I had a fall yesterday. We’ve had a mid-winter thaw in Montana, which partly melted the six inches of snow we got last week. But it is still slushy and icy. I was walking my 8-year old son, Andrew, to his after-school art class and I wanted to make sure he safely crossed the slippery street and got settled with his teacher before I zoomed off to run errands and write as many words as I could in the 90 child-free minutes this class provides.
Andrew and I were holding hands, and had just stepped onto the sidewalk. He was mid-sentence about some Harry Potter factoid, when my foot unexpectedly crashed through what had looked like solid snow-pack. For a sickening instant, I felt my clog-shod foot skitter for firm purchase on the ice lurking beneath the snow. And then, in a more sickening instant, something popped like a firecracker, pain exploded through my leg, and I fell suddenly. I nearly dragged Andrew down with me, but I let go in time to sprawl face-first on the slushy, sodden ground.
“That’s what you get for trying to out-parent me at the art drop-off,” my husband, Jay, said, when I called him to tell him the news. He was trying to cheer me up, to de-escalate the panic that was rising in my throat. “I usually just kick the boy out at the curb. It’s better for your health,” he said.
By the time he made it home—less than an hour later—my ankle had ballooned and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I had propped my leg up in bed, and when I pulled back the bed-spread, with a Chronic Town-style magic trick flourish, Jay abandoned levity and just said “Crap” about 45 times.
Crap indeed. Jay and I have been down this road—or flat on my face in this road—twice before. This wasn’t a mere sprained ankle, and we both knew it. The sarcoidosis that has infiltrated nearly every organ in my body has also wreaked havoc on my joints. Some of you might remember my posts in 2008 and 2009 when I twice ruptured my right-ankle ligament, or when I spent months in a cast, zipping around my house on a scooter , because the sarcoidosis eroded my foot bones and I couldn’t put any weight on the fractures in my foot. Ah, happy memories.
Maybe my auto-immune disease decided to shake it up this time. Here we’d accustomed ourselves to my right foot and ankle collapsing—and have at least three expensive right-footed orthopedic boots in the garage to prove it—and now I’ve gone and screwed up my left foot.
At least I’ve learned ankle management skills in the past couple of years. Rather than inflict a night at the emergency room on myself and Jay, I opted to swaddle the swollen ankle in ice packs, down as many pain killers as I had, and wait to see my own doctor in the morning. He ordered x-rays to make sure I hadn’t broken the joint, and then checked me out immediately after. He confirmed that the ligament in my left ankle had ruptured, and that I need to stay off it as much as possible, see a specialist once the swelling has decreased, and ice it a lot. And he sent me home with this stylish, 2012 model of the orthopedic boot.
I keep careering between bouts of solid self-pity and moments of clarity, when I remind myself that compared to some of the other health challenges I’ve faced in the past few years—ranging from potentially fatal heart rhythms to surgeries to periods of total blindness—a busted ankle isn’t that bad. Plus, I know I can get through this. This is an irritant not a catastrophe, I tell myself. Which is true. But it’s equally true that my leg hurts quite a lot, that I am bed-bound after surviving another round of chemo last week, and that irritants are, well, irritating. The toughest part of hacking it in Chronic Town, as anyone with a chronic illness can tell you, is keeping your head above the tsunami of irritants that illness brings.
That’s the extent of my profundity for the evening.