I remember that Easter Sunday morning in 2010 so vividly. It was 7:30, and Dan was in the kitchen making his first cup of coffee of the day. I had just opened the laundry room door (aka, the dog door) and looked up to see Cooper in the most adorable pose on the deck above me, one I had been trying to capture with my camera. I went flying back through the house, wearing fuzzy socks on freshly waxed hardwoods, and just as I reached the living room, something went terribly wrong. Suddenly, I hit a very slippery patch and went down in an instant, hearing the loud crack of bones breaking as I sat on my ankle hard in a very awkward position. Game changer.
I called out (okay, yelled bloody murder) to Dan,
Honey! I think I’ve broken my foot!
How can you tell?
As I looked at my foot that was literally flopping from side to side,
Oh, I can tell. I need you!
Dan came into the room to assess the situation, shaking his head,
Oh, Honey, oh, no. What have you done? You have completely changed your life. Oh, I am so sorry.
Now the reality check- we live in a house cut into the side of a mountain (well, a mountain by Alabama standards) with stairs…lots and lots of stairs. I had two choices to get to the car for the ride down the hill to the ER; I could scoot down the thirty-eight stairs to the street, or crab walk backwards up a flight and a half of stairs to get to Dan’s garage. Either way it wasn’t going to be fun, as the pain was beginning to come in waves. I opted for the backward crab walk, holding my flopping ankle in the air as I took each stair step slowly and carefully, Dan encouraging me every bit of the way.
My options…up or down?
We joke that there is a Gainey wing at UAB Highlands, literally four blocks straight down the hill from our house. Dan and I have both been there several times, and so was my mom when she lived with us. Not really a place where I want to earn frequent flier miles. The drive was painful with every bounce over our bumpy city roads, and as the doctor probed my ankle, I thought I would lose my mind.
They called for pain medication and sent me to do X-rays. Sure enough, I had cleanly broken both sides of my ankle. The tech said, Wow, you did it up right!
Back in the examination room, they gave me morphine. I’d never had morphine before and hope I never have to have it again, but it was amazing. Suddenly, I was all, What broken ankle? Life is good! They wrapped me up, setting an appointment for me to see the surgeon as soon as possible. Once home, I had to butt scoot back down all of the stairs, taking residence in our first floor for the next two months. I had surgery, and plates and screws were put in each side of my ankle. I did a lot of physical therapy when the time came- I was determined to heal well.
Gone was the exercise program that I had worked so hard to build. Gone was going to school to teach and hearing my students’ end-of-semester juries. Gone was being able to help my mom who lived just down the street at the time. Gone was being able to drive or help Dan with the house, yard, or animals. Gone was the life I had anticipated. But, believe it or not, many gifts came from this time.
I learned the all important lesson of slowing down. Really slowing down. I learned to an even greater degree what a wonderful husband I have, as he jumped in to not only do his full-time and more job, but took great care of me, Mom, the animals, and our home. I was reminded yet again what great colleagues and students I have, as colleagues covered for a class I was teaching, and students came to my house so that I could teach them. So much love and support came my way. I also learned patience, as it took a full year before I was walking normally again and doing the activities I love. I will never forget my first walk around the neighborhood and making it up all of the stairs on my own…I broke down crying, I was so grateful.
Fast-forward six years. I had noticed that the outside screws and plate were beginning to budge out and become uncomfortable in yoga or when I was on my feet a lot. I met with the orthopedist yesterday, and she agreed that the screws and plate on the outside of my ankle need to come out.
And so, after six years, it’s time to say goodbye to an old friend. That metal helped me to heal and become active again. It helped me to find an inner strength that I didn’t know I had that came in handy when I faced much greater challenges in the years that followed. It reminded me on rainy or cold days that it was still there, a battle scar of sorts.
On Tuesday I will undergo surgery once more on my ankle, but thankfully, this time the recovery will be only a month. I’ll be back to kickboxing in no time….but no more fuzzy socks or running through the house anytime soon. And I think I have plenty of photos of my dogs to do me for a long time..maybe. Life is good.