I gulp as ice cold water travels down my throat relieving the dryness from the temperature. I lift the bottle above my head and pour a small amount onto the top of my head allowing it to fall down the back of my neck.
My name is yelled and I jog back onto the field into my position crouching ever so slightly as the ball is thrown back into play. A cool summer breeze grazes over my face, a little relief from the blazing heat. I reach up and push away the stray hair that has fallen into my eyes. Sweat drips down the side of my face as the sun beats down on me. I grab the edge of my jersey and wipe the falling drops.
My eyes dart around the field as I read the players body language on the opposing team. I glance to the left and see a strong built girl standing a little ways away eyeing me up and down. The ball is passed across the field to the girl, I immediately seize the moment to run towards her. What seems like slow motion I feel as my body is slammed and flung across the field, thudding to the ground. Time goes by in what seems like hours as the 5 second event replayed over and over in my mind. The force of the impact, the disfigured limb, the collision of my body to the earth, and the sound of bone cracking.
A scream tears through me like a ragged piece of glass, making my throat raw. The beads of sweat fall down my forehead mixing in with the tears that steadily ran down my cheeks. The scream came again; desperate, piercing, and excruciating. Out of the corner of my eye I can see shadows rushing above me but my cheek stays pressed against the hot ground, inevitably smearing dirt into the tears streaming down my face.
Two hands grab my shoulders and roll me onto my back. Hands grab at my foot untying my shoe as others wipe the dirt off my face. A pain somewhat like an electric bolt shoots down the entire right side of my body sending another wave of sobs echoing throughout my chest. Though it was a hot and sunny day, my eyes seem to go dark and I am unable to see who is above me. Despite the inability to see, I can still hear the voices saying, “She needs to go to the hospital” and unfortunately can feel every ounce of pain radiating through my body.
After several minutes, I am still unable to get up and lay limply on the ground. My dad comes and scoops me up causing another scream to bubble out of my throat. My mom drives the car out onto the field and I am placed in the back, cries erupting from my body. The car ride goes on for ages, we speed by cars in the left lane passing one after another, my cries continue as we pull up on the U shaped entrance of the hospital and people rush out. Arms grasp under my knees and in the middle of my back, sending another jolt of pain through my body.
I feel a firm seat underneath me and I slowly begin to roll through the sliding doors into the waiting room. Dirt still covers my cheeks, with clean lines of tears etched onto it as they fall down my face. I glance around the waiting room and see people staring, some have looks of worry while others seem preoccupied with their own current condition. I sit taking deep breaths to calm myself and ease the pain in any way possible but there is still no relief. In a matter of minutes I feel a push on the back of the wheelchair and I am put into an examining room.
The doctor glances at my dirt covered face and my disfigured leg immediately recognizing the immense pain I’m in and admits me into the emergency room for care. Once in the emergency room I am given heavy drugs to ease the pain and my state of panic. I looked down at my leg only to see a injured knee that was locked in a ninety degree angle. Doctors rush in sending orthopedist after orthopedist into my room who order a multitude of tests and scans to be run.
With a foggy mind, a nurse wheels me down many long hallways to a huge machine. Yet again, hands grasp my lower back and under my knees and lift me out of the wheelchair only to strap and lock me onto a small table that sends the lower part of my body into the machine to get scanned. The machine buzzes and clunks loudly as I lay unable to move. I turn my head slightly to see my mom and dad watching me through a small glass window, their eyes glazing over with worry.
Once back in the room, my mind wanders and I continuously zone in and out of conversation with my parents as the sedatives continue to ease my pain. Three scans are being clipped onto a light board on the wall, my eyes wander to my parents who are intensely watching a man dressed in a white jacket.
My eyes fixate on the man, he explains that a large part of my bone behind my knee was knocked off causing my knee to be stuck as well as broken, stretching the ligaments, tendons, and tissue of my leg. The words he is saying seem to be leaving his mouth like a rapid fire and my brain can’t catch up. I stare at my parents in confusion, the man looks directly at me and walks over standing right beside my head.
He leans down and says, “We need to perform open knee surgery immediately to fix your leg to avoid any complications, you have to say bye to your parents now.”
My stomach drops and fear spreads across my body. Female nurses rush in dressing me in a purple hospital gown and placing my normal clothes in a bag for later. The bed I am laying on is leaned back and the breaks beneath it are unlocked. “We will see you so soon, you can do this, we love you” my mom says kissing my forehead. My dad looks at me with a face full of worry, “You got this champ” putting his fist onto mine for a fist bump.
I turn my head glancing down at my arm only to see a needle being pressed into the delicate skin towards a vein. My body goes numb, another needle is inserted into my thigh and the pain radiating from my shattered knee is gone. My bed jolts from its position and I am looking at the lights passing by my eyes on the ceiling as I roll down the long hallway to an operating room.
A sturdy board is put underneath me and I feel my body lift and return to a new surface where my arms are strapped down. A mask covers my mouth and nose, emitting a drug to bring me under. I begin to countdown from ten. Doctors examine the disfigured knee, deciding who is to make the first incision, to give me the scar that would tattoo me for the rest of my life. Soon enough my eyelids become heavier and I can no longer see, finally I am in a drug induced sleep.
Arriving at practice for the first time since my injury was embarrassing. My eyes flooded with tears and my face turned bright red as my coach called me to stand on crutches in the middle of the team circle. “Don’t be like Maddie and jeopardize this team. If we lose the championship it is not because of you all, but because Maddie put herself before this team.” He says, looking down at me.
The long, grotesque, and discolored line makes its way down the center of my knee, standing out amongst the pale skin that was shielded from the sun the entire summer. Glaring at the incision, my mind immerses itself in the memories it brings to me; my teammates harsh words, criticism from my coach, and the utter humiliation.
Looking down at the thick line, my body is overcome with anger as if I had chosen to tattoo myself something regretful that my family would be disgraced with. In this moment, my love for the sport changes and I feel as if all of my years of hard work were for nothing. The time and dedication I put into my athletic career of a scholarship to run in college, was now worthless. The hundreds of elite meets and invitations I competed in were all for nothing now.
The permanent mark on my leg was labeled as an embarrassment that I couldn’t get rid of. In the galaxy that was my team I soon became Pluto, the forgotten planet. The girls who were once my best friends now turn my biggest insecurity of my deformed knee into the punchline of their jokes and I no longer seemed to have a place within this team. The disfiguration that marked my leg was a representation of my weakness, an indicator of my failure, and everyone seemed to know this. This was the kind of tattoo your parents told you to never get.
Hobbling into the small front office, greeting the secretary, and making my way into the back room was just like any other day of my summer. The physical therapists unravel the layers bandages that cover the thick and purple lesion. Bending my knee back and forth, the cracks and pops of scar tissue tearing was nothing short of painful.
As I sit on the physical therapist table just like every other day, I see an older man next to me. His hair is white and his face has freckles covering his cheeks and forehead. He looks at me, curiosity in his eyes. He smiles and nods his head in the direction of my knee, “What’s with all the bandages? You should show that thing off, you didn’t work this hard here to not brag about it.”
He laughed after he said this, leaning over showing me his arm. There was a purple scar about the length of my finger engraved into the upper part of his forearm. He continued, “You may think it’s ugly, but I think it gives you character. You have a story to be proud of”. I sat there thinking about the mans words. Reaching down to my own to the bandages, I slowly begin to take them off, one after another tossing them into the trash.
Although my melanin filled skin was paler, my freckled face seemed almost naked, and my usual blonde hair was darker that summer, my body’s appearance was no match for the strength I have gained. The scar that I once thought was the same as a tattoo that my parents would be ashamed of, was actually an emblem of strength that I should be proud of. Though the process of coming to terms with myself was long and hard as my goals for my future were changed, it is clear that in a blink of an eye your life could shift. Whether the change be good or bad you ultimately decide, but your life will go on.