A Broken Bone, A Welcome Break

November 6, 2012

Andrea Freedman

One night at a get together with friends, in the blink of an eye, I stood up, lost my balance and came crashing down hard on my ankle. The alarmed voices of my husband and friends made me even more frightened.
“Did you hit your head?!”
“Watch out for the broken glass!”
I was traumatized and in severe pain. I could feel the bones in my ankle moving around and my left foot was not on straight.
After I had been carried to the couch, as I lay there with my leg elevated, pouring with sweat and shaking – and wondering if there was any way I could make this go away and avoid going to the hospital – all I could see ahead of me was six weeks in a cast. When I did go to the hospital and I was told that I had severely broken three bones in my ankle that would require surgery, I was not happy but nor was I surprised. I wished I could rewind those few seconds before I fell; I was so angry with myself, knowing that it might have been possible for this accident to have been prevented.
For the first time in all of my forty-four years, I was forced to go to the hospital and I was in no way prepared for the fear that overcame me. I had never so much as had chicken pox or been stung by a bee and I was terrified. Had my good luck run out? Not only was my balance thrown off, so was my confidence.
I imagined in disgust that I would forever be relegated to wearing flat, sensible shoes. As someone who works out religiously, I worried about possible weight gain from inactivity.
After waiting at home in a cast for two weeks, haunted by flashbacks and afraid that I might trip over a speck of dust when I hopped to the washroom on my crutches, I woke up on the morning of my surgery, after a fitful sleep.
Before I knew it, the operation was over. As the last of the anaesthetic wore off, I literally cried from the agony and counted the minutes until it was time for my next painkiller.
After the pain was under control and I was relaxing on the couch at home, I resigned myself to the fact that the break I had suffered had given me another, more welcome break; a break from having to wake up to the alarm every morning, a break from the subway, the rushing, the crowds with their heads in their Blackberrys and annoying elevator chatter. What had begun as a nightmare turned, in a way, into a blessing in disguise.
When I attended appointments at the fracture clinic of the hospital, I began to recognize some of the other patients and we quietly celebrated each other’s small victories. I was delighted to hear of improvements after each of my multitude of ex-rays. When the ‘cast man’ as he jokingly referred to himself removed my first cast, I was afraid to look, not yet ready to face what I had imagined underneath. Maybe next week, I told myself and eventually I braced myself (no pun intended) and looked in horror at my sickly skinny, scarred leg, complete with staples.
After weeks of being unable to put my foot down, I ventured out with my sister and took my first tentative steps. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard her say, “You know what you’re doing, don’t you? You’re walking!” When I was ready to begin physiotherapy, just hearing the words “You’re doing great!” gave me the confidence I needed to start moving again.
As I began to feel better and get outside, I met a lot of interesting people that I might not otherwise have met had I not broken my ankle. I was touched by the kindness of others and the encouragement I got from people, not only my own family and friends, but neighbours, fellow gym members and strangers, some with bone crushing stories of their own.
When I walked through a handicap door, there was always someone there to hold it for me. Out of the blue someone would come up and ask me if I needed help. But what meant more to me than anything were the kind words I received from people who were permanently handicapped themselves, strangers, some of them resigned to using a walker or cane or in some cases a wheelchair.
I may fall down, but I don’t fall off the wagon. I managed to stick to a modified exercise routine the entire time I was recuperating and I am proud to say that I did not gain one single pound. Although it will be a while before I can run again, I am back at the gym and in pain again, in a good way.
I have learned a few things from this experience. I am not invincible as I had thought I was; perhaps I will even get stung by a bee one day. If that time comes, I think that I will now be better equipped to handle it. I know who I can count on and who my real friends are, and that when you really need them, even those closest to us can come through with shining colours or be a source of great disappointment.
For a while I had a taste of what it is like to be disabled. I have a new admiration for those who are forced to deal with physical impairments every day of their lives and still manage to remain pleasant toward others.
The pain and stiffness still lingers and on a rainy day I am reminded of the hardware that now holds my ankle in place. Nevertheless, after three casts, crutches, a brace, ill-fitting shoes, sponge baths, excruciating pain and overall inconvenience, I am happy to be standing on my own two feet again – even if it is in low-heeled shoes for now.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on November 6, 2012, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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