Monday, January 28, 2008

Them's The Breaks

I am coming up on some anniversary of my President Day's weekend broken ankle. We think it is the fifth - that is to say it happened in 2003 - but we are not totally certain. One way I remember when something happened is by associating the event with other occurrences whose date I am able to call to mind. I can recall what was going on at work at that time but the year. And I definitely can recollect what happened on the home front - the biggest February snowfall in the history of mankind (or some it seemed at the time) - but again no date to go with it. I tried researching my town's weather history on the internet and, without paying money for graphs that show precipitation over time, the best I can come up with is 2003. So, since the date isn't really that important we will just say that is when it happened and move on.

It was the fourth broken limb of my (probably at the time) fifty-nine year old life.

The first was my right arm which I fractured at an early age. How early? Who knows? Neither parent is around to remember and I have no siblings or other relatives or friends that might know - so... I think I was old enough to be in school because I have vague recollections, even less definite than my 2003 injury, of a plaster cast with lots of child-like writing on it. The whole thing is one of those early life events that I don't think I actually remember but recall instead the memories that were imprinted in my brain by my parent's recollection of the story to me.

Evidently I was home alone with my father, ran to go to the bathroom, slipped on the linoleum floor (I guess I was wearing socks but not shoes) and fell. It was a compound fracture, i.e. the bone was sticking through the skin. My dad took me to the doctor who, probably with some degree of pain to me, restored the bone parts to their proper position and put my arm in a cast. I cried when I fell but not during the medical procedure - at least that is how I heard it.

My bones then stayed intact until my eighteenth summer when during a summer job as a Recreation Counselor I twisted my left foot badly while rounding first base. I thought that I had simply sprained it but Workers Comp liability being what it is my supervisor sent me to the town's orthopedic doctor. I remember the diagnosis perfectly - probably because of its innate rhythm which, with a little rearranging, becomes:

A Fractured Haiku

Lateral Cortex
Of the fifth metatarsal
Shattered and plastered.

He put me in a walking cast and I returned to work a couple of days later after it had hardened sufficiently to travel in public. Within an hour one of the other counselors hit the cast with an errantly tossed horseshoe, breaking the plaster and giving me most of the remaining summer off. I have no recollection at all of how I spent my unexpected gift of free time but I suspect it involved television reruns rather "Remembrances of Things Past".

Nine years later on a Friday evening Mars (now my wife) and I set out in her 1965 Volkswagen Beatle. A mid '60's Pontiac dreadnought turned into its driveway right in front of us - too close for me, driving at thirty miles per hour, to even step on the brake. Or so I am told. I actually do not remember anything from the time that we drove onto the street on which the accident happened to when I became aware of sitting in the Emergency Room check-in being asked if I hurt anywhere.

In the accident photos the VW looks like a blue, crumbled up piece of origami. The other vehicle looks like a solidly built mid '60's Pontiac dreadnought. We did not have our seatbelts on - the last time we let that happen. As a result Mars was propelled though the front window. Fortunately the top of her head went first, although she did get a lot of facial cuts. I broke my right kneecap on the key and ignition.

Although Mars' injuries were more serious - her father walked right by her in the emergency room - after she was cleaned up and stitched up her recovery, in terms of getting out and about, was actually quicker than mine. Since kneecaps cannot be put in a cast, the doctor wrapped my knee tightly and told me not to put any weight on it. This being prior to the "Born Again Exerciser" phase of our lives, I basically lazed around the apartment and paid at best lip service to the Physical Therapy "program" that I was given - a few exercises on one sheet of paper. As a result my right leg atrophied quickly and to this day is smaller muscularly than my left one. After several weeks on crutches I was unwrapped and set loose.

So thirty-five (or so) years later I went for a walk on a cold Saturday in February, slipped on an icy sidewalk and broke my right ankle. It didn't really hurt that much, so figuring it was just a sprain and not having a cell phone with me I walked home, applied ice and called my Primary physician who told me to get it x-rayed. I went to our local "doc in a box" where they photographed my ankle, said it was broken and not to put any weight on it, gave me a hard plastic brace and some crutches, and told me to see an orthopedic surgeon on Monday.

The next day and evening it snowed. Mars still contends that it continued to snow at least eight inches every other day for the entire two months of my encastment. Fortunately, because of her work out regime, she was able to operate the thirty year old, all-metal, behemoth snow blower that we have. And just as thankfully I was able to pull-start the red metal monster while balanced on my good foot. (In retrospect we probably would have faired better in our auto accident if, instead of the baby blue Volkswagen, we had been able to run the brick-red Toro into the Pontiac.)

We had vacation plans to be hiking in New Mexico in May so, following Mars' suggestion, I underwent personal training at our health club as soon as the hard cast was removed, about eight weeks after the break occurred. Prior to that I found a series of seated cardio and weight exercises I could do at the gym and hopped and hobbled over there every day to do them. About six weeks later, thanks to Trainer Jon's rehab regimen we were hiking the high desert as if the fracture had never happened.

So "them's the breaks" - at least as I remember them.

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