The Tale of the Dislocated Knee


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It really is a tale of woe. My 7th grade band class was beautiful today. I warned them to be in their best behavior. If they were not, there was the strong possibility that they would earn silent lunch tomorrow; should they disrespect me and act up today during the note talking portion of my class. Well it worked, my warning, or they were just in the mood to cooperate because even the most talkative student N, followed my directions.


I was giving out points in Classdojo, a behavior tracking tool. The kids were happy to get these points. We were drawing to a close on our notes, and students started lining up to get their work checked.

R was one of the first students done. She is a bright, happy girl who really enjoys band. She lined up with the others that finished notes early. Right before I was to check her work, she nudged my media cart. A notebook that I keep my student’s instrument serial numbers in was knocked off the cart as R walked past.

Little did we know, having manners would cause her such an upset.

R bends down to get the binder and loses her balance! She falls towards the media cart, and as she falls, she jerks herself away, avoiding impact with the media cart. That jerk sends her twisting into another direction and as she falls we hear a loud, horrible, “POP.”

R is on the floor, left leg bent crying out in pain, tears streaming down her face.

“I broke it. It hurts!” She cries to me, then looks at her knee and pales.

Her knee through her skinny Jeans looks flat, and there is a large bulge that should not be there next to her kneecap.

My students are in chaos, jumping up our of their chairs like frenzied marionettes, as if their strings were jerked up and pulled towards R.

“Get BACK to your seats and quiet! I need someone to go to the office and have them call 911, and D go to the gym and get Coach.” Tiny pale faces look to me with determination and dash off to their assigned areas. The chattering calms down a tiny bit.

A couple of faint hearted students are weeping, and I say without looking at them to sit and everything would be alright. I am more concerned about R.

I quickly get down onto the floor and ask E, my 6’0″ gentle giant (he’s only 12) to help me slide R up against the closest cinder block wall. I look at her knee, it’s completely out of socket and even if it were not, I couldn’t risk hurting her more, tearing something, or making her cry more.

She pleads with me, “Mrs. G fix it, it hurts and I am scared.”

So am I. I look away, a pretense, I correct a student or two who is being loud, but I am really sucking it up and trying not to cry myself. This poor girl is in such pain. What am I to do?

Coach rushes in, looking much like a person of authority (and vaguely like a cowboy, you should hear him say ma’am, it’s delightful) I call him over.

“Are you able (trained) to put joints back into place?” My thought is, some PE teachers went to school to be physical trainers. They know and are certified to do certain things. Maybe if anything, he could help her with supporting the leg or managing pain.

“No ma’am I don’t and right now I wish I was.” He looks down at R with such pity. He rakes his hand through his hair in obvious distress. He agrees, it looks like a dislocated knee. He makes sure we have everything under control and get back to his own class.

“Alright everyone,” I call out, hoping my voice rings with authority, not bonging with the panic I am trying to force down, “roll up your coats and sweaters and bring them to me right now.”

Anxious students jump up once more, grabbing anything soft, taking off layers of clothing and balling them up.

I ask R for permission to place the coats and sweaters under her injured knee to support it and take some strain off of her leg. She says yes, and I notice she’s breathing very quickly.

One at a time students form a jacket line, passing soft items for me to wedge under her bent injured leg. I hear students whispering about R’s knee.

“Why does my knee look so flat?” R asks, as I settle in the last coat behind her back. “Will I ever be able to play volleyball again?”

I explain what I know of dislocated limbs, I know about shoulders from my extra bendy elementary buddies. I explain she will be okay and ask her about the pain, was it sharp or burning? Did she feel a tear or hear a pop? When I tore my tallow fibulae muscle, it burned like Hell.

R said it didn’t burn at all, just hurt.

The Principal comes into the room, larger than life, concern on his usually jovial face. He is followed by Officer M and they both question us.

We tell the story together, filling in each other’s gaps in the story.

The office calls down making sure we really do need an ambulance.

A brief “For Real?!” Filters though my thoughts, and R draws my attention back to hear as I hear shuddering breaths.

“R, I need to to breath deep and slow honey, deep and slow.” I model what I mean and we breathe together.

The principal calls R’s dad and grandmother, just trying to notify and bring comfort to R as soon as someone can get there.

I continue to breathe with her and I ask her about her pets, sisters, family, anything to distract her from this ordeal.

“They’re sending an ambulance from L-City.” My principal says. L-City is 30 minutes away. L-Town Hospital is 15 minutes. Why are they sending L-City’s?

R asks me about getting her leg put to rights and wants to know if she can be sedated. The tears on her face are slowed at this point, and she is sweating now from the strain. We send someone for water.

My students are behaving well. I tell them to move all of the chairs and make a path for the EMTs. They again jump up and comply.

It’s only been 20 minutes, somehow. We have, at best, another 10 min to wait and at worst 20.

R drinks her water down and her dad rushes in, concern lining his eyes. He talks with her and we both distract her with stories of our injuries and how good hers is in comparison.

I tell her every 5 minutes she’s doing great. She was though, she was calm, breathing slowly and doing her best.

Finally after an age, the paramedics arrive.

They come in with a stretcher and I call for them to come over to the corner where R is propped up.

I answer their questions and they agree dislocation seems to be the diagnosis. Cutting away her jeans, R asks me to cover her eyes so she doesn’t look. They pull or a strange looking splint and together we get R’s leg immobilized but kept in that awkward, bent position. She opens her eyes and sees her knee and starts to breathe quickly again. The paramedic and I both tell her to breathe slowly.

I help hold the stretcher still as 4 people lift R onto the stretcher.

With a teary wave and cheers of love from the class, R is wheeled out to the Ambulance.

I turn to my class and say “Let’s make sure there are never any notebooks on the floor, ever.” I hear a bunch of “Umhmms” and the sound of 18 kids picking up their notebooks and placing them anywhere but the floor.

(Before school let out, a student let me know R us in a full immobilizing leg brace,0 and will be at school tomorrow with crutches. Thank goodness!)



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