I Am Iron Man

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By: Connor Lenahan

As many of you know, last spring I broke my left tibia and fibula with just over a week of high school left. I’ve written at length about the break before but I haven’t shared one part of it, at least publically, until now. You see, that break caused a change. It required an operation that changed me forever (at least until they take the thing out). The truth is, I am Iron Man.

I have broken ten major bones in my life. Each of my tibias and fibulas twice, my left femur once, right femur thrice, right elbow once and L5 vertebrae once. The impressive part of these breaks it that I somehow escaped any and all scarring until the two most recent breaks in 2009 and 2013. I have a tiny zipper scar on the inside of my right ankle stemming from a broken tibia and fibula in December of 2009. Few people know it exists; it wasn’t terribly noticeable then and isn’t now. On my left shin there’s a much more substantial scar. Due to this most recent break I had surgery that required a six inch (guesstimate) incision on the front of my shin. It’s rapidly approaching a year since the injury and the thing sticks out like a sore thumb when it’s visible (hold that thought for a bit).

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The reason for said incision is the six-inch metal plate attached to my tibia in the picture above. It’s a rather significant piece of hardware, necessitating six screws to keep it attached properly. Thankfully my leg has healed beautifully since the break so the plate worked like a charm. From a medical standpoint, its job is done.

From a story standpoint, it’s just beginning. Around the time that I learned the plate would be placed in my leg a few of my friends started joking that I was to be called Iron Man for the remainder of my existence. After all, I literally have a hunk of metal in me and possess XY chromosomes therefore Iron Man is appropriate. But it wasn’t until I got the cast off in August that we found out how appropriate the nickname would be.

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I currently wear two plastic leg braces (and a right knee supporter that isn’t pictured) to protect my legs. Thanks to snapping both of them during my time in high school I have to be on the lookout for bumping my shin into anything. Walking into a table corner unprotected could spell disaster. Thus, body armor. In all honesty these things are amazing. My ankles are terribly unstable which would make my walking sloppy and unsustainable. By bracing them (literally) I can walk relatively normally save for the limp on my right side caused by a broken femur leaving my right leg shorter than the left.

More importantly, I wear body armor. Who else does? Iron Man. See, It’s all coming to fruition. I just need someone with painting skills to make these things red and gold. Note: This is an open offer. Email me if interested. I will pay in hugs and social media shout outs. That’s what takes it to the next level. Save for the lack of billions of dollars or knowledge of science or drinking troubles or mansion or Jarvis or international fame or Gwyneth Paltrow I’m basically Tony Stark.

Up until recently I had always been shy about showing my brace in public. The singular day I wore shorts during my senior year of high school I actually had multiple people notice. I didn’t feel like revealing my brace. I believe that with the addition of the left one last summer and the new Iron Man moniker I quit caring. I figured why should I care what other people think, I’m Iron Man, I’m indestructible. These braces are a part of me. So is my metal plate. They aren’t going anywhere, so why don’t I just embrace it.

Plus on top of all of that who’s going to care what my shins look like when they see me popping out of the wheelchair and walking around? That’s the real attention grabber. Not a day goes by that I don’t catch someone looking at my legs operating my chair with a perplexed look. It’s high comedy. I don’t mind it. Seriously, I’d rather people ask me about it than make assumptions.

I can’t quite pinpoint the exact moment, but I gave up any self-consciousness about the braces a while ago. I don’t mind it anymore. I like it when people ask me about them. I like when people ask me why I’m walking. I like when people inquire about my condition. I’ve been asked “so why the chair” in some form over 10,000 times and that’s being conservative. It doesn’t phase me. It can’t. It’s who I am. I embrace it.

I’m Connor Lenahan. I suffer from type 1 Osteogenesis Imperfecta. I have broken ten bones in my life. I have a metal plate in my shin. I wear two leg braces. I look like a robot from the waist down. I walk with a limp. I walk and use a wheelchair interchangeably. Most importantly, I am unbreakable and I am Iron Man.

Connor Lenahan (@ConnorLenahan) is the founder and editor-in-chief of Connorlenahan.com. He is a freshman at Boston University, majoring in journalism. He can be emailed at lenahan@bu.edu