I didn’t think it was that serious. I fell while hiking and figured I had sprained my ankle. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Repeat. After two weeks I couldn’t flex my foot and each morning I would wake up to find it more swollen than when I went to bed the night before. I went to a doctor, then a specialist. She said, “See how your ankle is moving like that?” I enthusiastically said, “Yes!” for some reason thinking that was a good thing. “It’s not supposed to move like that.” Oh. An MRI and x-ray revealed I had torn all the ligaments in my ankle, as well as chipped part of the cartilage. Surgery was pretty much my only option.
I had multiple pre-op appointments and learned that after the surgery I wouldn’t be able to travel for a few weeks. That I should keep my leg elevated to reduce swelling. That I should apply ice, and that I may be nauseous afterwards from the general anesthesia. That I’d be in a cast for approximately six weeks, with three of those on crutches. We talked about the procedure, who would perform it, and what I could expect afterwards. I was feeling pretty optimistic.
I groggily woke up after the surgery, somewhat disoriented, and finding it difficult to form words. My friend Warren picked me up, drove me home, and explained to my parents (who were in town visiting) all the doctors had shared. I slept.
I woke up a few hours later. Oh, my goodness. Doctor, I think you buried the lede. We talked about a lot of things pre-op, but never did you mention “You’re going to be in excruciating pain. For days.”
Maybe this seems like common knowledge, but for someone who has never had real surgery, the kind where they cut you open, it seems like kind of an important detail. Knowing I would be in pain wouldn’t have prevented me from having surgery, but I wouldn’t have questioned my sanity as I woke up every 43 minutes during the night from searing pain, wondering, “Is it normal that I’m about to go Incredible Hulk on this cast and bust out of it?”
The pain subsided around day five post surgery. Not disappeared, but subsided to the point where I felt somewhat normal again. And grateful. Being on crutches has slowed me down. I notice more details. I’m more deliberate about decisions. I appreciate, more than ever, having a small apartment. I notice so many acts of kindness, both large and small. I love that my parents left homemade chicken soup in the refrigerator before they left. I am appreciative that strangers hold open doors for me and that Uber drivers help me in and out of their cars. I love that friends stop by in the evening, just to say hi. Or to make dinner. Or to do the dishes. It’s lovely to open an email with movie or book recommendations. Or open the door and find an Amazon package there, someone sending well wishes. I look down and smile at the brightly colored scribbles on my cast, artwork by friends’ children. This isn’t so bad after all.