I took the day off yesterday to go to the doctor and have my ankle examined. As I thought, it’s sprained. That’s been a thing ever since I broke it at age fifteen—twice.
There’s a comedy of errors in that bit of personal history.
It was the day after New Year’s, 1990. I was fifteen. Over the winter the family had taken in a black tom cat, whom the hag had decided to name ‘Buckwheat’, after the character from The Little Rascals. She was and still is horrendously racist, though like all bigots, she’ll deny it with all the false indignation bigots can muster.*
Anyway, David had taken a liking to the animal, in fact bonded with him. Buck (I’ll call him that from here on) was aggressive, tended to dominate all the other cats except for Bambi, our pride’s elderly tabby matriarch. Even as she approached the age of twenty, she could still put him in her place, and he respected that. But Buck was the only cat I’ve ever met who stomped rather than walked. You know how cats typically walk lightly on their feet, all silent like any predator worthy of the role? Not Buck. He stomped, made himself heard so you knew he was there. Assertive, kind of a bully, just like David. That’s why they got along so well. Bullies are drawn to one another in, not exactly friendship because they’re too antisocial to make real friends, but there’s a mutual understanding and sense of camaraderie.
But I digress. Buck was never an indoor cat, and as long as he lived we could never keep him in the house. He’d always get out despite our best efforts to block his escape. See, the hag didn’t like our cats getting outside; too much chance they’d get run over by a passing car or tormented by a neighbor’s child, or taken, or killed by a stray or loose dog. It was a paranoia, to be sure, but had at least some basis in experience.
So, in those early days before we largely gave up trying to keep Buck indoors, he’d frequently try to escape and it was typically up to me to retrieve him. This is when that fateful day arrived that I broke my ankle. The day after New Year’s of 1990, Buck had once again run out the door, and I hurried to catch him and bring him back inside. Of course, it being winter and plenty of ice on the ground, I slipped, twisted my ankle, and felt the pain of bone snapping.
A trip to the emergency room (Dad took me, as always, because the hag could never be bothered) confirmed a zig-zag fracture of the growth plate in my ankle. I was put in a leg cast below the knee, given a set of crutches, and sent on my way. After the first cast came off, the doctors and nurses at MetroHealth Orthopedic Center sent me home, having failed to take any x-rays.
Note that I said “first cast.”
For a week I continued to hobble around on crutches because I was unable to put any weight on my ankle without stabbing pain shooting up my leg. On the sixth day after getting the cast off, I was walking into class when my foot caught on the metal strip in the doorway that is found on the floor in public buildings. I don’t know why these strips were thought of as a good idea. Anyway, that sent me to the nurse’s office in agony, and after some minutes’ rest I was sent home, picked up by Dad to finish the remainder of the day with my ankle elevated.
The next morning it was raining heavily. Dad dropped me off at school. As I walked to the elevator to go to home room, either the rubber tips of the crutches slipped on the wet floor or, as some told me later, some dweeb with nothing better to do than get his laughs at the expense of others kicked them out from under me. I never did find out which scenario was actually true. At any rate, I was down on the floor, in familiar agony, my ankle having been twisted again. I knew it was re-broken. A trip with Dad back to the emergency room confirmed that the fracture had been done anew, though thankfully there was no new damage.
But I learned an irritating fact at the hospital: the imbeciles at Metro had sent me home that first time with an ankle that wasn’t fully healed. Had they taken x-rays at the time the first cast was removed, they could have seen that and applied a walking cast then and there, and maybe I wouldn’t have suffered a re-break. So, this time they gave me a walking cast, toe-sock, and post-operation shoe. I still used the crutches, though, not trusting the doctors to have done a proper job. This was MetroHealth in the 1990s, after all, and back then they didn’t have a good reputation for doing much right. They still don’t.
Since that year, my ankle has been weaker than it otherwise would be (the general lack of adequate calcium in my diet hasn’t exactly helped me maintain good bone density, either). I’m prone to spraining. In 2004, I was working at that time at Boston Market. One day in the summer of that year I woke to find my ankle swollen and stiff, and in pain—not as much as if it had been broken, but I had a lot of difficulty walking on it. A trip to Fairview Hospital revealed a sprain. The thing is, though, that I hadn’t fallen or done anything that could feasibly have injured it. As it turns out, though, excessive walking and standing on a weak ankle can actually result in spontaneous spraining, and I do a lot of both. Lifting heavy objects can push the strained ligaments past the tearing point, and that’s what happened.
This past weekend, it happened again. Had the truck on loan from work come with a dolly, I might have avoided this latest sprain, but alas, there wasn’t one included, so I had to lift all those boxes and tubs and furniture. I had help, yes, but still, the strain on my ankle was there and it gave out as it was going to. This is why jobs that require much walking, standing, and heavy lifting are increasingly beyond me as I get older.
So there you have it, my trip down the bone-break memory lane. There’s another one to be had, but that’s for another time.
*: I have another story about bigots taking offense to being called out, that took place over this last weekend. I’ll get to that soon.