Sunday, July 1, 2012

Falling out of a shampoo chair: not as much fun as it sounds

June 2012 has been (check all that apply):
   ___ a memorable experience
   ___ a colossal waste of time
   ___ a learning opportunity

I’m checking all three.

On June 1, I fell. I’ve taken to telling people I fell out of a shampoo chair, but the prosaic truth is that I fell getting out of the chair. The right leg of my jeans caught on the chair’s footrest, and as I tried to step away it held, throwing me off balance. My left leg twisted and I went down, hard, on top of it.

I had no idea it was broken. The greatest pain was from what now appear to be a severely strained and maybe slightly torn muscle and from several sprained ligaments at the ankle. I rested and iced, took ibuprofen, and wrapped my leg in an ACE bandage for a couple of days. Then I tried to carry on. I accompanied Peter and the kids to the park. I limped to both kids’ preschool classrooms to say goodbye to the teachers on the last day of the year. I went grocery shopping alone, leaning heavily on the cart. I used an old pair of crutches for the long trek from the car to our seats at the ballpark, though I lacked the strength to swing myself so I was still walking.

After 10 days, the leg felt no better, the swelling and bruising looked a bit worse, and none of our limited supply of drugs was helping. (Either Vicodin doesn’t deserve its reputation or it loses its effectiveness after a couple of years.) So I hobbled to the new Urgent Care service at my HMO clinic where, after a series of x-rays, I learned that I had fractured my fibula. Oh yes, and there was “some displacement,” meaning I had probably made it worse by walking on it.

They built me a fiberglass splint, which I’m still using, and told me not to put weight on the leg. Over the next week we made three trips across town, twice to see the orthopedic specialist and once for an MRI which, I’m happy to say, confirmed that I didn’t need surgery to put pins into my ankle. The doctor said to keep taking ibuprofen for the inflammation, and the second time I saw him he said I could put weight on it “as tolerated.” I interpreted that as “continue sitting around watching the Game Show Network and using the iPad.”

Here’s the thing, which you may already know if you’ve been through this: walking on a healing leg may feel fine at the time. But that night, when you are trying to get to sleep, the leg may decide not to be so tolerant. It may ache, or it may set up a tingly feeling that makes you crazy. In the last week it’s gotten better; one dose of ibuprofen at bedtime usually lets me get to sleep.

To those, like Peter, who live with chronic pain, I must say I am sorry. I hope you have found a way to cope with the pain better than I have…to focus on the things that are meaningful in your life and not seek escape in ridiculous 30-year-old game shows featuring “guest stars” you never heard of.

I had a lot of big projects planned for the last three weeks of June, once the grandkids were no longer coming for daycare. But I’ve been distracted by the pain and discomfort, and it’s hard to focus. My activities have been passive. I have faithfully read your blog posts, and often even commented. I’ve checked Facebook more often than usual. I happily play Dragonvale when the kids come to visit. I’ve just about finished tossing out a foot-high stack of old Newsweek and other magazines, something that requires perusing each issue just in case it contains Something Really Valuable. I’ve watched Olympic trials in swimming, diving, gymnastics, and track. And, of course, game shows.

The leg is clearly healing, but still it bothers me. Much of the time, it needs to be in the splint and elevated. But sometimes, it feels mostly okay to walk. I need to kick this invalid mentality. I need to undertake some activity that will energize me and keep my leg healing. I need to start cooking dinner again, to free up Peter for the projects he’s trying to handle on top of his heavy workload. The garden, largely ignored for the past month, is beginning to beckon.  

And now I’ve finished my first blog entry in a month. Sorry if it sounds whiney. I just needed to record this so I can kick myself into gear and move on. I wasted enough time in June; now it’s time to learn from my memorable experience.


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