Don’t Turn Your Back on the Dogs!
By Kathleen Storm
December 30, 2020
It’s mid-afternoon on a Tuesday and I accompany my husband, Tim, on a dog park date with our Australian shepherds, one-year-old Zeus and ten-year-old Nani. It’s a daily ritual because we have met nice people and pups at the park and they gather at 3 p.m. each day. We are in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic and this is a rare chance at safe, outdoor, masked and distanced socialization for us two-legged folks. It’s also a wonderful place for dog socialization and expending pent up energy that our herding dogs crave. Zeus especially needs to “get his beans out” by running and playing hard each day, or he’s whining and barking demands for this or that and just plain irritating at night when we are winding down.
We treasure these visits, but it’s a production each day, culminating with a mud-caked Zeus needing a bath upon return to home. The dirtier, the more fun he’s had. Nani is less rambunctious and stays away from mud in general, but we all suffer her incessantly barking commands at the other dogs like some middle school substitute teacher no one wants to listen to.
On the ride there, Nani is settled, but Zeus paces the back of the Jeep, whimpering his anxious excitement for the adventure. We wind through fields and enclaves of Eucalyptus trees, thick like a jungle, passing a large scrappy yard we call “chicken village”. Rusted structures and wire fencing, the yard is dotted with chicken coups and chickens meandering or oddly topping one of the coup houses.
“Chicken village!” It’s the appropriate celebratory announcement every time we pass. “I love it here. All of it. So happy we came to Maui.”
“Me too.” My husband nods to the familiar refrain.
As we pull up, we see the cluster of usual friends, standing at the far end of the park, our usual spot beside two shower trees and a kiddie pool for the dogs to splash in. Entering the gate, we unleash both pups. Zeus bounds to his dog friends while Nani surveys the scents to inform her of all that’s happened in her absence. The terrain is what I would call a rolling hill, so we walk down and up to the other side. It’s perfect for a chase or pack run for a clump of dogs, and there are about four or five of them having the time of their lives running amok in circles as we greet our friends.
I sidestep one pass of the throng as they wiz by and tumble before splashing into the kiddy pool with swirling red dirt. They dash out again in full sprint.
“Never turn your back on the dogs!” I offer the well-worn mantra as the dogs look especially crazy today. The “regulars” are two golden retrievers, one black tri-color Aussie like our Zeus and a yellow lab. Nani is a fluffy miniature blue merle, a little stout. We call her a furry sausage much to her chagrin. We’ve enjoyed getting to know each dog’s distinct personality and seeing how they interact over time. There’s a new dog today of medium height, short-haired and sleek, of unknown breed mix. His name is Buddy. He’s not stocky but muscular and looks to be younger, like Zeus, only Zeus is bigger. Like all periodically visiting dogs, as opposed to the regulars, Buddy quickly is tagged it and runs for his life amidst playful growling and tumbles and sprints.
My attention shifts to our friends standing about and I enter the day’s conversation mid-stream. We are standing in the shade of a shower tree, with a gentle breeze dancing around us on this warm day. I eye the dogs running across the grass and circling and they’ve just passed us.
“They are so crazy!” I laugh.
I return to one of our friends, Charlie, who is talking and I lean in with attention. The sound of the dogs circling moves outward towards the fence, so I keep my gaze towards him. The sound wraps back and I turn, but it’s too late. I see a flash of dogs running and averting, except one. The crush of my right knee pushing toward my inner thigh jolts me and surprise registers that it has bent beyond my leg’s capacity. Then release, with a sharp excruciating pain in it’s wake. I look down to see Buddy stunned at having slammed into me at full running force. His head and shoulders the height of my knee. The pain of my shin and knee sear with a rage that shocks me as I fold over, careful not to end up on the ground.
“God damn it, God damn it, God damn it, fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” There is only pain, then I notice everyone surrounding me with gasps and urgency.
“Can you stand on it?”
“I don’t know. Fuck! I’m sorry. Ohhh! God damn it!! That hurts! I feel like I’m going to faint.” The crowd parts to offer space toward the bench a few feet away. I shift on my left leg and turn to sit under the tree’s canopy. “I’m so sorry for swearing. Oh my God!!! Sorry to be so dramatic. Fuck!”
In unison, our friends all console on repeat, “Oh, no… It’s okay.” “I’d swear too!”
“Oh my God!!!” I rock slightly forward and back, again and again, my arms swaddling and sheltering my lower leg from everyone’s gaze and the nosing of curious dogs. Pain was emanating out, screaming from the tree tops and my voice could only offer “Fucking god damn it!” for its effort with refrains of apology. I'm not even colorfully imaginative with my swearing and keep it to two offenders. Buddy is quietly whisked away by his owner out of the park.
“I’m trying not to throw up.” I turn to my husband, who I can see assessing what to do next in his mind.
“It’s okay. That’s normal. You really took a hit. I saw it, make sure you breathe.”
“I don’t think I can walk.” I look at my leg in disbelief.
One of the golden retrievers, eager to make everything better, edges in close and whaps my leg with her tail as I scramble in protection. Everyone continues to cajole the dogs to a respectable distance which is a struggle because I have become the magnet for attention and am now sitting, which is common language for “open for dog lovin’.”
Next, we begin to talk about how I can physically be moved across the rolling hill to the car in the parking lot. Charlie offers the idea of emptying the muddy water out of the kiddy pool for a sliding stretcher of sorts. These are desperate times. I imagine slipping around in the grit of leftover red dirt and water still clinging in the lower creases. The pool sides crack under the awkwardness of my body splayed out as it’s dragged along the slope, men swearing as the edges escape their prying fingers from the weight. Then, of course, every dang dog in the place would see this as a pile on opportunity of pure delight, a collection of dogs launching themselves alight in mid-air with the biggest smiles and tongues dangling out, legs going all directions, all in slow motion before landing gleefully on my person in happenstance fashion. They’d careen into my bones and softer spots scratching the sides of the pool to gain traction once again. Of course, there would be a grumbly mass of roughhousing as they further lose their minds in utter joy at this surprise celebration.
Okay, maybe not the kiddy pool.
“Let me carry you.” Tim says matter-of-factly.
“There’s no way. I can’t. You can’t. It’s too far…I don’t see how that will work.” I can’t bear the thought of him scooping me up with one arm naturally wrapping under my bent knees and pulling them close in to him for leverage. The painful thought shoots out like a lightening bolt.
Brian, dad of the golden retriever duo, offers to help, as in maybe I can lean on both of them and hop my way across. Brian’s much taller than my 5’2” and Tim at 5’8”. My cupped hands over their shoulders won’t give me the needed strength to hobble on my own, though I try for good measure. The impossibility of this points to a dreaded ambulance ride, but I don’t ask, feeling like I’m being overly-dramatic as it is, and no one else is quite sure how hurt I am. And then, what should we do with our dogs? Tim runs Nani and Zeus to the car first, so they are contained.
Once back, he says again that he will carry me and Brian offers his shoulder to share the weight. I’m scooped up into this nice hybrid option, my husband careful not to touch my injured knee. My right hand pulls at Brian’s neck at the collar and we bump and bumble our way across the field, stopping at three intervals to release our fatigued muscles, and breathe. Dog owners on the other side of the dog park cling to the chain link fence and yell, “What happened?!”
I holler back, “Don’t turn your back on the dogs!”, while Tim and Brian murmur curt specifics.
The thought hits me that I’ve never seen Brian’s full face, nor any of our dog park friends, and they haven’t seen mine, except maybe through the windows of our cars coming or going. Tim and I are fairly new to the group at five months in, all well into pandemic times. The rest have been coming for years and I think we’re quite fortunate to have been accepted into the fold. We talk story each day and bring each other food to take home when someone makes something special. Each day we wriggle a little further into each others lives, respectful that the dog park is a sacred, protected space.
By what I consider an against-all-odds sheer miracle, I am gingerly deposited at the edge of the passenger seat to scoot in. We back out to move along the gravel drive to the street and I break down and sob. I didn’t really put on a brave face back there, but it was heroic compared to how I felt. Broken.
The ride home is fraught with shrieking pain at every bump on the road or press of a brake, or gas for that matter. I couldn’t position my leg in any way that didn’t hurt like a mother. So, the ride was peppered with alternating f-bombs and sobbing. We pass chicken village.
“Fucking chicken village!” I offer through tears.
“So, when we get home, I’m going to take the dogs in. You stay in the car. Then, we’re going to the hospital.” Tim’s voice is calm, determined.
I’m resigned to the idea that this is the only reasonable option at this point. There’s no shaking this off. “Okay. I’ll need something to prop my leg up, so it doesn’t bounce around.”
“Let me get the dogs in and I’ll grab whatever you need.”, he says, turning into our driveway.
We park just outside the garage. My mental list starts spilling out in bullet points. “Packing blanket, because the car’s so dirty. Ibuprofen. I need a wash cloth, wet with hot water and my bath soap, then another wash cloth with just water. I have mud all over my legs. And I need my cute shoes, not dog park shoes.”
“Okay.” Tim’s wrestling the dogs out of the back of the Jeep.
“Pajama pants! I can’t have metal on if they need to do an MRI!” I look down at the metal rivets on my shorts.
“Just let me get the dogs settled. I’ll be right back.” Tim strains as the dogs are pulling and bumping into each other through the garage and generally oblivious to direction.
“My canvas bag from the closet!”
The door slams on those words and I notice the sun just beginning to move towards the horizon, soon to be golden hour. My leg hangs suspended by my tired arms and I imagine a queen left standing in the rain while the doorman polishes the door handle to impress her.
Tim emerges with two wash cloths and hands me the sudsy one. The other one for rinsing, he places on the edge of the plastic storage area of the passenger door which is propped open, just out of reach. I begin to soap up my legs.
“I can’t reach my foot.” My words just hang there without ears to hear them. He disappears with the door slamming again. Now in constant motion, he will only hear fragments of what I say as he re-enters orbit and passes back. My legs are soaped up, except for my one foot and I can’t reach the other wash cloth.
He’s out again with a packing blanket to help prop my leg and a pillow if needed.
“Here’s the blanket and a pillow.” He reaches in and tries to mash the blanket into a shape that will support my leg. We are both exhaling exasperation.
“My foot! Get my foot!” My hand is extended to him with the sudsy rag. “I need help cleaning it!”
“You didn’t say that.” He gently washes my foot and hands the clean cloth to me after wiping it clean.
“I did. Twice. Glasses. I need my glasses. And Arnica. It’s in the pantry.” I stammer out items, picturing their location in my mind.
“Well, I didn’t hear you.” He sprints off through the door as I holler, “Ice pack!”
I text “Ice pack!” with a little too much irritation, mashing the exclamation point into place. Then, wrestle with the blanket and pillow. Every jostle, a shooting pain. Each time he’s gone seems like an eternity, though it’s barely minutes. My mind is tired. Tim circles back and is tucking everything into my canvas bag.
“Oh! Phone charger and shoes. I need my shoes.” I’m tired of thinking of things to think of and Tim has no expression though I can feel his eyes roll.
Finally, we are ready with doors closed and we set off down the drive. I blurt, “Ice pack!”
“You never said ‘ice pack’.” He exhales and turns to head back to the house.
“I did as the door slammed, but texted you.” He looks at his phone plugged in at the dash and I realize he didn’t see my text. “Okay, sorry. Logically, I need an ice pack.” I exaggerate the word “logically” for effect, while trying to show only slight indignation. It’s a balance.
“Be right back.” His voice has a touch of long-suffering and I resent him for it while also feeling guilty.
Finally, we pull out of the drive in earnest and I wonder why I had to have pajama pants, feeling encumbered by all the things piled on my lap. The road is bumpy but my leg is better supported, so the pain is less intense. The world looks different as we pass tan beautiful people mindlessly strolling about the main street in the town of Paia. I see couples hiking out to the cliffs to watch the waves as the sun sets and I envy their ease. I feel removed and distant, in paradise, no less.
At the hospital, we pull up to a white tent. I put my mask on knowing I will have to go in alone. A man in scrubs and mask approaches the window I’ve rolled down.
“She’ll need a wheelchair”, my husband says over me. “She took a hit to her knee at the dog park. A dog ran into her.”
Soon, I’m sliding down the seat and gingerly turning on my left heel to lower myself into the wheelchair. Once settled, Tim gives me the canvas bag. “I’ll be in the parking lot.”
“Okay. Thank you, honey.” My eyes reach him apologetically as I’m turned and wheeled towards the tent.
I’m parked askew off to the side. Chairs are socially distanced and I face a corner of sorts, like the naughty one. The canvas bag fills my lap and I find its needing so much space a bother as I hold my leg up at the knee by my hands. The stoic women of triage manage checking me in, in fits and starts.
An older woman walks past me, wearing two kinds of green, forest on top, kelly on the bottom. She’s checking in.
Not long after, I’m wheeled in to sit in the actual lobby and now have a chair to prop my leg up. There’s another woman sitting on the far side of the room rummaging through her purse and a large ventilation contraption buzzes loudly ahead of me. I keep myself occupied by playing BlockuDoku on my phone and alternately reading articles or posts on Facebook.
The doors to the ER swing open periodically and I look in. There are make-shift looking white and see-through plastic coverings over the entry way that can be zipped shut. Covid. They’re currently rolled to each side and taped open.
I notice one of the triage nurses inside now manning the front desk, eating her dinner off to the side. A moment later, another woman approaches me and says, “It will be a few more minutes, maybe ten, and you’ll be taken back for an X-ray. You’ll need to wait out here as all the beds are full right now.”
I must have pierced the ring of disinterest or emotional protection, because everyone now seems nice. “No problem, I’m okay out here.”
My phone buzzes a text from Tim. “While we were waiting in the car I heard one of the people waiting to get in talk about shortness of breath and they were sent here from another facility triage.”
“Was she walking? Green on green?”
“They brought her in after me and have just taken her back. You could probably run to McD’s if you want.”
“I’m just here eating fistfuls of M&Ms.”
“Going in now.” I type quickly as a nurse approaches me and spins me toward the electric swinging doors.
“What kind of dog do you have?”
We talk about our dogs and wonder if we know some of the same ones. This is an island after all. I recount the clash with Buddy slamming into my knee. Along our route to the X-ray, I’m wheeled through what looks to be the command center of the ER, literally at the center with curtain partitioned rooms around the perimeter. Because of the plastic covered entries, even rolled and tied back, I assumed this to be Covid-19 ground zero for Maui. The drone of machines and eerie stillness except for attendants reinforces this, though I don’t ask. We are too busy discussing puppies and such.
In the X-ray room, a sheet covered platform appears as if suspended in the center of the room and I’m introduced to Noel, the X-ray tech. My escort bows out of the room with a friendly wave. Noel helps me settle onto the platform, lifting my leg gingerly into position. Every moment a kindness, care for my comfort and protective placement of my things, like a sister. Easing my sandal off with the greatest of care. I about cry right here, overwhelmed as she lays the heavy radiation protection blanket over my abdomen.
“This will just be a moment. Lay still.”
I breathe shallowly in these situations for fear of moving. Cancer is behind me six years, but every mammogram and MRI to make sure, even when I laid on the radiation table back then for 20 some-odd days, you don’t dare move or they will have to start over again. Worse if you move during radiation. So, I am trained to some anxiety for holding up my part of creating perfect stillness. Granted this is my leg, so it’s just habit. I go straight to that space and box breathing. Noel comes back in and helps me position for a second image.
“I just want to thank you for being so kind. I know everything is so crazy now with Covid and I just want you to know how much it means to me that you’ve been so warm and caring.” My words hang in the air a fraction of a second.
“Oh, thank you, you know, I see so many people around here just going through the motions and I feel like everyone deserves kindness. They are all going through something and are scared. You know?”
She darts back into the control room to snap another image of my knee and shin. Just as quickly, she’s back in the room, confirming the images were a success and gently lifts a sandal to my foot and I am resettled into the wheelchair. She wheels me back through the maze of the ER.
Soon, back in the lobby I’m positioned exactly as I had been before. With a pat on my shoulder and warm wave Noel turns to re-enter the labyrinth of all manner of human frailty and physical suffering. Her generosity erases the trepidation I had from emotionless greetings earlier. I feel seen and sit with more ease. I settle in to the whir of the ventilation machine again and eye the room, even more empty than before.
Another nurse enters the lobby to greet me. “Your room is ready.” A small panic at being wheeled into Covid Central eases when she takes me a different direction.
“We’re going to have a look at you and hopefully have you on your way.” Her manner upbeat. “Here he is. You can start talking while we roll.”
A tall, dark-haired man in scrubs enters the hall alongside us and I feel like we’re in some Aron Sorkin walking and talking banter scene, like in West Wing. “A dog did this to you? We’ll get you fixed up. My guess is that we’ll wrap that leg in a brace and get you out of here. Maybe wear it for two or three weeks.”
I’m wheeled into a white curtain-walled room and turned to face out beside the exam table.
“Stay here for a minute and I’m going to examine your leg.” He rolls a stool up to sit in front of me and places his hands on either side of my calf. “Look at me. Look into my pretty blue eyes.”
His eyes are brown and I laugh. What a relief, a comedian. He lifts and moves my leg. “Okay, ow, that hurts right here.” I point to an imaginary line trickling down my outer shin from my knee.”
“Well, the good news is that your knee is where it should be. There is some swelling, but I don’t see any indication that this area on the inside of your right knee is involved, which is what I was most worried about.” He gently releases my leg. “Let’s get you up on the table face down. What dog park do you go to?”
“Makawao. We live upcountry.” I balance on one foot as I stand, then place my hands on the table as he lifts my right leg and up and over. I somehow wiggle without any grace onto the white sheet. Pain protests in fits and spurts. “Have you been there? It’s big with rolling hills and the dogs can get a good run in. One just happened to run straight into me.”
“I live up there, never been. Here, I’m going to bend your knee and press down. What kind of dogs do you have?”
“Okay. Okay, ow! Right there. This is where it hurts. Same spot.” I reach back and down to point to it again.
He moves my leg around in different positions and I startle with pain and point to the same spot.
“Alright. Good. You can sit up and get comfortable.”
I make my way into a sitting position, legs stretched straight on the narrow bed. “I couldn’t walk, couldn’t put any weight on it. My husband had to carry me.”
“Whoa, what is he some big Hawaiian dude?”
“No.” I laugh. “We had help, but mainly he carried me, stopping here and there to breathe. It wasn’t pretty.”
“Ah, my wife will think that’s so romantic! Carried to safety!”
“I’m going to check with the radiologist about your x-rays. We’ll get you some good drugs so you’ll be comfortable. Yeah?”
“Okay. Thank you.”
He disappears behind the white curtain now pulled mostly shut.
I can hear him talking with another man some distance away. The talking ceases and he eases the curtain aside as he enters. “I’m glad you told me where it hurts. Let me get this on the screen so I can show you.” He moves to the computer next to the bed and brings up images of my upper shin bone and knee. “If you hadn’t been so specific and showed me exactly where it hurts, we may not have caught it. See, usually a break shows up as a black area on the white bone. See this shadow here?”
I nod, though unsure.
“We suspect this is a hairline fracture.”
Oddly, I felt some relief that they found something and know I wasn’t just being dramatic. Broken bone. I’ll add that to my warrior chest. I didn’t have a cavity filled until in my early twenties and no stitches or surgery until forty-seven, the year of cancer. Now, I add a broken bone at fifty-four.
“So, to confirm this we can order a CT scan tonight or you can wait and have a scan in seven days. When you leave here, we want you to follow up with your primary care physician tomorrow. Either way, you’ll have a CT scan in a week.”
“Will my care be different?”
“We’re going to put a brace cast on you either way to immobilize your leg and knee. I can order the CT and it may take an hour or so to get you in. Or you could go home and do it in a week. Doing it tonight would give your PCP the diagnosis rather than waiting.”
“Let’s order the CT.” I trust this more than pulling teeth for it later.
He nods. “Do you want to call your husband to talk it over?”
“I’ll call him after you leave, but no. Let’s go ahead with the CT.”
As soon as he leaves, I call Tim and begin to recount the conversation. He interrupts me. “Get the CT.”
“I did!” I feel thankful that he never flinches when my safety, health or care is at issue.
Growing up, in my teenage years, my dad would have lamented loudly whether I actually needed to go to the hospital or doctor even. “Just walk it off. You know doctors cost money, Kathleen. Do you really think you need it?”
I would have fought and demanded to get the care I needed, like I did after a car accident with a gash in my forehead.
“Just wash it off. You don’t need a doctor. They’re expensive.”
“The policeman told me to get to a plastic surgeon, it is that bad!” I argued and he acquiesced reluctantly taking me to an urgent care where I got a butterfly tape over the cut. My forehead was gashed from smashing into the windshield. I didn’t stop in time and plowed into the car in front of me at a light. I was ticketed, but the police officer was concerned. He wanted to call an ambulance, but I was just blocks from home and asked them to call my dad instead.
“They said it could take an hour or so to get in to the CT.” I report apologetically.
“That’s okay. I went to McDonalds and am listening to podcasts.”
My husband is ever patient to waiting and keeping himself entertained. He’s been in waiting rooms for me before. Two cancers in one year, the second year of our marriage, really honed this talent.
“Okay, sweetie, thank you. I’m really sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry.”
“The doctor asked me if I wanted to consult with my husband. I said no.” I laughed.
“Oh boy. Well, it’s the right thing to do.”
We hang up and a woman enters the room with a pill and a waxed paper cup of water.
“Pain meds, Hydrocodone Acetamin.” She tips a cup letting the pill roll into my hand. I pop it into my mouth. She hands me the water and leaves as I take a swallow and adjust position to focus back on my phone to pass the time.
Surprisingly, the CT room is ready for me.
“What kind of dogs do you have?” The nurse who wheels me away asks and says she has a puppy at home. I tell her about our meet up time everyday and that we’re a friendly crowd as I’m passed on to the CT tech. He’s a handsome Asian man, maybe in his thirties and really friendly. He reminds me of what my son may be like in another fifteen years. I’m back on another platform and adjusted for the scan. He loosely tapes my feet together to hold them in position. As he goes into the control room, I know this one will take longer than the X-ray and that anxiety seeps back in to stay still. More lately, I get into my head on this as my breathing becomes more shallow. I feel my leg begin to twitch from trying to hold it perfectly still and the familiar angst, like an argument, fills my head.
Breathe, Keep it together. My focus on my twinge-y leg intensifies. I stiffen and it threatens to tremor. Breathe. This goes on ratcheting up until I feel the whole thing will split open and my leg will flinch violently. The tech enters the room, everything quiets and shifts back to normal.
“What kind of dogs do you have?”
He has one young dog like ours and his second one just died at fourteen years old. “This is the first time she’s been alone. She goes to grandma’s during the day while my wife and I are at work.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. We lost our Vegas six months before we got our younger dog. We have a ten-year-old as well.”
“Yeah, we think about getting a puppy, but then remember what having a puppy is like.”
“No kidding! It’s hard! It’s really the only good thing about Covid is that we raised a puppy, and could stay home.”
“Yeah. They are just pure love, right?”
“Yes! Love! Dogs are always happy to see you no matter what and they don’t roll their eyes at you like kids do.” I figure I’m going to have the whole ER department showing up at our dog park each day soon with Nani and Zeus the stars of the show, as I’m deposited back in my curtained room with another friendly smile and good wishes.
Once again, I hear two male voices in the distance, similar to before and I wonder if it’s regarding my CT scan. This is confirmed when my doc comes in. I realize I don’t know his name and try to read his badge discreetly but he’s moves too quickly.
“I’m sorry. What is your name?”
“Aloha! Well, it is indeed a fracture. It’s good we know.” He directs someone to get me a cast and crutches. “You need to call your doctor tomorrow and they will take it from there.”
He leaves as a flurry of activity ensues. A woman comes in to give me copies of waivers, printed results and a prescription. Another woman is assembling crutches and returns a couple of times sizing up my leg. I thumb through the papers and see a single sheet detailing abuse hotlines and how to get help. All the interest in my dogs and the story of the dog park, no doubt, were part of their training in observation and inquiry, but I also choose to believe their interest was genuine, as this is the state of aloha.
A cast is quickly fitted and velcroed into place while warnings of “too tight” equals blue toes, red may mean infection. Both are bad signs. My leg is encased straight in fabric-padded metal bars.
“She can take this off to sleep, right?” The nurse fitting me enquires.
“Well, you can loosen it, but your knee needs to stay immobilized.” The second nurse turns to me in response. “Make sure your doctor checks it in the next couple of days.”
Crutches are assembled and ready, as I’m to be trained on how to use them. Instruction is quick and lacking as every one of us is ready to move on and get on with our night. I never see Art again.
The last bit after diagnosis feels rushed and haphazard as in Buh-bye, buh-bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Luckily, the pain meds are taking the edge off. In spite of this, each of the friendly encounters along the way have buoyed me. Once in the car again and on our way home, I regain energy telling my husband of each little vignette and silver lining. I detail instructions and how I think I can manage this without it being so bad. I imagine ways to get from our lower level where we sleep up to the main level were the kitchen and living room are, working out systems in my head. I feel hopeful.
We pull into the garage. I slowly slide down off the seat onto my left foot to balance while Tim holds the door open. He hands me crutches and I tuck each under an arm. I can do this! I inch my way toward the door in the garage leading into the house. At the threshold, there is one step. Because my entire injured leg is forged straight, I’m limited as to how I can maneuver. I angle and turn, calculating how I may manage this small step. One step. I’m not stable enough to hop the height of the step, nor do I have that ability. The weight of my injured leg is cumbersome and clumsily in the way, not to mention will scream in pain at the slightest disruption.
Tim and I are both logical planners, we solve things. That’s what we do. In that doorway, we can not logic through, complete impasse, and I become utterly undone. I ask Tim to help lower me to the ground. Pain shoots through here and there, protesting the jostling, but finally I rest on the floor with my legs still out the door. It’s a self closing door that needs to constantly be propped open through this whole episode. So, no one is happy. I scoot back and drag my lame leg in by sheer force of will and one good leg and both arms. Reality sits with a spotlight on it in sharp contrast to my rosy, hopeful disposition on the other side of the door.
“How am I going to get up now?”
I call my primary care physician the next day. Luckily Tim and I are already scheduled to review routine lab work the following day. Arriving at the appointment, we are bogged down by a gauntlet of inefficiencies too tedious to be interesting. Because of this, I sit in a wheelchair for two and a half hours without proper support for my injured leg. Time with our doctor is naturally short. After discussing labs and referrals for my injury, she turns to leave the exam room.
“Can you look at my leg? Am I even wearing my cast right?” This is my biggest immediate concern.
“Sorry, I can’t. I wouldn’t even know!” She sympathetically waves us off. This is the moment we realize we could have had a virtual appointment, saved three hundred dollars and a lot of frustration.
My upper leg muscle, taxed from lifting without support, gave out the next day and radiates pain indignantly, the whole leg now dead weight. Everything we are doing to manage day to day is done with spit and scotch tape, or from reading online.
I write a friend, "Basically, I’m an awkward tripod with my crutches and a bit off balance the way I have to maneuver around with my right leg lifted slightly forward. I’ve developed work-arounds and systems for getting the most basic things done and staying safe, though precariously so.”
Who knew that as you stand to brush your teeth and keep balance on one foot, that your good leg will cramp and burn at the glutes, a true pain in the ass. This is the case even though I strength-trained for months before.
At two weeks now from injury, I finally receive a call from the orthopedic surgeon’s office and he will see me in two days, Wednesday. My doctor honored my prodding for the CT scan that Art said I would need at seven days and at least some healing is showing, though it also revealed the possibility of a torn MCL, a ligament on the inside of my knee. An MRI is likely coming.
I spend my days in thirds. In bed, in a chair, then upstairs on the couch. Getting upstairs is a production with me scooting up each step on my behind and Tim carrying my leg in a make-shift sling. He then heists me upright to greet my crutches once again.
Tonight, as we began the end-of-evening routine of me hopping precariously down the staircase step by step, balanced by the outward force of my outstretched arms, hands on the railings, luckily at the perfect width, my husband says, “You know? I’ve come to the conclusion that Buddy shouldn’t have run into your leg.”
I laugh. “I know, right? Don’t turn your back on the dogs!!”