|No, not this shark week. This one|
would arguably be more fun. In
this shark week, I could go swimming
and have an adventure.
|Including down the Casse-Cou, or, si on|
ne parle francais, the Break Neck Stairs,
which, in hindsight, was really unwise.
Did it hurt? Yes. Did it stop me? Nope. I've been in more or less continual pain for seven years now, since a knee injury caused by a puddle of water. Mostly it's low level, ignorable pain. I've learned to push it to the back of my mind and keep going. In hindsight, this was definitely unwise.
Then by the time I got back to work, I noticed that my left foot no longer fit into any shoes that I owned. Since shoes are rather necessary at work, this was no longer an ignorable situation. So I took the afternoon off and went to urgent care, fully expecting to be told I had a sprain or fracture and to stay off the thing.
And thus, it began.
The urgent care doc couldn't spot a fracture on x-ray, but she did see "terrible arthritis" and "the worst bone spur I've ever seen in my career" and strongly encouraged pain medication. She was worried that the swelling was a blood clot and said I needed to see my primary care physician ASAP. On the plus side, I don't appear to have bone cancer, which I hadn't even thought to worry about before the x-ray.
My primary care physician said I had no symptoms of a blood clot, but ordered a blood test just to be sure and to also rule out kidney failure--which I also hadn't thought to worry about before the x-ray. Thank you, medical science, for giving me new reasons to worry at night!
Then, on my way in to work, the doctor's office called and said the blood clot test was high and I needed to go get an ultrasound IMMEDIATELY. (But, my kidneys were fine.) So, detour to the ultrasound and no blood clots. My blood pressure was a little high, but being screened out for three potentially fatal conditions in a 24-hour period is fairly stressful (it's since come down).
Next up is the podiatrist. He takes a look at my x-rays from urgent care. He was unimpressed by the blood clot test results ("with that much inflammation, of course it's going to be high"). He, too, is impressed by the size of my bone spur ("biggest one I've ever seen--that thing is 4 cm long!"), as well as the extent of the scar tissue on my Achilles tendon. (Pro tip: impressing medical professionals is almost always a Very Bad Thing.)
However, unlike everyone else involved to date, he actually has a pretty good idea of what's going on. It has a name. Something like sharko...blahblahblah...pathy, which has become firmly implanted in my mind as Shark Week, even after learning how to spell the first part of it correctly. I could Google the correct name and tell you what it is, but it was named by this French neurologist who liked naming horrible diseases after himself, which I think is a crummy way to obtain immortality and shouldn't be encouraged. If I ever name a disease, it will be after someone I really dislike. Also, I'm protecting you because the photos of advanced Shark Week are about as disturbing as photos from real Shark Week. (Those of you who are nurses and love a nice, disgusting foot picture can ask me off line and I'll tell you how to spell it. But you've been warned.)
Basically, back in April? May? I must've fractured my foot slightly. Because I have a ridiculous pain tolerance (because I'm evidently used to arthritis, bone spurs, and scar tissue) and a touch of neuropathy, the pain wasn't anything I couldn't ignore, so I did. Meanwhile, my highly functioning circulatory system was busily flushing the calcium out of my bones, via the fracture. My foot bones were getting weaker and weaker. More fractures were forming, resulting in the characteristic inflammation that Shark Week brings. Eventually, if I hadn't done anything about it, the bones in my foot would've been mostly shattered and my foot would've looked like it had been bitten by a shark and had to be amputated. (So, really, Shark Week is kind of appropriate, if you think about it.)
|So what's the cure for Shark Week? This.|
Immobilization in a cast for three months,
as close to zero weight bearing as possible.
If I can stay off it, the bones will heal
on their own and I'll be as good as new.
So, how does the good doctor prove his theory? With MRIs of the foot and ankle.
<cue sinister music>
Enter The Insurance Company.
<cue scream of frustration and despair>
Blue Cross immediately approved the ankle MRI (astute readers will remember that the main problem is with my foot). A week later, they deny the foot MRI. Why? Because they figured that the doctor could probably see enough of my foot in the pictures of my ankle.
Let's pause for a moment, while we ponder that one. I have since seen both MRIs, and I can promise you, you cannot see the top front of the foot from the pictures of the ankle. Perhaps Blue Cross has a panoramic setting on its MRIs.
Of course, the doctor immediately appealed. I'm assuming that his appeal included my x-rays, because Blue Cross immediately reversed themselves and approved the foot MRI an hour later. My x-rays are really impressive to doctors.
Then, at last, I was able to schedule the MRIs. I have never had one before. I also have major fidgetiness. Sitting still is torture. I still remember a couple of college classes where I felt like I was trying to climb out of my own brain, it was that hard to sit still. So, in hindsight, I probably should've foreseen the problems involved in getting an MRI. I barely made it through the ankle MRI, and we had to do a retake. I was trying so hard to be still--and failing so, so badly--that I was in tears. The tech flat out refused to do the foot and said I needed to reschedule. So I dissolved in tears on the scheduling desk and cried all the way to work.
But, I got it together, got some great advice from my cousin Jackie (an MRI Guru), and managed to survive the foot MRI with readable images. The doctor confirmed his diagnosis: definitely Shark Week. He told me to order a knee scooter off Amazon and call for a casting appointment as soon as it came in. (A casting appointment for the other Shark Week would've been more fun and likely involved fewer tears.)
The scooter arrived last Sunday. We tried to assemble it. This is a scooter that multiple Amazon reviewers described as "so easy to assemble my child/elderly grandparent/cocker spaniel could do it." I was so worn out, stressed out, and distraught over Shark Week that, naturally, I couldn't do it. The seat was upside down. None of the instructions mentioned how to get it right side up.
Maybe it's stuck? I banged on it with a hammer. Nope.
Eleanor takes a look and takes out a couple of bolts. It moves a bit, but it still wouldn't come all the way out.
I put it away in disgust and cry some tears of self-pity and frustration, which doesn't help, and text my neighbor, who says he'll help tomorrow. The neighbor (who has four small children, a known cause of amnesia) forgets. So, I take it to my room and give it another go. I realize that the reason it's stuck is that when I banged it with a hammer the edges spread out and the pole would no longer fit through the opening. Fortunately, I have a Dremel, so (after Googling how to put the grinder attachment on the Dremel) I was able to grind down the extra metal and assemble the scooter.
|Bob loves the scooter. He likes sitting in the seat and being rocked back and forth.|
The scooter was a little painful to use (it requires putting my weight on the same knee that started all these problems in 2011) but glided smoothly across the floor.
Then I went to work.
The parking lot is NOT smooth. The part that was recently resurfaced is actually LESS smooth than the old, beat up part. Our sidewalks are a mess. And we have a paved brick walkway up to both entrances. The scooter is very wobbly on uneven surfaces. Every pebble, every crack makes the handlebars shimmy. If you lean too much on the handlebars to compensate, the next time the wheels jump on a crack, you wind up face planting onto the brick walkway, having a massive bloody nose that splatters blood all over your new dress, getting scraped right down the middle of your face, cutting your lip, and chipping a tooth.
It was not the best start to the week. In fact, when I made it upstairs and went straight to my meeting, everyone was like, WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? The answer being, I CAN'T GO BACK OUT THERE--THE PARKING LOT IS GOING TO KILL ME, DUH!
But, spoiler alert, the parking lot did not kill me. I made it back and forth all week. I learned to go slowly and to accept the shimmying of the handlebars without leaning forward. I learned when I could move at an almost walking pace and when to inch along. I learned to keep my eyes peeled to the ground for pebbles and cracks. (I also had to interview for my job while looking like the loser in a really sad bar fight. Because, yeah. I needed something to get my mind off of things.)
And then the front brake broke and I learned to do all of those things without the security of being able to have a handbrake to help slow me down. Because, Lord knows, I needed a challenge.
I also learned that most people are really pretty awesome.
When I fell down, three strangers rushed to my aid, gave me Kleenex, and helped me to my feet. One of them found me coming in the next morning and walked beside me the whole way, just in case. I skipped meals for three days because I couldn't figure out how to carry food before I finally asked for a Lunch Sherpa volunteer, and half a dozen people offered to help carry my baked potato. The kids have stepped up and started doing the cooking and cleaning (although, at first, Bruce had to be instructed on what a pantry was). Brent and Molly (my ex and his girlfriend) came over to help fix the broken brake. My friend Cynthia has brought me breakfast unasked several times, magically on some of my lowest days (you know someone cares when they bring you a Bill Miller breakfast taco).
I am used to being the person who takes care of others. I hate asking for help. I hate being weak. I'm furious at myself for needing help. And I absolutely loathe myself for having a preventable disease (diabetes) that caused the neuropathy that enabled me to soldier on through pain long enough to get Shark Week. I imagine people looking at me on my sad little scooter and judging me--for being overweight, for being diabetic, for everything I've done or not done in my life that could have led me to being temporarily disabled at the age of 46. I imagine the conservatives looking at me and saying, "There goes another drain on our health care system! We shouldn't have to subsidize her healthcare!" I imagine the liberals looking at me and saying, "What does she expect? She ate a carne guisada taco! If she'd just go vegan and bike to work, she'd be healthy." (Note: a Bill Miller carne guisada taco is a known cure for veganism. Those things are awesome.) I do know that most of these people are just me, in disguise, and that nothing they say is true.
And so I've disappeared off social media, largely into a dark place of staring into space, knitting, tears, and Mahjong while I've gotten used to the lack of freedom that comes with the cast and scooter. Every problem, from grocery shopping to showering, has, sooner or later, been matched up with a solution, even if it's not the solution I'd like. My kids are learning some life skills. I even discovered that I've lost 30 lbs from my peak weight, in a slow, steady way. So, all is not bad. And, yes, I realize that many people suffer much more on a daily basis than I do, and that I am blessed that Shark Week is curable at this stage. (And I know these things because the judgmental voices in my head keep telling me so, while berating me for feeling sad and sorry for myself and reminding me of the suffering and injustice in the world.)
I left the house today to get a massage, because, dang it, if anybody needs a little self-care at the moment, it's me. My massage healer says she sees this as an old, gnarled grove of trees, hacked down to the roots. She sees me moving through that grove, doing the hard work of pulling up the rotted roots, and, when I'm done, I will plant a field of flowers in its place, transforming the landscape. I hope so. (She has also been telling me literally for years that I need to learn how to receive love. I am certainly getting the opportunity to do so now.)
So, there are a lot of things I'm giving up in the short term: back to school night, tax free weekend, poetry events, scheduling book signings for The Golden Feather, baths, cooking new recipes, going to the gym, shopping, travel, Write Away Days and workshops, poetry festivals, etc. But it is with the goal that I heal as fast as possible so I can get back to all of those things. And more. My Wish List in my bullet journal is full of things that I can't do in a cast.
And you know who's going to be just as happy when I get out of my cast?
Because then he'll have the scooter all to himself.
Mobility aid? Nah, that's a feline jungle gym.