Thursday, March 10, 2016

How to Survive a Broken Fibula

I will begin with the specificity in my title: the "Fibula." This is not a normal bone. It doesn't bear your weight or need a cast to mend, they say. It is the steering rod between your knee and your ankle. If you have to break a bone, this is a good one to break. It's only downfall is that you have no badge of honor. Limping around without a cast belies the seriousness of the injury.

My fibula is in fact "Broken." I have seen the crack on an x-ray. It is only slightly offset in the image of 4 days ago. There is no way of knowing what kind of shape it is in now. Unless I pitch a screaming fit and spend 4 hours in the emergency room - again - I won't know if it is healing straight or about to puncture my calf  until I have another X-ray in a month. Which leads us to "How to" number one.

1. Get a degree in Orthopedics.
          These are highly educated experts, but they maintain an air of mystery and solidarity with any other medical professional who might have given you conflicting advice. Yes, the Emergency Room Doctor was the expert who gave you a brace and crutches and sent you on your merry way with the caution to not put ANY weight on your leg and wished you luck. "That guy knew what he was doing," says your Orthopedic expert. "You might have had a schmoozit on your flapzit, however, bending your knee is not a problem. Putting weight on the leg can help it heal if you don't overdo it." I ask her, "How will I know if I overdo it?" She replied, "Don't do more than you can stand." Is that a pun?

2. Become an expert in the mysteries of your own physiology and demand respect for your knowledge. The importance of this maxim cannot be overstated.
          When I heard the "craaaack" in the general vicinity of my leg while careening down the stairs like a novice luger with one leg tucked behind her ear, I knew something was broken. By the time the ambulance ladies got there I had no proof that I had nearly passed out from the pain while hauling myself to the phone on the other side of the basement floor. There was no bruise. No swelling. I had not lost consciousness. Strangely everything had stopped hurting. I could in fact wiggle my toes. Through the next four interviews, I answered the same questions I learned in Girl Scouts First Aid: no blood, no lost consciousness, able to breath, able to wiggle toes. I  patiently admitted that they might be right in thinking it was a torn ligament, a badly bruised ankle, or possibly a torn ACL, "Like a football player!" This was uttered by my husband with a gleefully idiotic smile. Finally I arrived in the x-ray room with a technician who is a 30-year veteran. She shot my ankle and foot four times, my knee two times, and appeared to be done. I pointed to where it actually hurt and said, "Please. Please x-ray this. Please." She said she didn't know why the doctor (remember the wise Emergency Room Doctor?) hadn't ordered that. So she got permission, and she got a picture of the crack. Manna from heaven! I might have shocked her when I thanked her profusely for being the first and only person who believed me when I said, "my fucking leg is fucking broken." I also told her that, as usual, the woman without the M.D. is the one who gets it right. She is in on the we-are-all-good-at-our-jobs conspiracy and refused to admit that the doctor is an over-confident asshole.

3. Get a walker.
           I tried to tell the crutches-fitter-nurse that I am absolutely hopeless at using crutches. She fit me for them and wheeled me out the door anyway. The next day the armpit pads you aren't supposed to use somehow lifted my toes off the floor and pitched me backwards in a free-fall. I can laugh about this now - because I lived. The image of someone going completely stiff and falling straight over is a famous pratfall. The fact that my head bounced on the floor instead of cracking on the dresser six inches to my right is evidence that I am blessed by the gods. My final thought before I landed - "What will I break this time?," was answered in a few short minutes. "Well, nothing hurts more than before, so probably nothing is broken."
           The next day when I related this amusing anecdote to my Orthopedist, she said, "Well, you might do better with a walker." Hell yes, I do better with a walker. Why didn't I think of that? Why didn't the ersatz professional in the Emergency Room think of that? Why do they even offer crutches anymore? Crutches have been in use forever. The walker was invented in the early 1950's! This is advanced technology. Are emergency rooms getting kick-backs from the crutch-making moguls?

5. Enjoy life as an experimental engineer.
           As you can see from the above, enjoying anything you possibly can at this point is very important.
          Study attempts to try something new carefully. If keeping the majority of your weight on your right leg while getting off the floor with the only support on your right side, look for a fulcrum or a pulley and solve for X. Build leg supports with an eye to position, length, and estimate their tendency to fall right or left for no apparent reason. Envision new uses for a walker, leg brace, kitchen chair, and reacher/grabber. Laugh at the results with gusto.

Finally, accept that "Survive" is a relative term.
        I have learned to underestimate my abilities. This has kept me in a positive mood. On Day 1, survival was making it up the stairs on my butt, falling into bed, and taking two Tramadols to be able to sleep. Day 2, I was able to stay on my feet on the stairs, watch TV until I had to pee, went back up the stairs on my feet, and took two Tramadols because I was such a warrior. Today, I watered my plants, fed the birds and wrote this protracted whine. All that is left is my desire to only take one Tramadol tonight. Tomorrow... who knows? Only my walker and the number of pills left in the bottle are the limit.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow Log: Earth Date 3

          It all began yesterday, innocently enough. The snow was nearly stopped when I shoveled and kicked a small path to the bird feeders, a path which ended in a small patch of grass beneath them. As I filled the feeders, I heard our resident chickadee thanking me from an overhanging tree limb. It was almost enough – for then. I did commit one act of extremism. I ripped out the screen that impeded my view from the dining room. Today, the full treatment began.   

Fascinated by the cones on top of our trash cans,
 I went out on the porch to take a picture – through 
the now-screenless window overlooking my little
path. You can barely see our cone cans to the
right of the shed. You can also see the ripped
screen still hanging in the frame. What is most
evident is that our shed is sitting in a 30 inch pile 
that ends almost half-way  up the door. And on the 
bottom left,my straggly path betrays a novice
shoveler. Seeing me with a camera from inside 
the house, the seasoned professional of all things snow-related heard the call to improve upon my 
efforts; and the shit…er, snow.. really hit the fan.

There is no challenge for a man with a snowblower like a path that dead ends in a wall of snow. This alone may have caused what followed. But this enemy of white is also the ‘father’ of a short legged dog who needed a place to squat in days past. He was accustomed to clearing a potty spot for our furry boy. What we learned from this is that birds and bunnies LOVE a bit of exposed grass in the drifts. The result will remain enshrined in family history– until the next time…

Our neighbors are acquainted with our eccentricities. After all, we have been astonishing them with our small feats of ingenuity for more than 20 years . I may never know how impressive it must have been for them to see John snow blowing the yard, or how close they were to calling a realtor. What I do know is that the birds who visit our feeders and the rabbits who nibble our weeds…er, grass… will benefit from a carefully wrought schema.

We can walk from the porch to the heated bird
bath, (I forgot to mention the birdbath), 
continue after making a sharp right to the shed 
door, back out to the feeders on the left, and 
retrace our steps to the shelter of our home. 
To me the way to the cone-headed trash cans 
is of secondary concern. The cleared skylight 
is a blessing for my plants. Finally, I know this 
was an act of love, for me-not just  the birds.

Because this is where I am sitting as I write this, 
and the view is spectacular. 

                Thanks, honey.