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Life on One Leg

***Warning: This post contains some talk about injuries and medical procedures that might make some people squeamish. Proceed with caution!***

 

A little less than a month ago, I was on the phone with my mom while lounging in the hammock out back. Things had been winding down after the craziness of moving into a new place and then starting a new school year, and I finally felt that I had some free time. I believe my exact words to her were, “I’m almost bored at the moment…” I followed this up with my excitement to join a gym, a church in the area, and to volunteer some of my time each week, but lo and behold, those fateful words had already been uttered.

 

A few days after the conversation with my mom, my roommate and I were getting ready for our housewarming party. We had spent all morning cleaning, organizing, and prepping food, and there were only about 10 more minutes before guests would start arriving. My roommate’s boyfriend and a few of his friends were already there, and we were just doing a few last finishing touches. I decided this would be the perfect time to empty the dishes that had been drying in the dish strainer. Without paying too much attention, I took all the pieces of the food processor and sloppily pieced them back together. Carrying them toward the pantry, I was going to get the box out, set them in it, and then place it back on the shelf. My roommate was standing next to me when I used one hand to open the pantry door. All of the sudden, I dropped the whole food processor. As it fell, I sort of stepped back – kind of just moving my feet like you do when something is falling toward them. At that moment, I felt an intense heat in my foot and then saw blood start to gather on the rug. “Who’s hurt?!?” was my first question! I looked down and realized it was my own foot, and I immediately ran to the kitchen to try to save the rug. (When renting this house, the owners had been very particular about the rug so my roommate and I are always SUPER careful to keep it looking pristine.) Amazingly enough, everyone sprang into action without too much freaking out. “Why did this have to happen!!” I complained as the boys there started giving me orders to sit down and elevate my foot and put pressure on the wound. The blade had gone right into the bottom of my foot and had sliced pretty deep – somehow I had dropped it and then stepped on it all in a matter of a second! I yelled to my roommate to just focus on the carpet, because it really was a huge mess and I knew it would be good for her to focus on that instead of my sliced open foot. A stool was shoved under my foot, a towel was wrapped around it, and my friend Eddie grabbed on and started applying pressure to the wound. I knew I would need stitches immediately, and after pulling the towel back to quickly look, the boys agreed with my initial assessment.

Without any conversation, it was decided who would come with me to get all fixed up and who would stay behind to welcome the guests that would be arriving any minute. As I was carried out the door and placed in the car, I smiled for a picture before we went on our way.

 

foot-in-car

The two friends who ended up coming with me were really the perfect balance of seriousness to get things done and silliness to keep me distracted and happy. We joked that we were getting a true bonding experience after only having known each other for a few weeks. Our first stop at patient first ended up being pointless. The nurse and doctor took one look at how deep the wound was and sent us packing to the ER. When we got there, it had probably been about an hour from the time I had first gotten hurt. By this time, the adrenaline was wearing off and I have to admit I cried a little as I told the ER receptionists my phone number and address. I pulled myself back together though and went through the process of getting X-rays and talking to many doctors before finally someone came to do something with my injury. I do have to mention how kind everyone was in the ER. Especially compared to the first people we talked to at Patient First. In the ER, everyone went out of their way to make sure my friends could stay with me, and everyone was kind and welcoming. The attending doctor first came in to check out the wound. After getting my ‘okay,’ the doctor brought in some nurses who were just starting and a few other people just to watch the process. She told me that she was going to numb the area with a shot..and I made the mistake of asking if that shot was going to go near the wound. I should explain that up until this point, I hadn’t really felt any direct pain from the wound. I mainly kept being scared that it would hurt, and I was scared by how much blood was coming out, but it wasn’t actually painful. After I asked if the shot was going near the wound, she calmly and matter-of-factly explained that the shot was going IN THE WOUND.  That didn’t go over so well with me, but I also knew that it just had to be done. I held my friend’s hand, covered my face, and told her to keep telling me stories as the doctor got the shot ready. As the needle started to poke at the wound, I started loudly vocalizing my thoughts!!! Listening to stories just wasn’t enough to distract me from the pain, so I had to yell things. “I THOUGHT YOU WERE ONLY DOING ONE NEEDLE. WHY AREN’T YOU DONE YET? OMG IF I’M THIS LOUD NOW IMAGINE ME WHEN I GIVE BIRTH.” I kept up a random stream of consciousness for a good few minutes until she was done. As I peeled my hand from my face, I sheepishly blinked up at the bright lights and the amused smiles on everyone’s faces. I did feel a bit silly after all my commotion, but hey, it helped!

After rinsing out the wound to really see what we were dealing with, the attending doctor decided it was deep enough to call in the resident podiatrist. As soon as he walked in, my friends started making googly eyes at me. He was quite the cutie. That distracted me as he checked out the foot and decided it would be alright to stitch it up. Eleven stitches later and I was finally good to go! They chucked some crutches at me and sent me on my way.

I started getting used to life on crutches. Spoiler alert – it’s really hard! You can’t carry anything because you need your hands to work the crutches! I started carrying a backpack everywhere so that if I needed to bring anything anywhere (which happens pretty much constantly), then I would have some way to transport it. This works pretty well, although the backpack does put me off balance. One time it was too heavy and I stood up and then promptly toppled back over..putting weight on my off-limits foot on the way. Not my best moment on crutches. Even so, I was figuring life out.

I set up a follow-up appointment with the podiatrist, and just hoped he’d tell me the stitches would heal in a few weeks and I’d be good to go……

Fast forward to the appointment, and I sat in the chair trying with all my might to follow his instructions and bend my toes. My big toe just wouldn’t bend! I could move it up and down, but couldn’t get it to make the bending movement. The doctor thought some of this could be attributed to my foot being swollen and bruised, but he wanted me to go get an MRI just to be sure I hadn’t sliced through the tendon that makes your big toe bend.  He was able to schedule me an emergency MRI for that same afternoon, and let me tell you, an MRI is an experience in and of itself!

The next day, he called and shared the news that I was hoping to avoid. The MRI had shown that I had, in fact, sliced my tendon, and there was a 6mm separation in it. Although technically I could choose whether or not to get the surgery to repair the tendon, he shared that with me being young, active, and a runner, he would definitely get the surgery to make sure I could get back to doing the things I love.

 

So, last Friday, I had surgery to repair my tendon. While doing the surgery, the doctor actually found that I had sliced TWO tendons – the one to my big toe and my second toe. He fixed them both and said that everything else went well. He also ended up putting some nerve endings inside some muscle so I wouldn’t have nerve pain either. That sounds so gross, but if it will be good in the long run then I’m glad for it!

I still can’t believe how intense the recovery is for this surgery. At first, before the surgery, the stitches had run in a straight line across the arch of my foot. Now, I have an entire Z taking up most of my foot! I was in a lot of pain for the first week, and I still have some intense bouts of nerve pain, and then random pain near the stitches and in my toes. I can’t put any weight on it for three weeks, and then if all is going well, I can switch over to a boot. I have a huge splint/cast that goes from under my foot all the way up to my knee. I still can’t believe that all of this is happening. I’ve barely ever needed to use a bandaid in my life, and now this!

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My students have been amazing during this whole process, and so has my Virginia community down here. People have been sending me well wishes, getting me recovery gifts (someone got me a brand new knee scooter!!), and making dinner for my roommate and I since I had the surgery. I feel overwhelmed by all the kindness.

 

In about 2 weeks, I’m flying out to Seattle to visit my brother and sister-in-law. I’ve had this trip planned since long before my injury/surgery. It should perfectly work out that I can switch to my boot right before traveling, so I hope everything goes as planned! I have a post-op appointment each week, and I even squeezed an extra one in last week. During that appointment, the doctor said things were already looking even better than they had been two days prior.

I’m still counting down the days until I can wear two matching shoes! Not only that, but I’m counting down until I can start running again, going on walks, taking care of Kato, walking around while teaching, taking a normal shower, going hiking, riding on my dad’s motorcycle, and so much more! This whole experience has really put things in perspective. Although I often consider myself lucky, it’s an entirely different feeling to actually have to put those things you normally do on hold. When I get back to doing all of my favorite things, I hope I can really hold on to this gratefulness for all the things I often take for granted.

 

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