted hinge. It moved in any direction freely, like a broken gate.

When you suffer a traumatic injury, the first thing your brain and body does is try to trick you into thinking it’s not so bad. At first, I thought I had dislocated my wrist. No problem, a couple of my teammates’ dads were doctors. One of them would just pop it back in place, I’d miss a few plays, and get back on the field. I needed to get a coach’s attention.

“Coach,” I yelled to Ronnie Sabataso, our head coach. I cradled my useless right arm in my left.

I think the play might still have been unfolding, because Sabataso glanced downfield, then looked back at me. I remember the look on his face. It wasn’t the look of fear, but it wasn’t the look of confidence, either.

“Get down!” Coach Sabataso said. “Your arm is broken!”

That’s when the pain started. The pain doesn’t hit. It doesn’t build slowly. It’s just there, and it’s unrelenting.

I hope the VHS tape of the game still exists. While I’m being tended to, you can see Mike Gibbard, one of my teammates, walk over to check on me. He gets a peak at my arm, spins away quickly, and raise his arms like he’s trying to shoo away whatever it is he just saw.

One of our MSJ doctors in the stands came to the field and did his best to stabilize the break. Both bones in my forearm had snapped, but neither pierced the skin. I was told later I had come close to a compound fracture, but was spared that jackpot. As they worked on me, I pounded the grass with my good left fist and released a torrent of swear words that would make George Carlin blush. Coach Sabataso asked me quietly to try to watch my mouth. I declined.

South Burlington was a good hour north of our school’s home in Rutland, Vermont. It being a routine JV game we were expected to win easily, my parents opted not to skip work to attend. The parents of my teammate Bernie Adams took me to the hospital in Burlington, where I called my mother. I was x-rayed, filled with pain killers, and Mr. and Mrs. Adams drove my doped-up broken body to Rutland for surgery.

Mom met me at the hospital, as did Coach Sabataso, who still looked sick to his stomach. The surgical team was waiting for me. The anesthesiologist was Dr. Tom LaPlaca, an MSJ graduate himself. Dr. David Bahnson worked to line the pieces of my arm back together. It was a puzzle. One would line up, and the other would slip apart. Finally, he was able to get them back together without cutting open my arm and screwing the bones together.

I spent the night in the hospital. In the middle of the night, they had to cut my cast open to relieve the swelling. I took the week off from school, and spent my days napping and my evenings watching the baseball playoffs. I went through three casts during the healing process, and around Christmas, the casts finally came off. Underneath all the dead skin was the hairiest arm a 15-year old boy has ever had. We’re talking werewolf arm hair. I actually shed.

Thirty years later, my right arm is no worse for wear. Any aches and pains I have are from tossing my body around like a rag doll for the better part of 45 years. I still wish I had seen the guy who hit me. Somewhere out there, there’s a guy from South Burlington who still deserves a comeuppance for that cheap shot. As I write this, he might be the guy at the next table in this coffee shop.

When I see my high school buddies, it inevitably comes up. “Hey, remember that time Travis broke his arm?”

Yes. Yes I do.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM

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