A little recap…
On the last weekend of January, we arose early, 02:00 AM, to be specific, and went on a 10-mile road march. We carry a lot of weight in our packs and gear, not to mention our weapons. It was a dark night, and it was cold. Snowflakes were falling, and it was getting colder. In fact, I found out that it was one of the coldest weekends we had endured. The temperature was dropping into the 20’s and it was COLD! There was no moonlight to guide us; I could only see the guy’s helmet in front of me. I was marching along thinking of how cold I was when the course of my life drastically changed, and things would never be the same again. I had one of those moments I would live over and over again, but there was no way I could change it….
As I mentioned earlier, it was dark, so I never saw the pothole. The next thing I knew, I was falling. I landed very hard, and lay on the cold asphalt for what seemed like forever, at least until the soldier behind me found me and picked me up. He asked if I was hurt, but I wasn’t sure. It was cold, and I couldn’t feel much at all, but I shook the incident off and kept marching, ignoring the pain. When we reached our destination, I started to feel the pain increase. A deep, burning sensation grew in my legs and hips, and a dull ache started that wouldn’t stop. Despite the pain, I continued the training and went to bed that night, miserable. I knew that I was injured, but I refused to accept the idea. Anyone injured during training will have to start all over, and I didn’t want to go through all eight weeks of basic again. I ignored the pain. The next day, we had a five-mile run and a five-mile march. My Drill Sergeant was watching me and I could tell he was concerned.
The next day was Sunday; I didn’t even go to church. I ate, did my Bible studies, and went to bed. On Monday morning we had another Physical Test. I ignored the pain and started attacking each category with fury. We had pushups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run. On the push-ups and sit-ups, I obtained the maximum scores possible! I was excited! This was the best I had ever done; all I had left was the two-mile run. It was the last two miles I would run.
As I stood on the starting line, I prayed that God would remove the pain from my legs, and that His strength would cause me to mount up with wings as eagles. I ran 100 yards and the pain overwhelmed me. However, I could not fail this PT test. If I failed, I would get recycled backwards to another starting point, something I could not consider. Failure was not an option. It hurt, I was in tremendous pain. In fact, as my feet hit the ground, my whole body would lurch in protest. One guy said that I was running sideways, with a horrible stagger, like I was running with bullets ripping through my body. I couldn’t stop. I was one week from graduating basic, only a few days away! As I ran, I thought to myself, only four more days… It normally took me 12 minutes to run two miles; I limped across the finish line at 24 minutes. My Company Commander, Captain Howell, walked up and demanded to know what was wrong with me, why I had run so slowly. My Drill Sergeant, SSG Canady, looked at him and said, “Sir, that is Private Inman, and he just showed more character than I have ever seen.”
My Drill Sergeant pulled me aside and asked me what was wrong, but I didn’t know. “Probably pulled a muscle,” I said, but I knew that there was more. Not only that, I failed the test. My Drill Sergeant arranged for me to retest later that week.
Early the next morning, Sergeant Canady put me on a detail that allowed me to miss the morning exercise, but we had a five-mile road march within hours. We saddled up and stepped out. I can only imagine what willpower caused my legs to pick up and advance with each step, but there came a point when the pain stopped and numbness took over. Our company XO called me Private Penguin, because I had a limp so pronounced. My legs would no longer hold my weight, as if my hips would rotate out of their sockets when I walked.
That evening when we returned, my Drill Sergeant came to me and said, “I am proud of the effort you are putting in. The Army needs more men like you. However, the Army needs them in good shape. You are to report to sick call in the morning.”
I politely told him “No way!” and left him standing there. (Of course, I didn’t use the words “No Way” with a Drill Sergeant, but it sounds impressive to say it.) The next morning, we marched out to do our exercises. As we ran in place, the Sergeant yells out and we drop to the ground. It took me almost two minutes to get back up, but my sergeant watched me rejoin the group. He told me to quit, but I just couldn’t accept failure. I swallowed the pain and we ran five miles, our Eagle run, the one that graduates us from boot camp.
When we returned from the run, my buddy, Guy, practically carried me back to the barracks. I shuffled to the showers and allowed the hottest water possible to pour over me. When I returned to my bunk, there was a sick call slip on my bed, and a note that I would pull KP if I didn’t go to the doctor. I argued with him, but he told me that anyone with my courage to continue in my obvious condition would graduate, no matter what.
With that promise, I went to the clinic. The doctor examined me and sent me to the main hospital for tests. He also told me that I would have to ask for some crutches at the hospital, as he had given away the last set. (Can you believe those instructions? “By the way, ask for some crutches when you get there…” Remarkable!) I walked, well, hobbled to the bus station and to my appointment. The doctor there did X-rays and prodded me, but decided that I had bruised some tendons. He sent me to Physical Therapy to get some crutches. Hey! I should be back in training in no time at all! At the Physical Therapy department, I asked for my crutches and they looked at me funny. No one had ever been sent to them asking for crutches before, and they looked even funnier when I told them that everyone else had run out of equipment. The Captain there asked me what was wrong and where it hurt. He could see me wince with each step. He did a quick examination on me and grabbed a wheel chair as quickly as he could. He told me to go down to nuclear medicine and have a bone scan done, and not to ever get out of my wheel chair again, no matter what. I went down the hall and waited while they scheduled an appointment for me, but by 5:00, I was back in the barracks on my crutches. They wouldn’t let me take the chair home!
They took me out of almost all training and told me to take it easy while my test results were returning. So for three days I shot machine guns, threw grenades, read maps, and a whole lot of other things. Then on the 5th day, I told my Drill Sergeant that my test result should have been back two days ago. He and I drove down to the clinic and asked if they had heard anything. The doctor said, “Yes they came back yesterday, I was going to call you. Have a seat in my office.”
This doctor treated 200 soldiers every day by himself, and he wanted to consult me privately? I was concerned. He took out my x-rays and test results, and pointed out how I had fractured both of my hips, in the femoral neck. He said, “Soldier, I am sad to say, you are going home, your military career is finished.” He then sent me to the hospital to consult with an orthopedic surgeon to see if he could repair my legs enough to walk again. He told me on the way out, “By the way, ask for a wheel chair when you get there. You really shouldn’t be on your feet.”
The fact is, without the crutches I was unable to walk. My hips would swing back and forth without any stability and I couldn’t stand without support. Well, I crutched my way into the Orthopedic Surgeons suite and one of the student nurses gave me a once over. She had a grim look on her face and spoke quietly with the doctor, just out of earshot. The doctor performed the same exam and sat down beside my chair. “What I have to say you won’t like, but you have to listen to me. You have severely broken your hips. You have developed a fracture that runs along the femoral neck in your femur. Your whole weight is supported by these femoral necks, without them you can’t stand or support weight.” She stopped and looked at me as if telling me that my wife was in a car accident and died on the operating table. “Unfortunately,” she continued, “You will never be able to walk again. Maybe, with the help of surgery and some pins, you can walk with supports. I am very sorry.”