October 21, 2013

Oh My Aching Ankle

I really should consider myself lucky. I've never broken a bone, never had a serious illness (unless you count having a bad case of chicken pox as an adult or the Great Valentine's Day Stomach Virus of 2010) and I've only been an emergency room patient once as far as I can remember.

But that injury that led me to the E.R. back in 1990 still haunts me today. Here's how it went down: I was heroically playing in an intramural softball game in college on a team called Irreverence (don't ask). In the right-handed batter's box there were a couple of holes from people digging in while at the plate.

I don't actually remember whether I was hitting and on my way out of the batter's box at the time or perhaps trying to score. Or maybe it was a defensive play. But at that moment I was running across the batter's box and badly sprained my ankle in one of the holes. 

Once the laughter died down (hey, I would have laughed at me too) and people realized I was actually hurt, one of my friends helped me hobble across the street to the college's infirmary. There was a running joke at the time that the only people who worked in this infirmary were retired nurses nearing the age of 100. And no matter the malady, the only thing they would do was give you Motrin.

So in we went; I told the kind, elderly nurse what happened. She looked at the giant ball of swelling that used to be my ankle, gave me some Motrin (of course), an ice pack, a pair of crutches and said I needed to get the ankle x-rayed because it could be broken. Lovely. 

I didn't have a car at the time, and neither did my buddy who'd helped me get to the infirmary. But the college had vouchers for a cab company, so Nurse Methuselah called me a cab and told me to go to the E.R. for an x-ray.

My buddy didn't want to come to the hospital (knowing it would probably take hours), but he waited with me until the cab came and helped stuff me into the back seat. He slammed the door and said to the cab driver, "Lakeland Regional Hospital, and step on it!" The cabbie was not amused, but I thought that was the funniest thing anyone said to a cab driver other than when the Fresh Prince said, "Yo, homes, to Bel Air!"

The cab dumped me off outside the hospital and I crutched myself into the E.R. Nowadays emergency rooms have online advance check-in to reduce the wait time. But not back in 1990. So after I checked in I had to wait until they took care of all the gunshot wounds, stabbings, impalings, poisonings, near-drownings and other serious injuries. Who knows, Massive Headwound Harry may have been in the waiting room ahead of me too.

By the time they called my name I figured my ankle had already healed. No such luck. It wasn't broken but it was pretty badly sprained, so the E.R. doctor referred me to a orthopedic doctor/foot expert to see as soon as I could get an appointment.

Dr. Scholl told me to stay off the bad ankle for a few more days. That didn't last long, however, because I was so sick  of the crutches that I ditched them the next day. The doctor also gave me a really stylish air cast. I did an exhaustive internet image search to try to find a picture of the type of air cast I had. Maybe technology has improved since back then because I didn't find anything like it. Here's something similar, except mine strapped all the way up to my calf:

He also gave me some fancy ankle exercises to do to help strengthen it. I recall having to "write" the alphabet with my foot over and over. What fun. Maybe I should have played the piano with my feet too.

I'm pretty sure I followed most of the doctor's instructions reasonably well. But my ankle has never been quite the same ever since then. I've never re-sprained it to the extent of the original injury. However, it has always looked a little bit larger than my other ankle (permanent swelling?). And every couple of years or so I aggravate it and it aches for a few weeks. It happened again the other day.

Does anybody have any Motrin?

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