06 December 2012

Things I've learned with a broken foot

Click to enlarge. And if you're qualified to read it, diagnose away!  My doc is "busy"
I broke my foot while on O'ahu a few weeks back, and as I've been hobbling around my house and trying to drive and staring longingly up flights of stairs, I've had a few realizations.

  1. Crutches suck.  The technology involved, if you can believe every production of a Christmas Carol ever, has not evolved since Dickens' time.  You need a lateral piece of something onto which you can put your hand so you can support your upper body, and you  need a lateral piece of something to jam into your armpit when your tris and delts give out from hauling your gimpy ass around.  Your tris and delts get sore.  You give in and drop onto the armpit body-weight-supporting bit.  Then your arm pit gets sore.  So you hoist yourself back up off the armpit bit and your arms and delts get sore.  And so it goes. 
  2. Crutches suck, 2: You need a lot of lateral space to crutch with any efficiency at all.  Plant the crutches, bring your good leg as far forward as you dare, allow injured limb to hang loosely in the air because "you're not supposed to put any weight on it," swing the crutches in a half circle out and forward, and repeat.  You'll want to make sure the crutches move the same distance forward, or you'll be crutching yourself around in a circle before long.   
  3. Crutches suck, 3:  How do you carry anything?  You can't - well, not in your hands, you can't.  Not the morning paper.  Not a CD of the Xrays of the injured limb.  Not a bottle of vicodin.  Nothing.  So wear cargo shorts. 
  4. Despite 1, 2 and 3, getting around on crutches is almost always preferable to hopping unless it's over a very short distance.  Hopping... it's as efficient as it is elegant, which means: "in-".  You can get a decent head of steam, but if you're on hardwood floors, how do you stop?  You carom into walls, furniture, people, and doors is how.  You can't carry, well, anything, really.  Theoretically you have both hands free, but go ahead, try to hop - on one leg! - and move forward doing it, and see what your hands do.  And if you have something in both hands, how are you going to balance yourself when you arrive?  There are any number of engineering problems involved here.  So again, I assert that you can't carry anything.  Certainly not a beverage in a container that isn't sealed, for sure.  (I don't recommend trying this - take my word for it.)  Hopping does keep the muscles of the non-injured leg from atrophying, sure, but there are significant risks of new injury through collision, re-injury through missteps and panic, or both through humiliation.  Stick with the crutches unless it's a very short distance.  And there is no one at home with you.
  5. Doorknobs are not load bearing.  Just... don't. When you're sick of using your crutches and you're hopping around the house, resist the urge to fling yourself toward the nearest door to use the doorknob as some sort of cane.  They aren't designed for it.  Best case?  You realize this in the half second you feel the doorknob sag southward and you pull up and put your hand on the door to steady yourself instead. Though in this case the door bangs backwards into the door stop (or the wall, in all probability, since the doorstop may not have been engineered to support the weight of a gimpy adult biped in addition to the door), makes a racket, and inspires your friends and family to holler in from the next room to see if you're okay. (You can holler back "Yup! Fine!" or "...ow..." or the always popular "I was never IN aisle 7!") And yes, that's the best case.  The worst case is when the damn doorknob snaps off in your hand, suddenly and unexpectedly, as your mind and your weight is still counting on something on that side of your body to support you, and you suddenly lurch forward and downward anyway, scraping your arm on the metal entrails of the doorknob's axle as you careen into the door, slamming it against the door stop (or, again, the wall), and you crumple to the ground, whimpering.  Why whimpering?  Well, the indignity of it, for one, but more for the now-bloody gash on your arm, the new bump on your head, and the fact that in all of the flail-age you've re-injured the limb you were trying to protect by hopping around in the first place because in your inglorious descent you put weight on it.  A lot of weight on it.  In roughly the same motion as how you broke it.  Again, see item 2, above: when you are crutching around, you don't need doorknobs. (And see item 4 - make sure no one else is home if you're going to insist on hopping.)
  6. Stairs.  Bloody stairs.  Just... just don't.  Okay, you're going to want to try to do it.  If there is no one around, then maybe.  As you face the stair, do some geometry.  Put the foot of the crutch in the MIDDLE of the step, y axis, making sure you're away from both edges, x axis; put both crutches down at the same time; and slowly and consciously put your tris into it.  (If it helps, pretend it's the tri dip machine at the gym.)  And repeat, for the 17 times or so you need to get up the stairs.  If there are people around, forget about it.  Even if there are only three stairs, don't do it. Let them go first.  Pretend you left something in the car and turn around.  Suddenly grab your cell phone in your cargo shorts and stand and have a conversation.  Inevitably, people will try to help, you will want to encourage them in their well meaningness, and there will be flail-age.  Take the lift. Or, come back in 6-8 weeks.   
  7. Backpacks are your friends.  Put everything in there - your chargers, your laptop, your checkbook, your Cup o Ramen, your flask, everything.  You don't want to have to hop back into the kitchen to retrieve something once you sit down.  You will learn that you really don't need anything in your life that you can't fit into your backpack. 
  8. Drive thru's, misspelled though they are, are also your friends.  You don't have to get out of the car!  Oh my god, that's been a revelation.  Of course when you get wherever you're going you need to eat whatever it is you've just purchased, because, let's face it, you don't want the odor of that "food" in your backpack forever, and that 24 oz Diet Coke you just bought is not in a sealed container so you can't hop with it.  And it won't all fit in the bag that they served you in; and even it will, and you fold the top of the bag over so it will go over the crutch hand part, crutching is not a smooth action - the grease and / or the condensation from your 24 ounces of Diet Coke will, pretty rapidly, with the herky-jerky motion of your forward movement, destroy the structural integrity of the Arby's bag.  And then you'll have curly fries, Diet Coke and skin graft (a/k/a Arby's Roast Beef) sandwich all over the parking lot.  And you can't move quickly enough to flee or pretend that it's someone else's mess.  So just sit in the car and "dine."  It ain't worth it. 
  9. You are going to get fat. You just are.  You are going to hate getting up for anything once you're ensconced wherever you settle; you wait til the last possible minute to go take a leak, for feck's sake, you sure as hell aren't doing cardio and burning up the calories.  And you're hungry because you're sitting around all the time watching TV with your foot elevated on a pillow on your coffee table and your backpack of snacks.  How are you supposed to burn off those calories?  You could crutch around the block, I guess.  But nah, not really. See item 1.   
  10. That rotator cuff tear that's been bugging you since April?  Yeah.  You probably should have had that looked at before you needed to crutch around everywhere.  Because it's clearing right up now. 
  11. Make up a cover story.  It's a great conversation starter, a bandaged foot and crutches, and people who have passed you in the hallway for months will stop and ask what happened.  Make up a story, because "Hungover, walking down stairs, rushing, carrying too much stuff, friends' dog, missed step..." kinda sucks as a story.  "Hiking on lava" is credible, short, tells people you were just in Hawai'i, and will move the conversation forward.  Especially if it's the guy at the end of the hall who always wears scent and fitted shirts and doesn't seem to do anything but a trap-and-lat workout - he doesn't need to know about the stairs. 

I'm sure I've learned more.  Like about two footed driving, for example.  And how jealous you can get of people who walk around without any seeming trouble, they just walk!  And how picking up a package at the Post Office turns into a 23 minute nightmare (thank god the meters go 24 minutes on a quarter). But that's it for now. I've waited to the last possible minute again...


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