Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Things I Learned After Breaking My Foot

I broke my foot. Unfortunately, when I went to the ER that night they misdiagnosed it as a sprained ankle. I was told the best way to heal was to get it moving again, so I spent two months walking on it and even went on a 10-day hiking trip! I diligently did exercises that were very good for a sprained ankle and very wrong for a broken bone. After two months I finally had an MRI that showed a broken navicular bone. It was back to the crutches!  Unfortunately, because I walked on it instead of letting it heal, the healing process may take a bit longer, so I'm going to be non-weight bearing on it for a while.

This is the kind of minor disaster that is supposed to teach you important life lessons.  So I sat down to write this blog about the important things I learned...and I drew a blank. The only thing I could come up with is - don't break your foot!  Now this is very good advice, but perhaps not exactly earth shattering, so I thought about it again, especially since if the purpose of breaking my foot was so I could learn something, I should figure out what it is so I can move on (not sure that's how life actually works, but it's what happens in books and as I am a writer, perhaps I need to play by those rules...)

So here are my life lessons from breaking my foot:

1) Don't break your foot.  I know, I know, pretty obvious, but important. Watch where you are going. Pay attention. Before I broke my broke my foot I zipped through life, always thinking ten steps ahead, not paying attention to the step I was on.  Be grounded. Figuratively and literally.

2) Come up with a better story.  So here's what happened to me. I was walking down cement stairs outside at night. I thought I was on the last stair so I was turning, my left leg crossing my body when the ground wasn't where it was supposed to be. I went down hard, did an inverse roll of my ankle, and felt a pop. This may be a sad tale, but it's not very exciting. Too many of my friends know the truth to come up with something really good. So if you ever break a bone, think up a better story quick. Make it something with flames and rescuing kittens and throw in a hunky guy who carries you to the hospital. Make it a good one because every person you meet for as long as you are on crutches is going to ask you what happened. Make it exciting!

3) A sense of humor is key. Crutches are evil. I think they were originally some medieval torture device. There is just no way to use them without either killing your armpits or your hands, or more likely both as you switch between them to try to get comfortable. The crutches aggravated my carpal tunnel so now I have a brace on my right wrist, which led everyone to start asking what happened to my hand (see the importance of coming up with a better story above). Sometimes you just have to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

4) Plan your next move. When movement takes effort and involves some difficulty, it's important to plan ahead. Stairs are my nemesis now. It's impossible to go up and down stairs with anything in my hands, so I have a bag to carry things. I need to think ahead as to where I'm going and what I need. To do this requires me to slow down and plan ahead. I can't do as many things as I was doing before, but what I can do I can give my whole focus and do well.

5) Accept help. In truth, I hate that. I want to be the helper not the helpee. I always want to feel like I have things under control. Of course, trying to live life balancing on one foot definitely puts a crimp in that plan. As much as it goes against the grain, sometimes it's good to swallow the pride, accept humility, and realize that there is no way you are going to carry a plate of food down the stairs while on crutches. Not going to happen. Trust me, I tried, and lost a delicious plate of pad thai in the process. Learn to accept help!

6) Forgive and move on. This is easier to say than do to. There has not been a day since the MRI that I don't wish I had been given the right diagnosis earlier so I could have healed faster. I wish I could go back and do it over again. And for that matter, I wish I could go back and walk down the stairs correctly to avoid all this. It seems so wrong that something that happened in a split second could have months of repercussions. It makes me grind my teeth in frustration that I was given the wrong medical advice. But traveling down that road doesn't make me happy. I can't change what happened, I can only deal with today. Forgiveness is a gift I am working on giving myself.

7) People are actually pretty nice. Trying to manage while injured, I have been surprised at how often strangers will offer to help. Since I can't move fast, this often leads to a friendly conversation. I've had people of every age group, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and any other grouping you can imagine, offer to help. Often they have their own stories of when they were injured. Breaking something seems to be a universal experience. It's a great ice-breaker. Everyone can relate. I've met people I probably never would have otherwise. In a world that can be full of division, this gives me hope.

Stay safe out there!

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