Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hitting the Breaks

I recently broke my foot. I would like to be able to say that I broke my foot during a K2 mountain-climbing accident or in a nasty bar fight. But no. I was loading boxes on a rainy day, slipped on some steps and maimed myself.

Before this, I had never broken a bone. For the first time in my life, I felt fragile (sniff). I also experienced, ever so briefly, a small inkling of what it feels like to be disabled.

When I went to the supermarket, I looked for the motorized carts. Often, they had not been recharged. But when they were, I went Nascar throughout the grocery aisles. It took me a while to get the hang of how to drive one of those babies, but once I did, I was tooling around, piling cans and boxes into the basket like a pro. It was all frolic and games until I passed someone else who was permanently disabled in another motorized cart and felt guilty for having so much fun. Although the person driving the other cart seemed mildly amused.

That reminds me: When I first got my crutches, the nurses were too busy to give me any instructions. I had no idea how to use them. The height was not adjusted properly and, well, I was doing it all wrong. My daughter suggested I look up how to use them on YouTube. There, I found a video filmed by a 5-year-old girl on crutches who taught me everything I needed to know. The only caution I would offer to others who may use crutches in the future: make sure your good foot is wearing a well-padded shoe or you will damage it with all the impact it is taking on behalf of your gimp foot.

Even after I mastered the ancient art of crutch walking, I noticed just how heavy entrance doors in public places can be when you are trying to balance on sticks and push them open. Occasionally, someone would show pity on my inept coordination and hold the door open for me. More often than not, people would bustle by, impatient at the slow obstacle in their way. This is, after all, New Jersey.

The hardest part about a broken foot is the amount of time it takes to heal. Normally, it takes 4 to 6 weeks, which is a limping-long time. But I broke my 5th metatarsal—whatever that is—and my doctor said that bone can take longer to heal because it moves around a lot. In my case, I was told 6 months, although I stopped needing crutches and the ugly Velcro shoe made in China after about 8 weeks.

So what did I learn from having a fractured bone? If you break your foot, seek medical advice from small children on YouTube, milk it for all the sympathy you can get and saddle up in the motorized carts at your local grocery and department stores. Oh, and avoid extreme sports, bar fights and being a clumsy twit.

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