Titanium Rod

Part of an Instagram Art Show


Inserted November 1, 1995 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, TX. Removed July 28, 1997 at Presbyterian Hospital, Plano, TX.

My femur broke into three pieces when I was hit by a truck in 1995. All of my injuries were severe, not least being two skull fractures, but the broken femur had the most impressive x-rays. A cast would’ve done nothing to help the bone, so surgeons at Brooke Army Medical Center—the army’s largest, busiest, and premier medical institution—inserted a titanium rod down the shaft of my right femur to hold it together. Later x-rays show a mass of bone where the breaks had occurred, a bulge where it would normally taper, strengthening the bone against further breaks. The rod did its job, and I had it removed right before my 17th birthday.

“Titanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is a lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density, and high strength. Titanium is resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia, and chlorine” (Wikipedia). It is a perfect metal to live inside the human body. Of course I didn’t know any of this when I was 15. The doctors just told me titanium is what they made the space shuttle out of. And that I wouldn’t set off a metal detector. So we joked that I was bionic, and I moved on as best I could.

I started in a wheel chair, then crutches, putting absolutely no weight on my right leg. Then, incrementally, I was able to put ten percent, twenty percent, fifty percent of my weight on that leg. Finally, I didn’t have to use crutches anymore. Of course my left leg was hurting all this time, and we found out two months after the accident that my ACL was shredded. So back to surgery I went, the worst of them all. But my femur healed beautifully. And I have the rod as a keepsake.

This rod and my many, many scars are souvenirs from that time. I’ve never had any plastic surgery to change them. I vacillate between feeling shame at their ugliness and pride that I’ve kept them. As a single woman I was afraid the man I would love would think they were terrible. Joshua has always told me they are a part of me, and he loves all of me.

My souvenirs from Etta and Moses’ births are people. Sure, I have some stretch marks and saggy boobs, but the people are the markers, the trophies. I became a different person after the accident. Etta and Moses have made me infinitely more different. As I try to keep up with their extravagant changes and milestones, I am pivoting, shaped, shaping. Motherhood is the hardest crucible I think I have endured. It seems the most worthwhile. So often it’s hard to lift my head from the tasks at hand to enjoy the larger view. Moses’ laugh draws me out. Etta’s songs. “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth” (Psalm 127:4). “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). We are being sharpened, honed. All four of us. It doesn’t end, and I don’t want it to.