GP to orthopedic specialist: “Yes, a Jones fracture. At the base of the left foot fifth metatarsel. She’s here with me examining the x ray and swearing…”
True, I did remark, “Oh bother!” (or something similar). After all it was December 10th, and I was booked to travel to my sister’s 90th birthday party in Auckland on the 21st, followed by tramping with a niece, then a flight to/from Whakatane to visit my youngest sister… get the picture? And I was being told that the fracture was serious, that the moonboot was to be worn day and night and most importantly the foot was never, never to touch the floor.
I hadn’t realised it was broken. I’d slipped sideways over a concrete step while picking flowers for a housebound friend and thought I’d sprained my ankle. After feeling nauseous and faint for interminable minutes I got myself upright – after all there was no-one to sympathise or help – determined to deliver the flowers and next evening to take my place in a dance concert at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre. All of which I did.
The visit to my GP was a quarterly routine. An x-ray? That seemed a bit over the top.
Everything seemed over the top after that. I was fitted with a moonboot. I hired a set of crutches. I was told not to drive my car, to move my bedroom downstairs, to shower wearing a plastic bag and to come back in a week.
Getting up my garden steps to my house meant that the doctor’s instructions were fruitless and ignored… how can one get up steps on crutches and one leg. I hired a knee scooter; a friend bought me wide-legged street pants. The hardest feat of all continued to be negotiating stairs. I sat on one stair and levered myself up by pushing with the other leg. As for showering … not an option. My shower rose is a fixture, plastic bags do not keep water out and washing the important bits while ensconced on a plastic chair, one foot up in the air is to put it mildly, a crackpot notion. Suffice to say that for five weeks I washed all over very successfully while standing on one leg at the basin.
Over the first few days, ways to manage poured out. One very successful one was using a stool to go up and down steps by placing the stool on the step and kneeling with the moonbooted leg on it, then stepping up (or down) with the good leg.
One of the difficult adjustments was accepting that life as usual had changed. The very first evening I was due to go to a friend’s 70th birthday celebrations. I was determined to do so, and friends took me. It was a completely mad decision. Later, at home in bed, I suffered from cramp in the good leg and had to get up six or seven times. Without suitable remedies upstairs, I eventually made the journey downstairs on my bottom. I took a couple of doses of everything I could think of, until the cramp subsided and I could sleep (with the boot in a cardboard box under the blankets).
Going to the toilet was even more hazardous. Lowering oneself on one leg with a moonboot on the other off the floor is quite a feat. I am surprised that both my toilet seats are not broken.
On the third day I realised that for the next six weeks I would have to live differently. I gave away my plans of travelling north, and for a forthcoming trip to Cuba. I concentrated on better strategies for daily life. The paper girl happily delivered the Otago Daily Times to my door. I paid folk to mow the lawn, do housework and shop for groceries.
I rang my niece in Auckland and told her I couldn’t come. She wouldn’t hear of it. No amount of me explaining the difficulties deterred her. I will come down to get you, she said. And that is what she did. She arrived in Dunedin on December 20th, and we set off at 4.30am the next day to fly to Auckland. There we attended my sister’s 90th.
Extended family consultant orthopedic surgeon (at the party): What are you doing on that thing? You’ve got good strong bones. You need to be walking.
Me: But… the doctor said…
Him: Walking. You must walk.
Later, my niece and I drove to her home overlooking the Mahurangi harbour where I stayed for three weeks. I obeyed a bit of both of the orthopedic surgeon’s instruction, some foot-up resting and some walking.
Six weeks later the foot was mending satisfactorily and the boot came off, revealing one very skinny leg. Another six weeks have passed, and I am more or less walking normally. I need to. I have much to do. In a month’s time I will be on Lord Howe Island walking, tramping, swimming…
Kath Beattie lives in Dunedin, New Zealand. A writer in many genres, her most recent publication is a child’s reader with Wendy Pye (due out later this year). She recently won first place in the Poems In Waiting Rooms 2017 poetry competition.