Awful, Unforgettable, Regrettable Sounds

February 17th, 2009 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Think of cracking sounds:

  • a rye WASA flatbread broken with a muffled, organic crick-crack
  • a frozen lake bed with a guttural, warning rending sound
  • the satisfying and cheery kindling wood snap

In our seasons and for different purposes, we crack this and that frequently.

Last week in the ER, the orthopedic surgeon examining my badly broken lower left leg agreed on one crack. The sound my tibia made as it turned violently in my muscles is unlike those others. “That’s a sound no one wants to hear,” he said.

It was 10:03 a.m. when I slid on a steep, icy sidewalk before my foot apparently caught part of a dry patch, enough to hold the shoe while my body rushed past. Even a week later, the sound is in my brain.

snap.jpgFirst of all, it is loud. I have heard louder cracks from hardwood trees splitting, but a large bone snapping is ax-crashing-the-oak-door loud. Plus, if it’s your own leg or arm bone(s), your ears are inches or at the most a few feet away.

Next, it is clear and crisp. It lacks the complexity and resonance of musical instruments in its brevity. As sharp in the air as it is distinctive to the ear, the break crack neither rings nor seems to echo.

My ER doc said when you’ve heard this kind of crack, you never forget it and you know immediately what it is. I add that it is emotionally laden, not in the least because it confirms that we are not always in charge of what happens to us in a given moment or for the foreseeable future. The regret and dread fill your thoughts and emotions immediately. They are there for a long visit.

In the ER, that efficient and pleasant ortho guy also exposed me to the equally awful and lingering sounds — those of realigning the two broken bones.

Allegedly, his assistant was shooting me at short intervals with large IV doses of some powerful drug. Instead, I felt like those guys in the old Westerns, with maybe a leather strap to bite through. After the doctor put both hands in place on each side of the former ankle, he told his chum to shoot me up. Then he alternately pressed down on the bones and pulled on the foot to place the bones in better spots inside the muscles.

Those sounds lacked the sudden and crisp break tones. Instead, I imagined that this is what a fierce predator, a wolverine, would produce tearing into a leg for a brutal bite. Bones grated against each other and muscles gasped little sucks as they separated from the shards.

Perhaps because this went on for several minutes rather than the second of the break, it was the more unpleasant to the ear. There’s certainly a reason why the boys and girls of ortho do most of their work when the patient is unfeeling, and particularly, unhearing.

I’d like very much to go through the rest of my life without hearing those sounds again. Now I need to let time and gentle thoughts help clear them from memory.

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One Response

  1. The bigger my computer gets, the more my brain memory
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