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!