Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Innocuous Stretch that changed my Life

I didn't think that I was going to talk about my injury, but Jayne's post caused me to decide otherwise. I know I have mentioned this injury in the past, but these are different times with different readers, and I will likely write about it differently as well.

I was struck with how Jayne's injury stemmed from a seemingly non-threatening situation, and I realized that such was my case, which presently haunts my later life.

Almost exactly 30 years ago except for a few months, it was the first day of summer vacation. I played a few sets of pretty competitive tennis and was feeling good about my game and looking forward to a summer with much good exercise on the court.

That evening, I took my youngest to her softball game and was warming her up before the game. We tossed a few back and forth. She threw one that I had to reach up and to my right for. I stretched up and felt a pop in my ankle. I actually felt like I heard it too, but who knows whether that is possible.

I don't know why it happened. Was there a bit of a depression which I caught just right (or wrong)? I don't really know, but I knew it was bad straight away, and the immediate swelling provided plenty of confirmation. So I made arrangements for a neighbour to take my daughter home after the game, hobbled to the car, and basically drove with my wrong foot. I got into the driveway, leaned on the horn, and asked Sue to take me to the hospital once she came outside to see what was going on.

These were the days before triage, and I sat in the waiting room quite awhile without being attended to: no ice or elevation. It irks me now to think about such lack of treatment, but that was then.

Eventually they bandaged me up and sent me home with a cane and a prescription for Tylenol 3s. I don't know how many of those pills I took that night, but it was way more than my limit, and they didn't help at all, or at least it didn't feel like they did. I was in agony,

Basically, I spent most of that summer in my recliner where I read a lot of Ludlum. Eventually I had physio and began to get back on my feet, just about in time for school to recommence two months later. Physio had been delayed because my foot had reacted to the bandages and given me a huge blister type of bubble on the inset. It was ridiculously huge.

Back to school I went without a cane and managed to play tennis again the next summer, but it was mostly less demanding doubles and not energetic singles. I remember reprogramming myself to begin my runs with my left foot and not my right, but I managed.

But the injury changed the way that my foot fell when I stepped, and 20 years after the injury, my ankle started to bother me.

Eventually, CT scans revealed the total disappearance on one cartilage plus bone chips. I could have opted for fusion surgery but results couldn't be assured. Not only that, but I wouldn't have been able to put weight on it for 6 months. With, the rest of my body and especially the left knee is not up to me hopping around for 6 months, I decided not to forego the operation.

And so, I live with a limp or at least an odd gait and feel the pain in my ankle with every step. While I don't want to overstate the pain, it does exist. I still sometimes contemplate having that operation although I still don't have a clue about how I would manage that long recovery.

So, I kind of hobble about on my slow but  almost daily walks, but I do keep at it regardless. I call it hobbling, but I trust that it isn't too noticeable. In other words, I don't think I exactly look severely injured.

That seemingly innocent action of stretching for the ball first caused a summer of inactivity and rehabilitation followed by unremitting lifetime consequences although I did have two decades where my ankle was relatively good. I guess that is something to be thankful for. But don't ask me to be overly appreciative. Okay?


Silver Willow said...


I won't ask you directly to be appreciative, but do know that you are 'lucky' that it hasn't affected either knee, or hip, or back. Because 'favoring' one side, like you clearly must because of the pain it causes when you walk or put weight on it, can make your body shift, and be out of balance, and cause pains on either the opposing side, or other joints.
So in that regard, you are lucky. But surely it sucks, and I'm sad for how it changed your life.

Shammickite said...

Yes, it's unfortunate that a simple action like reaching for the ball has made such a change in the way you are able to live your life.
Ankles are funny things. I did some damage by slipping sideways about 1 inch off an asphalt path when I was on holiday in New Zealand 12 years ago.... swollen leg and foot, couldn't bear to put it on the ground, and I thought my days of walking vacations were over.... but after ice, bandages, and doctor visits it's OK now. I guess I was lucky.
Now I have to concentrate on recovering after the hip replacement surgery!

Jim Flack said...

I feel lucky after reading your post and the comments. I had a bad fall in 1980, but with few lasting effects. The worst thing I have done was to slice my hand open to the bone while opening a metal banded crate. That was 16 years ago, and I have no feeling at the scar, but have developed arthritis in the thumb joint where the mishap occurred. Cuts down on the activities I use the right hand for. Writing with a pen or pencil is the worst, and crocheting. Otherwise, I consider myself lucky to get to age 71 with nothing more serious than a cut hand and a broken toe! Take care of that ankle. You got to use it for a long time yet. :)

TexWisGirl said...

amazing how that one small action changed you forever.

KGMom said...

Glad you shared the story.
It is amazing how something so small can have such a long-term, in fact life-long, impact.
As for the hobbling part, I am in full sympathy. Two less than sterling knees and I walk less than gracefully.
But, like you, I walk.

There is that.

Mary Gilmour said...

Many of us have a story. Mine, alas, was my own damn fault. Yours, innocent. Still hurts, and limits activities, regardless. I have had good luck with elastic sleeves on knees, and I see them styled for ankles as well. I expect you have tried this and everything else. I think you are tough to keep walking. I chicken out far too often.
Grandkid minding today. Lovely.

Mara said...

Even though you keep doing things, the pain will always make you wonder whether you should or should not do something. And I guess that you have turned down things or chosen not to do things because you know it will cause you more discomfort.

Hope you will find a solution that will work for you.

Marie Smith said...

It amazes me how something so simple, like the stretch you made, can change our lives to such a great extent. It also amazes me how we adapt to whatever happens, a testament of who we are.

Ruth said...

You should get another surgical opinion on that ankle. Ankle replacements do not last as long as knee and hip replacements, but your time non-weightbearing after a joint fusion should only be 6-12 weeks. I would imagine that the big city will have an orthopedic foot and ankle specialist. Joint surgery options are improving. The circulation around the ankle is often decreased in people who smoke or who are diabetic and that can impact healing time. I get the impression that you are a fairly healthy man.

Jayne said...

Wow. Thirty years ago... that's a long time to still feel the effect of an injury. I'm with Ruth. I'd see what someone has to offer now as ortho surgery has come a loooong way. Hate you have to live with that chronic pain daily.

Vicki Lane said...

Yep. over a long life, one collects these things -- ruptured disk, dislocated elbow, almost dislocated shoulder, worn out knees . . . the list goes on. Nature's way, perhaps, of telling us to slow down.

Kerry said...

Ouch!! I have an old knee injury that similarly reminds me of past miss-steps. :(

Jenn Jilks said...

I played softball and started getting shin splints! sigh,