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Archive for February, 2010

Watching the bruises come out has been a little like watching the colours of the a sunset spread slowly across the sky.  At first, there was nothing, just incredible swelling, but the bruises appeared around the ankle the next day — so far, so much expected.  After a couple of days, a weird pale yellow and purple shadowing stretched from my instep across the whole foot, around to the outer heel, and even across a bit of the sole of my foot.

But I was surprised at the end of the week to see new purple bruises coming out boldly over the top of the foot behind the toes.  And then on Sunday — a week after my fall — angry dark bands appeared around the three smallest toes, as though I were wearing subcutaneous toe-rings, wrapping 360° around.

And today, fully nine days later, the bruising has begun to bloom up and across my shin.  It’s been quite incredible to watch it all come out, so slowly… so angrily.  All I can think is, that damage must have really gone deep for the bruising to be rising to the surface only now.

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“The good news is…”  I could see from the x-rays up on the lighted board that there was no break.  “…that I don’t see a break or a fracture.  The bad news is that’s about as bad a sprain as you could have done.  It’s going to take a long time to heal.”  The doctor scrunched up his nose in hard-luck sympathy and his wire-rimmed glasses rose up a bit above the level of his eyes.

“We have a few options.  We could put you in a traditional cast, which would hold everything still and help you to heal the fastest — but it’s not that nice for you.  Or we could just leave it alone and let you walk on it, but that’s pretty painful and you’d end up not being very mobile.  Or, I could give you an airboot, which is a middle ground between the two.”

He held it up — a huge great ugly cross between a ski-boot and something a StarWars Storm Trooper might wear.  I pulled a resigned smile, “Sooooooo, I get the big dorky boot then…”

“It’s not dorky!” he defended.  “They’re quite good really…”  He looked down, turned it over in his hands.  Focusing on the medicine, he missed that I was thinking of my vanity.  “You’ll need to wear it most of the time, to start.  It will be a while before you drive.  And expect it to take four to six weeks before your ankle is fully healed.”  Four to six weeks!  For one moment of stupidity!!!

After the doctor left, the nurse gave me a resistance band and showed me a few exercises.  The he put my foot in the boot and explained how to put it on, how to inflate the sides so it supported my ankle.

“Where are your shoes?” he asked, looking around the room.  I pointed to my Dansko clogs in the corner.  He looked alarmed and spoke sharply,  “You need to stop wearing those!”  And, shaking his head, he added, ” They’re death-traps!”  I knew he was right but, to be fair, they were the only shoes I could fit my swollen foot into that morning.

When we were finished, he walked me back down the hallway to reception.  The doctor was right — the airboot was quite good really.  I was hardly a picture of grace, hobbling as I did, with my right foot clomping loudly with each step, but my ankle hurt an awful lot less with the support of the boot, and this had been a walk I had barely been able to make just an hour before.  I suddenly felt a surge of excitement.  I could get around again! I had my autonomy back!

Vanity may be over-rated.

— a walk I had barely been able to make before

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Mid-morning yesterday, my mother brought me a cup of tea, and my daughters brought their beaming smiles.  “Mummy! Mummy! We’ve made you a card!”

Ah, now, this is what you want when you’re not well — a nice cuppa, delivered to your bedside.  And this is what you envision when you become a mother — the glowing faces of your children as they bring you their home-made Get Well cards.

I looked down at my card, my mother-heart warmed with love.  I looked again.  Was… was this card threatening me?  This is what my children were giving me?!?

My mother chuckled a little under her breath and shrugged her shoulders.  “They told me what to write and I just wrote it…”

E2 had disappeared, but now I heard her footsteps on the stairs. Clomp clomp clomp. Her face was again that wide grin — so pleased to see her mummy after a whole morning without her — and she held in her little hands a plate of carefully laid-out, half-smooshed grapefruit pieces.  My breakfast, from my lovely daughter!

“Oh, thank you, sweetheart!  Is that for me?”

Her brow furrowed and she looked suddenly surprised.  “No! It’s for me!”  And she leaned onto the foot of the bed, setting the plate down heavily and spilling grapefruit juice onto the comforter.

I sighed.  She dug into her fruit.  And then looked up and beamed that grin — that grin that melts her mother’s heart — as juice ran down her chin.

And I remembered what all mothers learn quickly and must never forget:  children bring an abundance of love… but there is very, very little sympathy.

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This morning, when the pain was a little less of a shock and the cold shiveriness had passed, I was better able to assess the situation.  The night had not been good — there was no comfortable position to lie in, and so sleep came in fits and starts — but the situation seemed better… and worse.

On the plus side, I wasn’t as limited in the positions I could hold my foot in.  I could lie with my legs outstretched and my foot falling forward naturally, and  rest my leg to one side without too much pain.  I could adjust my hips or even turn in bed without gasping from the shock of it.  But where I could put weight on the foot last night and hobble forward a few paces, that was now impossible.  There was a pain running up my shin that I hadn’t registered before.  And the bruising was coming out, which always makes things look downright alarming.

My mother watched me crawl — and gasp — my way to the loo and asked, shouldn’t we maybe have that looked at…?  Maybe it was broken?  Mmmmm…  she might be right

I rang the insurance company to find out what they covered and where we stood.  Now that it’s not an emergency, the lady explained, they preferred that we see a doctor before going to hospital.  Yes,  the doctor my mum had recommended did participate in their plan.  Yes, they would cover all the scans and tests he might feel were necessary.  There would be a $40 copay — I knew that already and, even though that’s a significant sum to us at the moment, we could handle it.  And, she continued, there was a deductible we had to cover before the insurance began covering the costs.  It was…  the lady on the phone paused, looking through the numbers on her screen…  It was $2,000 — my heart skipped a beat — but… she looked at the numbers again…  M’s company paid the first thousand.

Ok.  Ohhhh-kaaay…  Just at the moment, having to pay almost any part of that deductible would be difficult, but that little gem about M’s company might save the day.  I looked at my ankle and began to tally: x-ray… MRI…  What might the doctor order?  How much do these things cost?  I don’t have a clue — it might well all come in under a thousand or we could just as easily blow right past it.  I really don’t know.  But — oh! — that swelling just did not look good!

My mum rang the doctor to check if they had appointments available.  The earliest was not for two days and, phone still to her ear, she raised her eyebrows to ask…  Did I want to take it?  I paused for a moment…  wiggled my toes and winced.   Yes. “Yes,” I said, looking back up to her.  “Make the appointment.”

The ankle is painful but stable, my mum is here so I can rest (thank goodness for her!), and the two-day delay still allows us 48 hours to watch things and decide if the appointment is necessary.

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When I heard the snap, I wondered if that was the sound of my bone breaking…  though I quickly realised it might have been the sound of the chair that I fell onto, or the door it slid into, or the stair-gate that took part of my fall.  The pain in my ankle was so intense that I just couldn’t tell, and sat there on the floor instead, unable to speak and taking in great gulps of air and letting them out in silent, open-mouthed, chest-wracking sobs until M finally realised that I’d really, really hurt myself and came rushing over.

He thought it was only a sprain, but he wasn’t sure either.  He pressed gently there… and then there… and I squealed, squirmed.  Eventually, I worked up the courage to try to move my toes: pain shot fresh up the leg, but the toes moved.

“It’s probably a sprain,” he announced, and then paused… and wavered.  “But perhaps we ought to go have it scanned, just in case…”

We’ve not really used our health insurance much, he and I.  We’ve used the girls’ insurance plenty of times in the past two years so I know how it works, but we’ve hardly touched ours and I’m not totally confident about what’s covered or how.  “I… don’t know what our copay would be for a hospital visit,” I said.  I looked at my ankle, considered wiggling the toes again…  “Grab your insurance card, would you?”   It listed the copay amounts for a doctor’s or specialist’s visit but, maddeningly, not for a trip to ER.  What it did point out, right at the top of the card, that we were covered for ER trips for “life-threatening and emergency” situations but would have to pay extra costs for anything else.  And I wondered, did a broken ankle count?  If it turned out to be a sprain, would the insurance company accept that there was a chance it might not have been?   Simply put, would they pay?  I wasn’t sure.

I handed the card back to him.  “Let’s wait awhile and… well, let’s just  see how it goes.”

Time seemed to confirm our decision.  A massive goose egg appeared and, eventually, I could put a bit of weight on it…  gingerly… gingerly… and make it as far as the loo — a good sign, though it left me exhausted and shaking.    We agreed that couldn’t have been done on a break or a fracture, and both felt a bit better about the decision to stay home.

M rang my mum and arranged for her to come round tomorrow and take care of the girls.  Thank goodness for my mum.  9am?  No, 8am, please — the girls do sleep late, but one or the other  always wakes early and asks for the loo and I can’t move at all.  How about 8.30?  No, 8… please.

When he got off the phone, he came and sat next to me, took my hands in his, looked a bit sheepish.  “I’m sorry I can’t take the day off tomorrow.  You know I would…”  I know, I told him.  But we can’t afford a day without pay.  Between the economy, all this bad weather, and his operation, we are on our ninth week of below-subsistence pay — we most definitely cannot afford a day without pay, and we both know it.  And then I thanked God it was my ankle swelling up and not his.

“If we were in Britain, I’d take the day off.  You know that, right?  I’d take a couple of days off!”   He felt really bad about this, I could see.

“I know.”  My injury, his injury, pain, illness, family emergency…  there is no room for error — no matter what, his job must go on.

He pulled a tight smile, rueful, and looked away over my shoulder.  “If we were home,” he continued, “we’d have gone to hospital, had you checked out…”

“I know.”   A medical decision based on cost, a chance for early treatment lost to financial constraint — it’s how it goes.

And the moral of the story?  The lesson to take away?  It could be about the system, but that’s all been said before. Today, the lesson is a personal one: do not climb up on your daughter’s rocking-balance toy to demonstrate how she can pretend to snowboard along with the Olympians on the telly.  Because you’re staring down the barrel of 40, my dear, and when you take a mis-step getting back down… well, your body just doesn’t bounce back the way it used to!

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A few things that every modern mother should keep in mind:

  1. Vaseline has an endless number of uses.
  2. Vaseline is fascinating.
  3. Vaseline comes off of hardwood floors so much better than it does out of carpet.  Hardwood wins again.
  4. Even still, Vaseline is very, very hard to remove completely from hardwood.
  5. Stay calm.
  6. Start by lifting the majority of it off with tissues.  Be sure to grab a full box — you’ll be using a lot.  Don’t forget that clump over there in the hallway…  oh, and another there in the doorway to the bedroom… and, oh look, more Vaseline in the bedroom… in a trail round the bed… on the bedstead…  there in front of the dresser…
  7. Then grab your all-purpose cleaner and start scrubbing, because even when you’ve removed the majority of the thickness of it, there’s still a lot of Vaseline slimed to the floor.
  8. Calm down now.
  9. Once you’ve abandoned the useless all-purpose cleaner, turn to ordinary washing-up liquid.  The sudsing action will start to break through the greasiness of the Vaseline… it will also spread it, and probably not do your hardwood any good.
  10. Vaseline is slippery.  Washing-up liquid is slippery too.
  11. Now you’ll have got the majority of the Vaseline off the floors but you’ll never be able to get it all up — there will remain a very thin coating on the floor that you just won’t be able to get up for love nor money.  So, remember that the floor will be slick and you’ll need to take as you walk back across the roo….  OAFFF!!!  That had to hurt!!!
  12. Terrified children who have just witnessed their already-enraged mother slip up on a thin slick of Vaseline and fall full-weight onto her arse do not take much encouragement to go into their rooms and shut the doors and sit quietly hoping no-one will notice them, so do try to control to urge to scream at them at the top of your lungs.
  13. Stop screaming.
  14. Stop screaming.  They’re gone.  They’re in their rooms.  You’re screaming at an empty hallway and I know it feels good to release, but… stop now.
  15. Put your cleaning materials away.  Then pause, lean heavily against the bed and rub your aching hip  …and then realise the house is perfectly still for the first time in months.
  16. Ah… breathe out slowly and enjoy the blessed quiet.  You see?  Vaseline has an endless number of uses.

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