Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Broken Foot

One Accident-Recounting to Rule Them All

Many have heard by now about my foot, but I've been inconsistent in how much I felt like retelling the story when various people have asked. So I'm going to write it up here, and refer people here for the details.

One-Stop Pub Crawl

The in-laws visited last week. On Wednesday night, Forrest's brother, Ari, stayed over at our house so we could do a "pub crawl" with our friends Jerry and Aaron. We ended up staying at the first bar we went to: Ballard Smoke Shop, my favorite locals' bar in Seattle. They pour cheap but strong drinks, and are always friendly in a down-to-earth, no-nonsense sort of way.

Walking Without Rhythm

After several drinks, we started walking the 1.5 miles back to our house. We were definitely buzzed, but no one was weaving or stumbling or talking funny or anything like that.

I forget how the subject came up, but I started talking about the funny dance/walk thing that Christopher Walken does in the music video Weapon of Choice. The lyric goes, "Walk without rhythm, and you won't attract the worm" (which is a Dune reference). I started to demonstrate the silly walk.

Unfortunately, I happened to start walking in this exaggerated, unstable manner right at the corner, where the sidewalk slopes down for wheelchair ramp access. My bad right ankle, which I have twisted before, rolled on the uneven ground. I fell onto my left side. Somehow, I skinned my left elbow and knee without tearing my jacket or pants — luckily, this means I got more of a "rug burn" than dirt and gravel dug into my skin.

I'm pretty sure I would have twisted my ankle regardless of whether I'd been drinking before; this is the ankle I've rolled several times over the years, and it's prone to injury these days. But maybe I would have tried to catch myself while falling. But then maybe I would have hurt my wrist too? Or gone down harder on the knee cap itself, rather than distributing my weight over my entire side? Being tipsy might have actually been a blessing in disguise. (I absolutely am willing to "walk silly" in public without any alcohol, so that wasn't a factor in the inciting incident. ;))

Painful Foot

I knew right away that I'd hurt my ankle pretty bad. I didn't even try to get up on it. Instead, I asked my friends to pull my fully onto the sidewalk and out of the street I'd half fallen into. (I'm grateful this was past midnight, so traffic was very light.)

In an encouraging note for humanity, no less than 3 separate strangers stopped and asked if I was okay. I looked up at each of them and calmly told them I'd just twisted my ankle, my friends could help me get home, but thanks for the concern.

They helped me stand up, and I thought I could still hobble on it. So Forrest helped me cross the street, continuing toward home. But we didn't even get halfway across the street before I realized my foot was hurt much more than the "usual" twists and sprains I'd had before. I really couldn't put any weight at all on the foot. So we ordered up an Uber taxi, even though we were less than a mile from home. (I learned that Uber has a $12 minimum. Worth it.)

Only 3 or 4 people could fit in the Uber car, so Jerry and Aaron graciously offered to walk home, leaving enough space for me, Forrest, and his brother to get back to our house. I'm really grateful that everyone was chill about me "ruining" the evening and having to cut the night a little short. Good friends.

Dealing With the Injury That Night (smart)

At home, Forrest had the unenviable task of bandaging my skinned elbow and knee. Damn did that sting. (And, unfortunately, we didn't get the larger knee scrape cleaned enough. It's still sore a week later, so I suspect it might be mildly infected.) He helped me to bed, got me a bag of ice to get the swelling down, and gave me some ibuprofen. Once we'd done everything we could, I stayed lying down while he went back out to the living room to spend some more time with his brother.

In the half hour or so that it took for the combination of ice and ibuprofen to kick in, I was very uncomfortable and distraught with the pain of it. But finally the pain subsided to more manageable levels, and I fell asleep.

Ignoring the Injury the Next Day (not smart)

In the morning, I figured out a funky way of moving on my left foot, sort of a "twist and shout" dance maneuver to get enough momentum to slide on my sock while only on one foot. I also used the wood trim of the house to pull myself along; it made surprising good handholds. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to go in to work that Thursday, so I stayed home.

Between my semi-mobility and Forrest still visiting with his family, I didn't think I needed to take the time to go to a doctor. I figured it would heal up and be fine, just like the previous times I'd twisted the ankle. We went to dinner at The Met to celebrate his parents' 30th anniversary. I hobbled around, often with help from someone, definitely in pain, but I was determined to be as normally-mobile as possible. (Dinner was fantastic, as always.)

But everyone at dinner expressed concern about my hobbling, and insisted that I have a doctor look at my foot. So I agreed that I'd take a taxi to a walk-in clinic the next day.

We also stopped at the drugstore on the way home and bought me some crutches, so I could stop doing the twist and shout around the house. ;)

Diagnosis: Fractured Metatarsal, Undisplaced

And I'm glad I did have a doctor look at it. Because, as it turns out, I actually broke the damn foot.

The doctor gently poked at my foot in various places. Based on where it hurt (the ankle, a little; and especially mid-foot on the outside) and where it didn't hurt (anywhere along the inside of the foot), he said that pattern of pain was normally seen with a fractured metatarsal.

How does twisting an ankle break the foot bone, you ask? Read Dancer’s Fracture (5th Metatarsal Avulsion Fracture) for details. But basically, there's a ligament that goes between your ankle and the outside metatarsal. When you twist your ankle, sometimes that tears. But other times, it holds, and instead pulls on the base of the metatarsal it's attached to so strongly that it actually fractures the bone. That latter scenario is what happened to me.

I took a wheelchair ride down the hall to get x-rayed, then was wheelchaired back. The doctor came back in and told me the x-rays confirmed the fracture. As far as broken bones go, mine was relatively minor: it's not "displaced," meaning it didn't completely break of a chunk of bone; and it didn't even go all the way through the bone, either.

I asked him to scare me with what would happen if I ignore his recommendation to keep my weight off the foot; he laughed and said, "Oh, you're one of those personalities." :P The potential Bad Stuff was sufficiently bad that I have not tried to walk on the foot since my doctor's appointment. Surgery and pins in my foot are things I'd like to avoid!

The doctor offered a prescription for vicodin, but last time I had it (for my wisdom teeth) it made me nauseous, so I declined. He told me to be wary of talking any NSAIDs like ibuprofen, because it might interfere with bone healing. He instead recommended acetaminophen, although you have to be careful with the dosage and avoid drinking while taking it.

Finally, he got me a "walking boot" to semi-immobilize my foot and told me to follow up with my regular doctor in a week.

I'll know more about how it's been healing up, and how long to expect complete healing to take, this Friday at that follow-up appointment.