I recently broke my ankle, and it has truly sucked. I have found it helpful to read blog entries written by others who have gone through this, so I thought I would do the same here. I discussed my first week in a prior entry; to briefly recap the date I fell was 2/13 and I broke my tibia and fibula.
February 20: 7 Days After Falling
I was scheduled for surgery on 2/21, and I think the 20th is when the emotional impact really started to hit me. I had my impacted wisdom teeth taken out when I was 20, but I refused to be knocked out (thanks to a bike accident when I was a kid, I don’t really feel pain in my mouth). I was riddled with anxiety and watched all of Russian Doll, finally falling asleep around 4 am.
February 21: 8 Days After Falling
Surgery day! I woke up in a pretty bad mood, and since I was told I could have either one cup of black coffee or one glass of water, I was additionally cranky from my lack of caffeine.
My door was not exactly being beaten down by helpful friends, and functioning on my own was really beginning to wear on me. Try doing dishes or cooking while sitting on an office chair. I was starting to feel like no one gave a shit about me, and that was intensified by the fact I had to take a Lyft from DC to Virginia for surgery.
My parents were both at the hospital waiting for me, and my mom went back with me when they called my name. The woman who had to give me an IV probably hated me — my questions were things like, “when can I wax my right knee again?”and “how often do people pee themselves during surgery?” They told me I could take my Adderall that morning but recommended against it, so I was all over the place with my thoughts. But by the time the anesthesiologist came to take me the surgery area, I was pretty focused on how panicky I felt. When he asked me what I was afraid of, I told him that Tom Brady got an infection and he’s way richer than I will ever be. He rolled his eyes, and the last thing I remember before passing out was him talking about why Brady’s infection didn’t relate to my situation.
When I woke up, I desperately wanted Chipotle, but was told it was “too spicy” because I “would be nauseous.” False. My mom took me to her house, and fed me some soup and a grilled cheese, but I disobeyed all orders and had some spicy nachos delivered. All I’m going to say is I was hungry and there seemed to be no reason that I was not given Chipotle. In the future I will eat whatever I want, because you can tell if you feel sick or not, and I did not. I was also told to wait to shower and to have help with it when I did, and to take the next 3 days easy.
Unfortunately, my feelings of isolation and loneliness only deepened after surgery. While a couple of far away friends reached out, locally that was less the case. My ex boyfriend Thomas (who had very recently dumped me in the most horrific fashion possible) had started calling me before I was even wheeled all the way to the car, and Mark (a guy I had gone out with prior to meeting Thomas), made sure I was alive and sent me a bunch of political tweets to entertain me. Another friend texted me around 11pm. And that was basically it. It didn’t help that I was very hungry (my nachos were not good quality), and continued to be bitter that no one had brought me food. I dealt with this by watching Schitt’s Creek until I fell asleep around 3:30 am, then waking up at 7.
February 22: 9 Days After Falling, 1 Day After Surgery
Worried about my lack of a support system, my friend Brianna had planned to drive down from Rhode Island the day after my surgery and stay on an air mattress in my studio basement apartment. Probably a large part of the reason I’m not dead, whether from a preventable cast accident or intentional, is Brianna.
Since I had fallen 3 days before I moved, I had personal items at my moms how that I had not been able to pack up. When Brianna got to my mom’s house, she immediately started packing my clothes, boxing up stuff that I had planned on doing — stuff that no one else had helped me with. Since I still didn’t feel any pain, we stopped at Target on the way to my house to grab an online order I had placed. After that, we went to the DMV to get my handicap hangtag (a must if you break your ankle), and then to the police station so we could get a visitor pass for her rental car. I was worried about eventually being in pain (and I wanted to listen to the instructions to take the weekend easy), so that was more or less all we did. Even by the end of the day my skin didn’t feel “normal” to me — whether or not it was still truly numb, I don’t know. I also took a shower (by myself) despite having been told I shouldn’t. I felt fine, and saw no reason why I needed to be smelly.
I was worried about eventually feeling pain, so I took a Vicodin before going to bed. It was my only painkiller of the day.
February 23: 10 Days After Falling, 2 Days After Surgery
I woke up at 3:15 am in intense pain. I took painkillers, cried, passed out very briefly, and repeated that until Brianna was up. She asked me when I last took Ibuprofen, and I told her I had been told that was for low level pain, which I had never felt. She immediately found my Ibuprofen and made me take one, telling me that is what keeps the swelling down, and swelling is what causes pain. Within 20 minutes I felt physically fine. The painkillers I had taken that morning would be the last painkillers I would take for quite a while.
This is the day that financial worries really started to take over for me. I’m a contractor, so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid — and I’m not eligible for benefits of any kind. This was the first time I said, “I wish I had just died,” but it was not the last time. Unable to do anything but “take it easy,” my brain just focused on the work I had already had to call out of, and all the upcoming events I would normally work — the thousands of dollars I would now lose out on. The cost for surgery had been a $525 copay for the facility, $75 for the surgeon, and $75 for the anesthesiologist — to mention the $50 Lyft ride to the hospital. My insurance through DC’s marketplace is $294.14 a month, and that was going to be due in just a few days. At this point, the only way I could get into my house was to sit on my ass and slide down 3 concrete stairs, and the cost of installing a railing was likely to be high. It was too much to handle.
Thomas, my ex boyfriend and most reliable local visitor, showed up with some metal shelves. Opening/using my kitchen cabinets and drawers was nearly impossible on a scooter or chair, so they set the shelves up on my counters and pulled out all the plastic flatware, paper plates, and other items we thought I would need.
February 24: 11 Days After Falling, 3 Days After Surgery
This was day 3 of taking it easy for 3 days. “We have to get the fuck out of here,” I told Brianna. And so we did. We made a plan to exchange her rental car (the one she was driving had expired tags), go to Target, and return to the police station for a new visitors pass. I told her I was going to start recording us and making vlogs and blogs about what I was going through.
This was a Sunday, so I was a little nervous about being out on a weekend and using the knee scooter in a very busy Target. I was right to be nervous! By the time we left, I was ready to run people over with my scooter, back up, and run them over again. If you see someone on a mobility device, don’t just stop walking. Be aware of your surroundings! I have a duck for my scooter, and I quacked it a whole bunch on the first day.
When we got back, we set up a Go Fund Me. I have been amazed and touched at the outpouring of kindness I have received, by people I know, people who are friends of friends, and total strangers. It is miserable and humiliating to have to ask for help, and I am glad that I was able to get over it/myself.
Still no painkillers on this day, just lots of Ibuprofen.
February 25: 12 Days After Falling, 4 Days After Surgery
Another day waking up at 3:15 am. No idea why. The best suggestion most people can make to me is because my painkillers must be wearing off then, but I’m not taking painkillers and I don’t have a set bed time.
Taking care of someone who is hurt is exhausting, and at this point I’m feeling bad that Brianna has to wake up and make me coffee and breakfast every morning. Craving hash browns, I suggested we go down the road to Ted’s, a restaurant that has breakfast food. I wanted to walk (well, scoot), but the wind was so strong I could barely control the knee scooter for the block we had to walk from my house to the car. The restaurant was amazing about accommodating my leg, and even though it was about 8:45 am, they happily served us tomato soup and grilled cheese. I have spent a lot of time judging people based on how they accommodate and help me, and Ted’s has now become a staple in my life because they have been so great about making sure I have an extra seat.
Since the wind was too strong to use the knee scooter, we spent the rest of the day hiding in my house and figured errands could wait for tomorrow. Once again, I didn’t take painkillers, just lots of Ibuprofen
February 26: 13 Days After Falling, 5 Days After Surgery
This day was too much. Brianna and I had to go back to Virginia to get more things from my mom’s house, and we decided it would be easier to grocery shop in the suburbs, so we went to a Safeway near my mom’s house. Do you know what sucks? Grocery shopping on a knee scooter. Something that could and should have taken 45 minutes took 2 hours. My anxiety was growing because, other than Thomas, I hadn’t really had visitors while Brianna was in town. She was leaving very early in the morning on the 28th, and I was starting to panic about how I was going to function without anyone helping me. This was it. The final grocery trip, the final person to help me cook, the last time someone would drive me somewhere. It scared me, and it added to the isolation and loneliness I was already feeling. This depression and isolation I felt (and still feel) deserves (and will have) its own blog entry, but it still needs to be addressed here. This was the lowest day I have had since I fell.
I had been very open about needing help, but I felt like people were not taking me seriously. Time and time again, I felt like people who should have been there for me instead minimized my injury. Breaking my ankle ruined my life, if only temporarily. And I couldn’t (and can’t) understand why people were not coming to assist me. Was it because I wasn’t in physical pain? Was it because I wasn’t laying in bed and doing nothing? I don’t know. But I know this grocery store trip broke me.
After 90 minutes in Safeway, I realized that I had forgotten something on the other side of the store. I sat down on my scooter, crying. At this point, if I went and did something, it was the only thing I did that day. I just didn’t have enough energy to do a bunch of stuff. And the grocery store was too much.
And poor Brianna. It’s so hard to help someone, especially when you aren’t getting a break. I have no idea how I will ever repay her for her help during this time. Tuesday was skeeball day, and my team played in Virginia. She was willing to drive from Virginia to DC to drop off the groceries, and back to Virginia if I wanted to go play. Ultimately, we decided to stay at my house. Since I couldn’t handle fitted sheets, our plan was for her to wash and change my bedding, and for her to cook a bunch of food that we could freeze. We were 36 hours out from her leaving me, so it was crunch time.
When skeeball ended around 9pm, two of the people I play with messaged me and asked to come by. I told them sure. Brianna seemed relieved at the idea that there would be people to help her do the laundry, move around some of the heavier items, cook, do whatever.
A couple of hours later, they arrived at my house. Brianna continued to cook, clean, and unpack, and they caught me up on how the team did, and shared some dating stories I had missed since being AWOL post-fall. I talked about the recovery map I had ahead of me, and I tried to help Brianna with my fitted sheet (that is the moment I learned I will not be able to do my fitted sheet alone until I have two functioning feet) while we chatted.
Around 1 am, they left. Brianna and I were both already laying in bed, since we had an early morning the next day. I had, once again, woken up at 3:15 am that day, so I was exhausted.
From her air mattress, Brianna expressed great concern over what would happen to me once she left.
And so concluded week 2 of living with one functioning leg.