In a small room, lying on my back, surrounded by doctors and nurses, I heard her say:
“Amazing how in one second, your whole life can be changed!”
The young resident was examining my ankle, while we waited for her boss, my surgeon to arrive. It didn’t take an expert to note that I was clearly deformed, a bone bent and near the surface. I had begun my day by missing the first two stairs on my descent from my bedroom to the main floor. I had lain on the landing in shock waiting to be rescued by the firemen after my husband’s 911 call.
“My WHOLE life?!” I replied.
Later that day, in pre-op, the surgeon that I’d just met, bent over my elevated legs and spoke to me. (I’m sure I remember it correctly, even after spending the entire day waiting in the hallway of the emergency room for my surgery to begin.)
“Do you drink?” he asked.
What?!, I thought. I fell at 6:45 in the morning on my way to the coffeepot. I don’t know why I didn’t set him straight. I was tired. I was carrying my eldest dog down the stairs to protect her back. It could have happened to anyone. But, I’m a truth-teller and I like to drink although that’s never figured into any of my falls.
“Well, yes!” I replied.
I like to celebrate with pretty glasses filled with bubbles. I love the taste of champagne. I delight in a nice glass of chianti with a bowl of steaming hot pasta. Once or twice a year, I enjoy a cold beer on a hot day with a bowl of chips and salsa. And, who can resist a drink with an umbrella in it? Of course, I drink. But I don’t drink and fall down stairs.
Then he said, “This is a very bad break; you’re going to be seeing a lot of me over a long period of time.”
“You know,” he added, “you could have fallen on your head.”
Then, mercifully, the anesthesiologist took over. Who doesn’t love an anesthesiologist?!
It’s been seven weeks since my fall. I’ve had three casts. Where the Peleton once stood, I have a hospital bed that raises and lowers at my command! (I have an aversion to electronics, so this is truly my first remote control.) The Peleton now resides in the dining room and I no longer sleep on the same floor as my husband.
I visited the master bedroom a couple of days ago under the supervision of my Physical Therapist. I ascended the stairs on my well-padded behind, holding my left leg, covered halfway with an orange cast, high in the air. I descended in the same manner. I was exhausted and proud.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the situation I find myself in. And, I’ve come to a couple of conclusions.
The resident and my doctor were both correct. It had only taken a split second for me to fall and indeed my life has been altered. I understand that I may grow old, not only with two large scars on my ankle, but with some lingering tenderness. I may have to coddle my ankle, as others mind their backs or their blood sugar. If this is my only concern as I age, I will consider myself quite lucky.
I have come to appreciate my surgeon’s comment about escaping an injury to another part of my body…a more essential part of my body. I did not hit my head. I will recover in time.
Throughout the pandemic, I believed that I felt truly grateful for all of my advantages that included a loving family, a beautiful home, a full pantry, a close-knit neighborhood and old friends. But, my fall made me feel quite vulnerable and, in turn, quite thankful in a wholly different way.
I genuinely feel grateful for each day. I respect my health care team for their hard work. I’m thankful that I’ve only got a broken ankle when it could have been so much worse. I feel blessed to be alive and growing older.
I’m not completely surprised by my reaction to this setback. I love the idea of silver linings. I’ve been encouraged to discover them at other difficult times in my life. And, the same people, dogs and things that sustained me through the last crises are here to support me now.
I’m only left pondering one question: why did my doc ask if I drank? On my next visit, I may be tempted to ask my very busy surgeon to take a minute to explain. Certainly there are better ways to greet his patients.
P.S. Bella, our 12 year old dachshund, was not injured in the fall!