Oh Snap: 7 Lessons Learned From A Broken Ankle
I am recovering from the cracked ankle acquired by doing a knee-plant on invisible ice while walking Pippa. My walking isn’t much better now because I’m doing it with crutches.
Although I was lucky – I didn’t need surgery – this is a big deal. It’s befuddling, puzzling and fickle. The ER sent me home with a paper cache but none of it told me how to live with crutches. It’s worse than when you get a new digital device without a written manual.
Everything I do is an experiment. Simple activities like carrying a drink, getting dressed, or washing my hands take organizing and planning.
I must give credit to family and friends who have already helped me immensely. My daughter Nan drove me to the family Christmas gathering. But she also walked my dog and loaded my gifts into her car. A longtime friend – my ex husband – provided me comfortable crutches. And he and his wife have taken over my share of grandkid-sitting for the near future. They spoil me when they can.
When I can’t hook family, friends or kibitzers into helping me I have a backup plan. Uber is a great help getting around if I can’t drive. And when I’m comfortable driving, online ordering with drive-through pick-up is another blessing. Occasionally I schedule a dog-walker so Pippa doesn’t stare daggers at me for not getting her hike. Thankfully there are now restaurant delivery services. And when the power goes out – as of course it did – I have my camp lantern getable and charged. 🥶
The ER didn’t teach me how to use crutches either. So that was another experiment. Like a dummy I put the top in my armpit. Doing that for a few hours taught me how wrong I was. My armpit was then more sore than my ankle.
The wide end goes against your chest 4-ish inches down from your underarm. The tip is on the floor – of course – angled out from your feet making you a walking tripod. Holding onto the grip you push strongly down with your slightly bent arms. With all that under control you move your strong foot forward keeping pressure off the injured one.
Steps are an even bigger conundrum. Going up the stairs is logical. You step on your strong foot and keep weight off the injured one bending it up to the back. But going down seems counterintuitive, your weaker foot sorta floats out in front. The crutches support your injured leg or in my case ankle. Nan put it this way, “up lead with the good, down lead with the bad.”
Even though I know the “proper method” I still feel safer scooting down the steps on my bottom and crawling up on my knees. Besides it makes me feel like a kid again. Being on the floor works for me, falling on it does not.
There’s an emotional cyclone that comes with the break too. First the adrenaline rushed in clearly focusing my attention on getting out of the busy street. Later at the hospital it dropped leaving me in shock. Now I have frustration gushes from everything I do needing forethought. All that and using crutches has left me totally exhausted. And worrying isn’t fixing it.
Since I can’t walk my dog, shop large stores, or rollerskate I need other things to keep me amused. I can do calligraphy, illumination and sew until I have to stop to raise and ice my ankle. Then I binge-watch TV shows, sometimes for the second time. I’ve also given in and paid for Netflix. While I enjoy doing things on digital devices eventually my vision gets blurry. I then listen to a podcast or audiobook while crocheting schlocky pet-mats. (Animals at the humane society don’t care if I’ve drop a stitch or ten.)
Getting around on crutches is taxing, so I learned to be creative. Alternative thinking is my new strategy. I’ve read that helps your brain create new synapses or something. I’m making a lot of them just now.
I gather my crucial gadgets all around me and use crutches in unintended ways. They make good giant chopsticks or pokers, flipping light switches from across the room, picking things up from the floor, and poking the cat to move out of my path. I wear a long-handled cloth bag around my neck to carry things that don’t fit in my pockets. If I forget my go-bag when I go upstairs I scoot down my carpeted steps – that seems easier and safer.
I’m doing things to keep healthy like eating more leafy greens, fresh fruits, and dairy products. Instead of soda-pop I’m drinking teas and water. I exercise the muscles around my ankle, wiggling my toes and bending my knees while watching TV. The crutches will revive my rugged upper body strength. A small plus for all the annoyances they give.
Six weeks is a scary long time missing out on what I like to do. My Mom would say it’s “learning patience” when things sometimes have to wait. The decluttering I planned is postponed. I’m now glad Lonely Tower cancelled this years 12th Night as I can’t go to any event just now. And I cancelled my appointment at the climbing gym. I know it’s a temporary setback, but in real-time it feels permanent.
I won’t know what is next until I see the orthopedist. However that goes, I stay mindful and encouraged I’ll recover. I didn’t realize how marvelous it is to use your ankle until mine snapped.