Friday, February 3, 2012

Injuries and other Infirmities

As you can see from the picture, my body has let me down again. This is the second broken bone in four years. Last time it was my right ankle. This time my right wrist. The cause in both cases - icy sidewalks.

I survived my childhood without breaking any bones, despite falling out of trees, off tire swings and rope trapezes. There were the not-unexpected cuts, bruises, sprains and splinters removed from the soles of bare feet (not even gravel roads could force us to wear shoes during the summer months).

When you're young, you think you're invulnerable. No matter how many times I fell out of the apple tree in the backyard (one time, to my mother's horror, onto the driveway), I was always back up in the branches. My tree-climbing days, however, soon ended once I started wearing glasses. I guess once I could actually see the distance to the ground (turns out I'm near-sighted), fear of heights finally kicked in.

I also caught most of the childhood ailments of my generation: chicken pox, measles, German measles (twice, I think), mumps, and lots of colds.

One guaranteed way to keep a sick or injured child put is to let her read. Sometimes the reading material will take her mind off the injury or illness, but sometimes misery loves company and finding a book where the character survives or just copes with the problem helps.

I remember measles was in Five Little Peppers and How They Grew by Margaret Sidney. Louisa May Alcott's Little Women had scarlet fever as a threat (before werewolves). And there were various sprains and such in Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. I don't recall why Heidi's friend was in a wheelchair, but it was something cured by mountain air.

A search through my local library's catalog brings up several books about chicken pox as well as books with characters in the midst of itching and trying not to scratch. The only one I find about measles is Five Little Peppers for fiction. I'm hoping that means more parents are opting for vaccines nowadays.

Fantasies will sometimes use plague as a major fear. But what about the childhood diseases considered "normal"? On the YA side of fantasy, there are Tamora Pierce's Magic Circle series and Healer Hall stories by both Mercedes Lackey and Anne McCaffrey, so any young reader could choose to focus on the healing side.

When I was young, I read my older sisters' Cherry Ames books, which were about a young nurse trying different areas (Camp Nurse, Army Nurse, etc.). Then I moved into my father's collection of science fiction and found James White's Hospital Station series, with a space hospital and all sorts of aliens as doctors and patients - and all sorts of diseases and injuries. Murray Leinster had a traveling space doctor, as did Alan E. Nourse (Star Surgeon) and later Jody Lynn Nye with her Taylor's Ark stories.

Serious injuries will still turn up in series. Harry Potter was laid up briefly with a broken (and then deboned arm). But often the action in current books take place over a week or month rather than the months needed for recovery. Short stories are good sources then, such as "The Smallest Dragonboy" by Anne McCaffrey, when a concussion and a broken leg almost costs a boy a chance at Impressing a dragon (fortunately the dragon hatchling staggers off in search of him).

The depiction of disabilities in science fiction and fantasy is always an interesting panel at science fiction conventions. The first book I remember reading with a disabled character was Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Sang, which then developed into a series about brainships. Lois McMasters Bujold's stories about Miles Vorkosigan is another good series. But there needs to be more. And not just about how the character escapes his chair as in the recent film Avatar. Why shouldn't a child in a wheelchair find a positive reflection in what she or he reads?

Children with glasses were proud of their eyewear with the release of Harry Potter. Those with dyslexia had a role model in Percy Jackson. What books have you found?


  1. Oh, sorry about your injury. Hope it's not too painful and heals quickly. It is true that as we get older, our bones break much easier as does the rest of our body. :)

    I just read Mercy Lily by Lisa Albert that deals with multiple scelerosis. Great story. Be sure and have a box of tissues nearby.

  2. Kathy,

    I'm impressed you are typing so well! Hope you heal fast.

  3. I think we read many of the same books and I did love most of the authors you've mentioned. The White medical series made me begin one but I never finished writing it. Went back to work as a nurse instead.

  4. Good luck with your injury. I can't imagine typing with a broken wrist! I've been trying to think of memorable characters with disabilities or injuries, but I think you covered all the ones I read myself!