A couple of Mondays ago, I was scheduled to go back to work after having been off for a year long maternity leave following the birth of my son. That morning I got up before the alarm, got myself dressed and ready to go, woke up my baby and got him dressed, took him down and had breakfast together. I lugged all our belongings to the car, loaded the baby in the carseat and was just taking the garbage out when it happened. I fell walking down my (very steep) driveway and broke my ankle.
Of course, I didn’t just break my ankle, that would be way too simple for me. I broke the whole shebang – tibia and fibula – and required surgery, pins, plates and screws to put it all back together. Long and short of it means that I’ve not able to bear any weight on my leg for a couple of weeks now, and still won’t for for 4-6 weeks post surgery. Not only did my life change in a moment, but it happened at one of the worst times I could have imagined. My life now: Going to work now means I need a ride to/from the office as I can’t drive for weeks, I can’t pick my baby and carry him up the stairs to bed at night, I can’t have a shower while the incisions are healing, I can’t walk around my house, I can’t go grocery shopping… It’s just all around an ugly picture.
The first couple of days I spent wallowing in a pretty virulent pit of self-despair. “Why me? Why now?” were posed more often than I care to admit. Feelings of uselessness, anger, irritability and rage have impressive ways of bottling up when you’re stuck in a drug-induced/self-pity haze in a bed for 3 days. Curse words which would have made a pirate blush came spewing out of my bedroom.
It’s only been very recently have I come somewhat to terms with it (I HATE it, but there’s literally nothing I can do to change it) and have also realized some other things that I wanted to share with you all. I’m not sharing them because I hope you’ll ever have to recover from a broken ankle, but because they’re lessons I’ve taken from this experience which could maybe help someone out there without going through the whole broken bones thing.
Lesson #1: There is never a good or bad time for anything
I have literally spent years figuring out when things would need to happen in order to accomplish my 1/3/5 year plans and I’ve come to realize that even the best laid plans can be completely wiped away in one fell swoop of fate. For example, my husband and I had been planning an upcoming trip to San Francisco. We had figured out daycare arrangements, flights, flying in grandparents, travelling to grandparents and work vacation schedules down to the moment. After initially throwing in the towel, we’re still going, but we’re now shortening it and calling to book wheelchair accessible rooms.
What I have learned is that even with best intentions, there is never a perfect time to do anything. Instead of falling and breaking my ankle, I could have been hit by the proverbial bus my mother always warned me about. I’ve learned that I just need to figure out what I want out of life and go do it. Stop procrastinating.
Lesson #2 : Always Wear Clean Underwear
When I was a kid, I used to accompany my mom when she was shopping and we’d often wind up in the lingerie section of the store where she’d spend what felt like hours trying to find matching underwear sets and I can remember asking why only to be told that you didn’t want to be hit by that dangerous proverbial bus only to have to go to the hospital, see a Doctor and potentially have them have to see my ratty, unmatched underwear.
Now that I’m older, I understand the allure of matching underwear but admit that I often don’t subscribe to the theory. I wear specialty bras due to my chest size and wearing plain Jane underwear to match the nudes and blacks would be moderately depressing. I do, however, always wear clean, stylish and trendy underwear so in case anyone needs to see my skivvies, I’m prepared. I even got compliments on my drawers at the hospital during the broken ankle extravaganza!
LESSON #3 : Marry Someone Who Will Take Care Of You
Not to give you nightmares, but I had to crawl up my driveway with my broken ankle yelling at my husband in the house to come rescue me. And rescue me he did- he drove me to the hospital, got me to the trauma ward, took the baby to daycare, came back and sat with me while I underwent all my tests. But his rescue did not end there: He’s also had to bring me food, drive me everywhere I need to go, carry the baby everywhere, help me get dressed…
I’ve always known that I married the perfect person, but it’s times of hardship in a marriage that can really prove it. If you’ve not yet met your Mr/Mrs Perfect, call up your mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend and be prepared to do the same in reverse should they ever need it.
LESSON #4 : Count Your Lucky Stars
Yes, I have a broken ankle. Yes, it sucks. But I will get better, and I will gradually get back to my normal walking life over the next few weeks. Many people have catastrophic injuries and never get that chance. I’m infinitely more thankful for my husband, my son, my dog, my house, my job, my family… Working feet… than I was before. There are always people worse off than you are, and although it’s difficult sometimes when life gets in the way, you should always be thankful for what you have.
What to bring a person with a foot injury
- Food would be my number one suggestion. Cooking is difficult at best with a broken foot and if the “patient” is the primary food preparer, it will take a toll on the family. If you live out of town and want to send something, send a fruit basket or something along those lines- I received one from Edible Arrangements (US/Can) and it was a treat for me as well as the rest of my family putting up with me.
- With a wardrobe that is heavy on skinny jeans and slim-cut pants, I spent two weeks in a couple of pairs of Lululemon Still Yoga Pants that have leg openings wide enough to go over a cast. I had them from when I was pregnant, so lucky I had them… But you might want to check with your patient on if they have comfortable pants.
- Check and see if they have any housekeeping services, and if they don’t- a gift card to MollyMaid (US/Can) would be definitely appreciated. Trust me, it’s hard enough just to go to the bathroom, let alone clean one on a broken foot.
- One can never go wrong with fresh flowers, but make sure the arrangement will last at least several days and there will be someone around your patient who will remember to change the water.There is nothing more depressing than dead flowers.
- Movies! Send them an iTunes gift card or (gasp!) go buy a DVD. The whole not moving and elevating your foot thing really takes on a new level of terrible when you’re bored without something good to watch.
- Lastly- and maybe most importantly- your time. Just coming to help watch the baby, run a load of laundry or run to the store can make learning to operate on one leg better… And will be definitely appreciated most by your patient’s caregiver!