THE DIAGNOSIS AND GETTING HOME
With no other choice, we went to the nearest Emergency Room.
Again, getting out of the car and into a wheelchair was something embarrassing, frustrating and painful but we managed. After checking in, they moved me to an ER bay and we waited. Like all emergency rooms, they were busy and did the best they could. Over the course of six hours they took my vitals, asked me what happened, offered me pain meds which I declined because I didn’t want to fall asleep there. They brought in a mobile x-ray machine and took pictures of both ankles. The ER doctor interpreted them and diagnosed the left ankle as having two broken bones— the posterior and medial malleoli) but he was also afraid that I’d broken the weight bearing bone in my right ankle so he ordered a CT scan. He was unable to get the on-call orthopedic surgeon to read it so he had to make his best guess. Afraid that he’d have to admit me if I could not bear weight on it, he took his time and determined I’d only chipped the bone (we learned a week later there was nothing broken in the right ankle, just a severe sprain). He ordered that they put my right ankle in a very heavy walking boot and my left ankle splinted.
The nurse again offered me some pain management. This time I said I’d take one. The doctor wrote a prescription for hydrocodone but the hospital wouldn’t fill it that night. New laws or something.
The splinting process, in a word— sucked. My ankle and foot had to be manipulated into a ninety degree position so as not to weaken the tendons in my leg and foot. My leg, ankle and foot were wrapped in a type of bunting material before the two splints were placed. I don’t know the name of these nightmarish strips but they hardened into sharp-edges that I later hated and wanted removed. They dug into my swollen leg at weird spots and the bunting was something Ginger wanted to eat if she could get her teeth on it.
Now here’s the funny part…
The nurse brought me crutches.
Let that sink in for a moment. I have a leg in a haphazard splint, I’m in shock, in pain, and my “good” foot is in a giant walking boot, swollen and hurting. I also learned that evening that my upper body strength was sad and needed work.
I gave it the ol’ college try and the result was as I feared. I almost face-planted right there in the ER bay. After three or four tries I told Tom to grab a chair so I could sit down and cry some more. Finally, the nurse said, “I have an idea but you aren’t going to like it. I’ll be right back.” She was gone about five minutes and returned bearing a packaged walker. “I know it looks terrible but it may give you better stability.”
I glared at her because she thought I was too vain to use it! “Give me the walker.” I found I could at least hop/shuffle a few feet without falling on my butt before getting tired. By now it was 1:20 am and I was exhausted. The nurse finally said, “Why don’t we put you in a wheelchair for the rest of ride outside.”
Again, shuffling into the car was difficult but the boot eased the pain a bit in my right foot. My husband wanted to know if he should stop to fill the prescription for pain meds and I said no. I just wanted to go home and go to bed.
My mother had been dog sitting while we were at the emergency room and Tom had called her every time we got an update on the situation. As we drove home I started worrying about how I was going to get into my house. We live in a one story (THANK GOD) but there are two steps into the house. How was I going to navigate those steps with the walker? With a splinted left leg and a sprained ankle and walking boot? I was already unsteady from the evening’s trauma and I worried I’d hurt myself just getting into the damn house.
I ended up turning myself around and sitting on the floor inside the door from the garage. Getting up was something special, and not graceful at all. The noise from the dogs was almost worse but eventually I crawled into a dining room chair by leveraging my elbows on the seat and pushing with my right foot. Once I was seated, I was able to stand into the walker.
The next obstacle was getting though the baby gate we’d just installed to keep the puppy out of the living room. It divided our house in half. The puppy, at that time weighed about 28 lbs. (She’s over thirty now.) She’s a mixed breed baby of Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Labrador and Boxer. She’s young, excitable and not well-trained. I was so upset I hurt myself and all I could think about was how I’d planned on spending the summer months training her before I went back to my part-time job at the high school (in northern Nevada, we only get 8 weeks off for summer-mid June, July and return the beginning of August). As I stared at the gate and the dog in question I realized all my plans had come crumbling down. I wouldn’t be able to do anything with her.
The walker, of course, didn’t quite fit through the gate and had to be lifted over but I negotiated it without too much drama. Now I had to figure out how to go to the bathroom, change my clothes and get into bed. I’d taken the one hydrocodone the hospital gave me on departure and it was starting to take effect, lessoning the pain in both my ankles.
As I stood in the water closet of the master bathroom, I stared at my husband with tears pouring down my face. “Never in my life did I think you’d have to take me to the bathroom. I’m so sorry.”
He said, “Honey, it is what it is. I love you and it’s okay.”
Scandalized and embarrassed, I went pee and wondered how I was going to stand up. The walker wasn’t meant to be hopped or propped on. It’s meant to stabilize unsteady walkers with two good feet. He had to hold the walker in place while I tried to use what little upper body strength I had to stand up on my booted right ankle.
It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t fun. But eventually I was standing again. The next hurdle was getting out of my clothes and into my pajamas. In the mean time, my mother had left to get a walker that had a seat. The thought behind that was if I got tired and needed to sit down, I could.
So while my husband helped me change my clothes and put me to bed, my mother drove to Walmart to buy a different walker at two o’clock in the morning.
My husband and mother stayed up to put the new walker together and neither went to bed until almost 4am.
In the meantime, I lay on my back, with my left ankle elevated on a pillow, praying Ginger didn’t jostle me too much and trying to stay in a position where my ankle didn’t scream in pain.