“I’m gonna do one more loop. I’ll be right back”
Next thing I knew I was on the ground clutching my shin, mouth agape, staring at my left foot in shock.
My toes on my left foot were parallel with the pavement. No. My foot was rotated a full 90 degrees to the left. This is not happening.
Oddly enough, I was actually not convinced anything was wrong. I patted at the side of my foot to confirm my suspicion that my shoe had somehow gotten twisted over my foot because there is no way that was possible. I didn’t fall that hard, I wasn’t going fast, I was attempting nothing more complicated than basic forward motion on a deserted, dry parking lot in the middle of the day. What the fucking fuck.
Much to my dismay (read: horror) my foot actually was turned that way. There was no pain, no blood, just pure panic as everything came at me at once.
And who is going to check on my kombucha fermenting in the pantry?!
WHY GOD WHY?!
I yelled for her and she came running over. I pounded the ground with my fist and looked back at my foot in utter disbelief. I waited for tears that never came. I don’t believe I let out any discernible words or phrases, only quick, shallow gulps of air, a long string of ohmigod’s, and intermittent gagging.
Shortly after Lauren arrived by my side, calm as ever, Steve the grounds keeper drove up and beckoned me to the curb. I had twisted myself waiting for Lauren to reach me such that my foot vaguely pointed in the right direction. I considered the possibility that I was risking further damage but I literally could not look at my foot without wanting to puke. I could taste bile.
“Do you want me to call an ambulance? What do you want to do?”
I rocked back and forth.
“Uhm….. I…… Uhm……”
I looked at my foot, then back at Steve.
“I really feel as though *gasp* decision making should not *gag* be up to me. “
I ended up deciding against the ambulance despite having health insurance. Call it pride, call it stubbornness, but rugby left me in the solid mindset that you get an ambulance if and only if you are carrying your own head. I could talk, I wasn’t even crying, so I had Lauren drive me.
Through no fault of Lauren’s, who is an impeccable driver, this turned out to be one of the most painful experience of my life. Remind me next time, to opt for the ambulance.
Although, had Lauren not been there, I surely would have died. She is an angel. Period. She maintained a completely calm demeanor the entire time, almost taking to me as if I were a child, but in the most comforting way.
“Ohmigod Lauren this hurts so badly, this is so bad.”
“I know, baby. Tell me how much it hurts. We’re going to get you there as soon as we can. First were going to go straight, then we make a left and the hospital is right there. You know, Elise and Luke were born here. Where were you born again?”
“I was born at H-Hopkins.”
“I know, I’m hella fancy.”
And before I knew it we were there. She did all the talking and I just sat there, exhausted and in pain, asking the nurse how their days were going.
In the waiting room I made my first phone call. I called my manager, Niamh.
“Hey Niamh, it’s Katie. “
“Hi Katie, this is Niamh.”
“So I have good news and bad news. The good news, is that I asked Lauren to move to SF and be my girlfriend and she said yes.”
“Oh awesome! “
“The bad news is that I almost certainly broke my ankle.”
The rest of the conversation was fine, but it made me sad. I hate disappointing people, I hate letting people down who depend on me. It’s literally the worst feeling. But that was the main stressed I had to deal with other than my ankle, so once that was over I could focus more readily on the matter at hand.
I spoke with Amanda, the triage nurse who, in addition to being adorable in bright red Ray-Bans, made me feel hopeful.
“It could just be dislocated. I’ve seen stuff like that happen before. “
“Yeah? Sometimes people come in with their limbs twisted around and just walk out of here?”
“Well… Maybe not walk out… “
Okay well, that was promising. Maybe this was going to be fine after all. It could just be dislocated…You know you’re in trouble when that is your bright side point of view.
Next thing I knew I was being wheeled to the x-ray room – where the magic happens. I hopped (literally) up on the table and that was the last time I saw my foot in its state of contortion.
“I don’t want to look.”
“Okay, you don’t have to look.”
I put my hood up over my eyes.
Lauren and the nurses ran back and forth in and out of the room as they snapped pictures and I agonized without looking at my dangling limb.
“I’m going to need you to roll up her pant leg, can you do that?”
*roll roll roll*
“And take her socks and shoes off. Thanks.”
I had to ask
“Any bones sticking out?”
I was not entirely sure. I couldn’t see my foot but I could see Lauren and the nurses looking at each other. Not the most comforting.
I would find out later, upon asking why I was given a prescription for antibiotics, that there was a small but deep “abrasion” on my foot. This may or may not be due to a bone piercing through and going back in. It’s a mystery, but we hope that’s not what happened. In any case, I am to report to the ER immediately if I experience any symptoms of infection, which according to my doctor are not that dissimilar to turning into a zombie. Red streaks resembling scratches, high fever, sweating etc.
My pant leg had blood on it which explains why it was quickly tossed in the garbage after it was cut off and I was immediately distracted. BTW, I now have a sweet pair of grey shorts that have an amazing story behind them. Jealous?
Once I was back on the gurney it hit me that the worst part was yet to come. I just knew it. In the meantime, the doctors were able to amuse themselves with these:
“Well, your ankle is definitely broken.”
Actually “broken” is sort of an understatement. What you are looking at here is a “trimalleolar displaced ankle fracture.” a fancy term for “you have broken every major bone in your ankle in at least one place, in addition to dislocating it.”
“It doesn’t appear to be dislocated, but it might be it just hasn’t shown up on the x-ray. Also it looks like from where the breaks are, it’s an unstable fracture and you’re going to need surgery” (For the record: it was definitely dislocated…hella dislocated)
Lauren sat beside me and I just buried my face into her and cried. I sobbed. This cannot be happening. Can’t. Even.
I’m not really sure exactly what happened after that. I just remember Lauren attempting to comfort me while I processed and sobbed and then I was given two Percoset and left to cry for 15 minutes.
The plan was that I would get a shot of Novocaine in my ankle so they could set it. Fine. Yes. Do that. I don’t care, I just want to die.
“It’s okay, they just have to put you back into place for now. Then maybe later you can get a new robot ankle.”
Ugh. I love you.
“Do you want me to tell you what I’m about to do or–“
“Absolutely not. kthanks.” (I actually said “kthanks”)
I stared at Lauren tears in my eyes. I was not looking forward to this. The shot of Novocaine was on par with the worst pain I’ve ever experienced (the irony is not lost on me) but feeling my bones grinding together was a new level of discomfort.
Yeah, let’s go with discomfort.
“Lauren, this is so bad. This is actually the worst.”
“I know,baby. I know it is. It really is.” as she hugged me from her seated position at my side.
She held me and I clawed and cried and sobbed. I may have bit her, I’m not sure. For the 25 seconds (i.e. the eternity) the nurses were pulling and twisting my foot I felt no pain, yet, I still felt it. All of it. And I heard it (that was probably the worst part).
One final pop and I actually felt some relief. That must have been when they put my ankle back in its socket. Ahhh.
When it was over, the nurses practically high-fived each other while they remarked on how well that went. Pam even mentioned how she’d never seen a bone move that far before. Huh. I took a look at my foot again for the first time since it happened. It was all snug in its cast.
By this time the Percoset and the Novocaine were doing a wonderful job on me. I was feeling more like my normal self.
“Uhm, excuse me, nurse. Can we address this rather serious situation?” I said pointing to my arm. I had sustained a tiny scrape and it stung. I wanted a band-aid.
“It’s pretty bad, I think we should take care of this.” in my best dead-pan delivery I could manage. The nurses laughed and dressed my “wound.”
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be interesting. If Sami Peterson taught me anything, it is that when painful things happen, the best coping mechanism is often “I am such a sad beautiful creature.” All things considered I am very lucky. I am lucky that my health insurance kicked in FIVE DAYS prior to this incident, I am lucky my boss loves me and I have a job whenever I am able to return. I am lucky this happened in a place where I have friends and family and Lauren to take care of me. Blah blah blah *bright side* blah blah blah *it could always be worse*
But really, if the past few days have taught me anything it is that life can change drastically in an instant, and the better you are able to roll with the punches, the easier it will be. I have actually found myself quite happy despite everything. There are several inconveniences: yes, I need surgery. This will require me to stay in Maryland for at least another 6-7 weeks. I’m not sure when I’ll make it back to San Francisco, or how the surgery will go. Yeah, I won’t be able to work for 12 weeks which makes me feel like a loser and everything I loved about my former lifestyle is now gone (a large part of my life depended on the ability to walk, it turns out).
However, I get unexpected time on the same coast as much of my extended family, I get to spend a lot of quality time with Lauren (unf. amazing), I can still do artwork, and read, and as my mom pointed out, I didn’t crack my head open so I am still very much myself.
It will be challenging, I still cannot believe this has happened to me, but this is just another valley of ayahuasca, another Camino. I will emerge from this an better version of myself, with a new appreciation for my body and my spirit.
And hopefully, if I’m lucky, a new robot ankle as well.