Nothing beats first-hand research: A week ago Sunday, while playing hockey at Ellenton Ice & Sports Complex, I lost an edge and slid feet-first into the boards. It all happened in a flash, but my left ankle must’ve bent too far, and almost immediately afterwards it was too painful to put any weight on.
The medical advice started early: I’ve got a couple of firemen/EMTs on my team, so first order of business was to take my bulky hockey skate off before the swelling got bad. Then, of course, elevate and ice, ice, ice.
It was pretty painful—for a brief moment I was even nauseated by the pain—and I suspected it was broken. After the game, a teammate drove me to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center. (It’s my left ankle, so I could have driven myself, but it’s always good to have a buddy—especially when you can’t walk.) There, X-rays confirmed my suspicions: non-displaced fracture through the fibula. They put me in a splint, gave me some crutches and a prescription for hydrocodone, and sent me on my way with instructions to contact an orthopedist.
On Tuesday, a physician’s assistant at the orthopedist’s office told me the fracture was too high up on the bone for a weight-bearing boot, so I was sentenced to three weeks in a pretty blue cast.
I’ve had a lot of sports-related injuries in my life, but for some reason the crutches are a particular pain this time around. Everyone asks about the armpits—and yes, they rub and are uncomfortable—but when using the crutches, I’m really supporting myself with my hands, so it’s my wrists and shoulders, and even the heels of my hands, that are the most painful. My abs get a workout, too, from swinging the lower half of my body forward with every stride.
Friends pointed me in the direction of Davidson Drugs to rent a wheeled “knee walker,” which lets you kneel your broken leg on a padded support while you use your good leg to push you around. (In the end, I opted not to get one, because I didn’t believe it would be easy to navigate the steps and furniture in my apartment, and I had concerns about getting the thing in and out of my car.)
One week in, and I’m still amazed by all the things I never thought about until my leg was in a cast: I can’t carry much—especially not open beverage containers (my cast already bears the stains of several spilled coffees); grocery shopping is a two-man operation; showering is a Cirque du Soleil routine with my leg in a garbage bag; not to be outdone, my right foot is now swollen, too, from all the hopping around; I break into a sweat just getting to the bathroom and back, plus it’s August, and my foot is not going to see a bar of soap for another fortnight, so I’m trying to keep the sweating to a minimum. The beach? Forget about it—too much sand.
It’s a lesson in patience and humility: Most things take twice as long and require assistance. At least it’s not for forever: In two more weeks, I’ll hobble out of the orthopedist’s office with a walking boot—and a new-found appreciation for my left leg.