This I Believe

Shane - Sacramento, California
Entered on October 25, 2007

I believe in the sacred art of agnosticism.

As a child born with a rare condition that left my bones too brittle for this planet’s gravitational force, I broke my femur the first time at eight months old. The doctors were suspicious of my mother but didn’t actually accuse her of anything until two months later when she returned me to the E.R. with another broken leg. At that point, they were blunt enough to cause her to lose consciousness and fall to the floor. Another doctor soon got involved and happened to notice the unusually dark blue sclera of my blue eyes and notified my parents that these broken bones would be my reality.

Blue sclera and broken bones means Osteo-genesis Imperfecta, or OI for those who prefer acronyms to Latin. The closest most people have been to this disease, or DNA disaster, is the movie, “Unbreakable,” with Samuel Jackson and Bruce Willis. In that movie, Samuel Jackson plays a character nick-named, “Glass man,” due to his proclivity to shatter upon sudden or unexpected contact with the Earth. He states at one point in the movie that he had broken his legs sixteen times.


By the time I was seventeen I had broken my legs sixty-nine different times, multiple fractures counted as one and I simply didn’t bother counting other bones because breaking ribs, arms, fingers, feet, toes and fingers are no big deal in the scheme of things. Let me scratch that, breaking arms sucks pretty bad too but counting them seemed somehow pointless. I’m not sure why I counted broken legs… I suppose, in the end, I wondered how many times a person can deal with that sort of pain and still stay sane. The jury is still out.

Imagine you are born and immediately assigned a life-partner. The partner is a big, burly man with a baseball bat and a sick sense of humor. The partner’s job is to, without warning, swing that bat at one of your appendages, causing it to shatter and ruin your whole day… or let’s say, at minimum, the next six weeks. Of course, during those six weeks while trying to mend, he can at any time swing again at that or another appendage just to keep things interesting. To amuse himself, he won’t even give you a break after a cute blonde asks you to dance during homecoming… in fact, he’ll take your knee-cap out first and then your arm as you hit the ground.

Now, while you might think that his is a cruel job—swinging baseball bats at an eight-month old baby, a ten-month old, a one-year-old, two, three, four blah blah blah fifteen, sixteen… you get the picture. The reality is that “he” didn’t exist, only I existed and my reality was that slipping on a wet leaf meant I was going to undergo surgery to screw my femur back into place so that I could get up and walk again until the heel of my shoe failed to notice a cigarette butt on the slick floor of a supermarket. Yes, that one sucked pretty bad.

No, there was no cruel man bashing in the bones of a child in my reality. But there were many well-intentioned people who offered answers that would deliver me from the reality I lived. I was told by many that I needed to accept Jesus Christ, or God, or Jehovah, or Joseph Smith and pray everyday… I was told I needed to will myself to simply not break… I was told to keep a positive attitude.

I did all of that, and as a child I believed it would work. After-all, I thought, if God exists and He has the powers I’ve been told he has, (and who was I to doubt it?) All I have to do is get him to notice me or ask him nice enough, or be good enough.

Now I am 41. After hundreds of broken bones and crushed hopes and daily mind-bending flashbacks of fracture events going back all the way to my early childhood, I’ve stopped praying. I believe that my reality is unique and I believe I have learned some of my lessons. I believe that those who claim their belief is reality and all I have to do is subscribe to it for salvation are helping themselves.

I believe I am here for a reason but that reason might only be the love I see in my daughter’s eyes. She was an accident. A perfectly healthy accident who, by the luck of a flip of a coin, was not born with OI.

A beautiful accident…

Or maybe my prayers were heard. After all, who am I?