Battle Scars

I’ll never forget 2 November 2006. It was a particularly nondescript Thursday afternoon. The team was on its first training session after the Bacolod Unigames. Save for a couple of athletes, all of my teammates were in Rizal Memorial Stadium.

I was still somewhat pissed at my forgettable third place performance, not to mention bothered by matters of the heart (a laughable fact, in retrospect). The hurdlers and I were doing our usual five step warm-up over senior hurdles. I could feel the rage brewing deep inside.

When my turn came, I felt something amiss whilst clearing the hurdles. My rhythm was off. I clipped the third or fourth hurdle with my lead leg. Strangely, I was somewhat distracted by a kid walking beside the hurdle. As I hit the crossbar, I saw the imaginary horizon fall. I’ve hit hurdles countless of times before, so I just went with the flow, so to speak.

Everything went black.

I was roused to consciousness when I vaguely heard the word “Kamay! [arm]” When I looked at my left arm, I saw it horribly twisted from my forearm’s midpoint. I was in shock for a few seconds. My coach came to my side. “Coach.. sorry,” I said. The first thing that came to mind was the UAAP competition, which was barely two months away.

Read my original blog post about the injury here

Then I felt the pain. It was the most excruciatingly sharp sensation of suffering I’ve felt to date. I could do nothing to stop it.

Needless to say, the entire team was shocked by the turn of events. Too shocked, in fact, to adhere to basic first aid principles. Instead of finding a splint to stabilize the fracture, my worried coaches had me walk the 200m or so distance to the sports clinic. I was walking with the other half of my forearm hanging limp from the broken radius and ulna, until Coach Toto had the presence of mind to straighten it, so to speak.

All throughout my trudge to Calvary, I was grimacing. I saw Jerome Margallo, a future Team Hwa Liong/PPVC teammate and I screamed “Jerome, ang sakit! [it hurts]” He could only glance in pity. Halfway through the parade of pain, I bellowed a raucous, almost desperate “Beijing 2008! [in reference to the upcoming Beijing Olympics, since I’ll be missing the UAAP!]” to a bunch of PATAFA officials. When we got to the clinic, I slipped on my way down the ramp. The pain, needless to say, was unbearable. It turned out that I was still wearing my spikes!

My arm with the metal plates. A few months after the operation.

I was rushed to a nearby hospital, before being transferred to my mom’s preferred medical institution. That very night, the entire team went to my house for an impromptu dinner gathering. I was in shambles, but the presence of my friends did much to assuage the hurt.

View pictures of the operation

View video clips of the operation: Part 1 Part 2

A few days later, my surgeon-uncle operated on my fractured arm. At the end of the procedure, I had two titanium plates and ten screws in my forearm. It took four to six months to fully rehabilitate my arm. I was back on track in nine months, clocking a relatively competitive 15.3s in my first race since the injury. Two months later, I broke the fifteen second barrier.

Despite my quick recovery, nine months simply were not enough to heal the psychological scars of the freak accident. For the remainder of my collegiate career, I was silently haunted by the injury. Even if I was running faster than ever, there was this latent fear of the one-meter high barriers that remained.

Almost five years later, the fractured bones have fully healed and the plates and screws have long since been removed. Psychologically, the two years I spent away from athletics did much to bury the demons of the past. All that reminds of me of the injury are small grooves on the fractured part and two nasty scars [which are good conversation starters, by the way]. I might not have won a UAAP gold medal in college, but I do have some mean-looking battle scars to show.

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2 responses to “Battle Scars

  1. Shannon McCann August 3, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    OUCH! how did you manage to break it so bad?! I’ve never seen a break that bad from hurdles!

    • hurdler49 August 3, 2011 at 9:50 AM

      I was going slow (pace was like a slow jog) since it was a five-step warm-up. I was focused on the clearance. The forward lean was a lot more forceful than in competition.

      Exaggerated lean + split second distraction + rage + clipping a hurdle = DISASTER!

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