Thursday, October 15, 2009

October 13, 2009: Evening Musings

Hi, friends. I wrote this two nights ago and I wasn’t sure I wanted to post it. But you know how moody weather can make you reflective, how a change of seasons can bring the past to mind. So here we go . . .

This is the kind of day that forces you to think. It’s overcast and cold. It’s been raining or sprinkling since mid-morning, and the cars that rush by make slick sounds on the wet pavement. The kitties are curled up wherever a lamp shines its warm light on a suitable sleeping place. And I’ve made sure those lamps are on.

Whenever I’m confronted with the first days of a new season, it makes me particularly reflective, and images of similar days flash into my head. For example, for some reason I’ve been thinking about trudging around downtown Columbia today; I guess I’ve done that on many other days when it’s rainy and cold like this.

I’ve felt pretty low-key today, too, since I’m suffering from a stubborn head cold that’s really got me down. Taking lots of cold medicine makes me feel rather dreamy and fuzzy, and the synapses are floating from one idea to another.

I realize that I have a lot of “anniversaries” this month, most of which don’t bear mentioning, but the fact that there are so many makes me think this is a somehow charmed month, or that there’s some kind of special “energy” that comes into my life in the peak of autumn that leads me to perform actions, make connections, fumble into situations that turn out to be significant.

Today, especially, I am remembering this day in 2007. Instead of being cold and damp, it was rather warm and dry, sunny, and I was mowing the grass. I got around to the terraces in front. While pushing the mower in my usual few steep up-and-down swaths to get as close to our front steps as possible, my right foot turned outward and I felt something go “clunk” in its outer edge.

And I was unable to put any weight on it, except on just the heel. If I tried to bend my toes or to walk on it, it hurt so much it made me laugh. Yeah, but it wasn’t funny. I figured I had sprained it pretty good.

I’ll try to make a very long story short. The next night at the emergency room, I found out that I had a Jones fracture, which is a break in the fifth metatarsal right in a particular zone that has terribly inefficient blood circulation. Which means that healing will likely occur terribly slowly.

(The fracture, by the way, is named for a British orthopedic surgeon, Robert Jones, who was the first to describe this particular kind of fracture. His 1902 article in the Annals of Surgery is rather interesting, in that Jones himself had suffered this fracture, and he describes in quaint Victorian language how it happened, and what it felt like.)

So, they casted me in the emergency room and told me I’d have to be completely off of it for at least four to six weeks. To start with. This was in the middle of October.

And by the end of November, no healing had occurred. In fact, the fracture had gotten a little worse (that’s the X-ray above). (And yes, I’d been following all the instructions.) . . . So the orthopedic surgeon recommended surgery (now that it was a bona fide “delayed union” and insurance would most likely pay for it), and in early December he fixed the bone with what looks for all the world like a deck screw. It’s like two and a half inches long. (I will spare you that X-ray!)

. . . And even then, it took for-ever to heal. I was out of the cast in mid January, but then I was in a clunky “moon boot” for months, gradually weaning myself off of crutches and eventually into a shoe with a stiff carbon plate to keep my foot from flexing. It was May before I could actually wear “normal” shoes and walk “normally” again.

And even now, I wear special orthotic insoles; I tend to favor the foot out of habit, I limp slightly when my feet get tired, and I still get a little freaked out when I mow that front terrace.

But I’m so glad it’s in the past, and that except for some weird scars on the edge of my foot, I’m back to all my usual activities.

. . . Like dangling my feet in Stephens Lake on a fine hot day this summer. It really felt great to do that. I don’t take such things for granted anymore.

I guess I’m writing this in part to commemorate that event and assert some perspective on it, as well as to put something “out there” on the Internet that amounts to a personal description of what I went through.

God knows as I went through my “compulsory orthopedic surgery seminar,” I did a ton of Web searches on “Jones fracture,” “fifth metatarsal fracture,” and so on. I found a lot of scientific abstracts, many with little relevance to my specific case, and a bunch of generalized articles (primers; they all said the same thing). But I found very few first-person accounts of what it was like.

So if you stumble upon this page because you’ve just been told you have a Jones fracture, just go ahead and resign yourself to be on crutches for what could indeed be a good long while. And yeah, it will eventually get better. And feel free to leave a comment if you want to contact me. I’m full of stories about it.

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