This post has very little to do with perpetual parturition, being a girl, the LCMS, or any of our usual topics. It is merely a chronicle of my recent experience with a trimalleolar fracture of my left ankle. Read it and weep, if you like, though I warn you that it’s pretty long and cobbled together about as well as my fibula. Feel free to read something else. Ciao, darlings.
Ten weeks ago, when I was 25 weeks pregnant, I was carrying my two-year-old son down my parents’ carpeted stairs when my foot slipped and I broke my ankle. Kazaam. Just like that, everything about everything changed.
People like to ask me for details about my fall: what did I think while it was happening? was I able to manipulate according to the laws of physics for the best possible outcome? did I hear my bones pop? did it hurt right away? do I miss the rains down in Africa? Disappointingly, there aren't any more details. One moment I was walking down the stairs; the next I was sitting next to a screaming toddler and watching my ankle balloon into freak proportions. I rather wish I had a video of the moment, because I can’t imagine how it happened. I didn't even properly fall. My foot slipped and hit the next step toe-first. I felt the bones give. I sat down hard. I didn't drop my son. I didn't bonk my belly. I just sat down, saw the Jackson Pollack show unfolding at the end of my leg, and began to scream.
My husband wasn't with us at my parents’ house, so it was up to my dear parents to tend to everything. They ran as soon as they heard me screaming, which was really something given that I wasn't alone in the activity. My toddler son, scared but blessedly unhurt, was screaming. My four-year-old daughter, who had been descending several steps behind me, was screaming. My eight-year-old son, who had been standing at the bottom of the steps, was shouting. Four voices raised together in song. Must have sounded really fine.
My father reached me first, and asked me what happened.
“I broke my ankle!” I screamed.
“You broke your WHAT?!?” he asked. I later found out he thought that my water had broken, but no, no. Not just yet.
“My ankle! My God, I broke my ankle!” I screamed again. And then my mother tells me I started begging Jesus for mercy while turning a dull shade of gray. I just remember being very, terribly cold.
What I remember henceforth is that my father hauled me into his car and drove to the closest rural hospital around. I was X-rayed. The X-ray technician clearly thought I was grossly incorrect about being broken. Hence the following conversation:
Tech: (manipulating my badly swollen foot here and there to get the most perfectest picture ever) My goodness! You’re sparkling!
Me: (gritting teeth and trying hard not to beg desperately for death) What?
Tech: Your skin is sparkling in the light!
Me: . . .
Tech: Are you a vampire?
Me: . . . Yes.
After getting what passed for perfect, the tech dangled my foot over the edge of a giant foam thing and traipsed back to look over her snapshots. In between my own sobs, I heard a long, low groan. Then the tech immediately returned to me, placed my poor leg in a far less painful position, and left the room to fetch the doctor.
The first thing the doctor said to me upon entering the room was something like, “Your ankle is really busted. You need surgery. I can’t help you here. I’ll cast you up, I guess, but you need to get to a bigger hospital. You likely need surgery right now.”
I immediately whirled into a furious panic. But my father took hold of me and calmed me down. He stood behind me and stroked my hair. He calmly warned me whenever he saw the doctor was about to touch my leg. He answered all the nurses’ questions for me and made all the necessary arrangements for my transfer to yon bigger hospital. He saw to it that I got to hear the baby’s heartbeat on Doppler. He was absolutely heroic. My father is among the greatest men living, and not just because he is so very, very good to me.
But back to the star of this show: my stupid ankle. The doctor put me in a fiberglass cast up to my knee, which he then split all down the front to allow for the onslaught of swelling he assured me would come. Then the nurses deposited me in the back of my father’s car, wished me luck, and we were off to the next ER in a hospital three hours away.
Girls, if you ever break your ankle in an area that can’t accommodate your broken ankle, DO NOT LET THEM CAST YOU.* I was in agony—YES! Agony!—for the entirely of that three hour drive. The split in that cast was far from the Platonic ideal of split. It was worthless. The swelling had no place to go but hell, and it took me with it. Gah. I worked to be calm and to keep my blood pressure stable, but I think I might have failed a couple of times. I finally started “vocalizing” through the pain, for the sake of both my baby and my father, as neither would benefit from my sprouting horns and attacking that cast with my teeth. My father later told me he just kept thinking to himself, “What a nice song she’s singing. What a very nice song.”
Somehow we both came through that trip sane.
My husband met us as we were checking into the big hospital ER. He brought with him a backpack filled with everything I needed for a hospital stay (he even thought to include the lip balm, because he’s a man among husbands). And while I had to wait for every nosebleed and toothache to be cycled through before me, I was eventually given a bed, patted nicely on the head, and told the surgeon was on his way. At this point, it was close to midnight.
My husband and father sat up with me and tried to keep my mind off the pain—a Sisyphean task. I was run through an MRI. I was told why, for the sake of the baby, I couldn’t be given any real pain relief. I, in turn, explained why, for the sake of the baby, I would not accept any fake pain relief.. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The surgeon finally arrived and decreed that while I did need surgery, the swelling would have to go down significantly before they could cut me open. He (finally!) removed the hated cast, but then started probing my ankle to determine whatever it is surgeons need to determine in ERs at 1 a.m. His probing revealed one interesting thing: one of my fractures was perilously close to the skin. The surgeon chose to reduce it then and there. His method: grab my foot by the big toe, lift my leg thereby, and shake the whole mess until things got back into place.
I’m going to skip the gory details and just admit to this: I would rather suffer a Pitocin-induced labor exacerbated by a failed epidural than go through that bone reduction ever again. Moving on.
Once satisfied with the shaking and reducing, the surgeon wrapped my lower leg in miles of padding and bid me goodnight. I was scheduled for surgery first thing Monday morning and sent home. My menfolk carried me into the house, secured me in my bed, and I managed to crash into a rock-hard sleep.
Well! This has gone on long enough for one day. I’ll get on with it later. Ciao to you darlings who are still reading, and I’ll see you next time.
*Except that this won't be a problem, as I am patenting this splendid thing and no one will ever be able to break her ankle ever again. Too bad for you.