Life with a Broken Ankle

It’s been 10 days since I broke my ankle. It feels like about 10 weeks, but for those wondering how I am coping, here is a recap of how life is a little bit different, how I’m trying valiantly to keep my sense of humor, and how my house is a death trap. How did I never know this before now?

Let’s start with the house. And let me qualify this with, any house is a death trap when you have a broken ankle, it’s not really mine in particular – it’s all the things you never noticed before that suddenly terrify you.  If there is something on the floor, I feel like I might die. I keep telling my kids: If you drop something, you have to pick it up. It literally might kill me. They sort of roll their eyes, but it’s kind of working. If anyone leaves their towel in heap on the bathroom floor, the wrath of  broken-ankle-me should be enough to scare them never to do it again.

How did I not realize how many stupid little steps there are everywhere? When you are on crutches, everything is a bit of an ordeal, so even the little piece of wood that separates the bathroom doorway from the hallway is like, herculean, for me to navigate. If I want to go sit outside, someone has to help me down the ONE STEP to get through the back door. (That is not “the” step that did my ankle in, by the way).  When I get in the shower, I have to practically hurl myself over the little lip of the shower stall. Oh. my. god. It’s incredibly eye opening. And getting to the car? Wow. It’s like dance choreography with crutches and maneuvering, and Joe standing behind me to make sure I don’t fall down. and me asking: Why did you put these wood pieces everywhere that I CAN’T STEP OVER…. and then I finally collapse into the front seat like I’ve run a marathon.( By the way, I have gone out two times since this happened, once to the Doctor, and once to the surgery center. )

So, let’s go back just a bit – when this all first happened, I did have hope that perhaps I would just need a cast, that it wasn’t so bad. Then I went to see the Orthopedist, and all of that was dashed within seconds. First, the Physicians Assistant came in, and said: This is really bad. Oh, great. He showed us the X-rays, and explained there was a gaping hole where you could stick your finger in the break. You can’t leave that to heal on its own. You’d never be the same and you’d have horrible arthritis for the rest of your life. 

Ok. I have to say that I glazed over a bit as soon as he said the word “surgery” – and so I was grateful when the Doctor came in, and I tried to focus more on what he was saying, ask some questions, and start to grasp reality. Apparently, in addition to more than one fracture, I also had a torn ligament. The whole thing was a mess. As I sat looking at my ugly, swollen, broken foot on the table, I couldn’t help but think: All those years of dancing, and not once did I break anything! How could this happen?  Then, the Doctor said to us – You’ll want to keep that iced until the surgery, it’s awfully swollen. As I nodded to him, inside I was screaming: You just finished telling me everything that is WRONG in there, all the broken pieces and torn things, SHOULDN’T IT BE SWOLLEN??? Good lord, man. 

The next day, I had a Pre-op call from surgery center that went something like this:

Hi Anne, you’re having surgery on the right ankle, which includes fibula bi lateral open, malleolus, internal repair, and…..gobbeldy gook, gobbledy gook. Does that sound right?

Pause. I answer: Uh..yes…?….I assume the Doctor knows what he is doing.

Do you have any bruises on your body?

Yes, just MY ANKLE.


Clothing Challenges:

In the struggle of not being able to go upstairs, I am living on our couch, which all in all isn’t a bad set up, but I have had issues with my clothing needs. I honestly did not realize how difficult it would be to describe clothes to people who don’t wear your clothes.

So you ask – what’s the problem? Well, here is what happens: Can you get me the beige Capris off the shelf in my closet that have a lot of pockets on them? And a short sleeve shirt.

Three trips later, Joe found the right pants – I thought they were shorts…  Oh.

I realized that when I describe something as “Mauve” or “Pinky peach” – husbands do not understand that.  Blank stare. (And mind you, every t-shirt he has in his closet is navy blue, so it’s not totally his fault.) Then he trooped up the stairs, valiantly tried, but somehow even if he came downstairs with 5 shirts, none of them was the one I was thinking of. In frustration, he said: But this one IS PEACH.  My answer: Yes, it is, but it is not a short sleeved peach shirt. It has no sleeves. 

One night I asked Shannon to get me a sweater- there are about 20 sweaters hanging in my closet, but she somehow found the one that was like, buried way down that I never wear.  But it didn’t really matter (I’m on the couch, after all…not going to a red carpet event). I put it on.

However, I was amazed when I asked Joe to get me a white/cream colored sweater hanging in the closet from Old Navy – and he did it! Victory is mine!

Unexpected togetherness:

One night Joe was at work, and a gigantic bug flew in the house.  One of those clock beetles that looks like a flying roach. I started yelling at my son to get the Raid, which he did, but then we just cowered on the couch together because he was too afraid to spray it, and I was too afraid I might die if I got up.

In that area though, teenagers continue to act like…well teenagers. They are trying their best to be compassionate, but they still have their own issues. Joseph made himself a pizza, it fell on the floor, oh the drama. It’s like, really – you can’t pick up your pizza off the floor? Make yourself something else to eat? I realize, even if I am out of commission, it does not change any of the needs of anyone else. Though you really wish that it would.

In sickness and in health….

Everyone probably knows this – but my husband is a rock. I always knew this, but breaking your ankle tests the whole “in sickness and in health” part of your vows. Because this is the most helpless I have been in 25 years of marriage. Even after having babies I was able to function. But I can do….well, almost nothing by myself except pee, and even that has been questionable at times.  First, he was there to literally pick me up off the ground after I fell. Then, he assured me, reassured me, and dried my tears when I had to sit around with many broken pieces in my ankle before I could have it fixed. He assured me that I wasn’t dying. That a piece of bone wouldn’t float up into my lungs, that my ankle wasn’t actually going to swell up so much it would pop out of the splint and splatter. All of these things. He calmly would say that everything would be fine.

After surgery, I felt pretty horrible. He tried to make sure I was eating, because they said I should eat, but the general anesthesia and the pain medication did a number on me. After trying some various bites of things, and trying to re-hydrate myself, several hours later I waved my hand weakly and said, I think I’m going to be sick, I need a big bowl. There he appeared with a garbage bag just in the nick of time.

After matter-of-factly closing up the vomit bag, (I know he does this for a living…but still…) he then helped me to the bathroom. Among all the other hundreds of things that need to get done around the house, he patiently gets me in and out of the shower. Even after he’s refilled my water bottle for the 15th time, or warmed up my coffee, or cut my banana in half, or moved the cat, or picked up the clothes off the floor, he never loses his patience.  It’s a terrible feeling when you knock your toothbrush on the floor, and you have to ask someone to pick it up. I do not like being helpless, but here I am.

So when you have to be still…


I have decided to be still. I rest when I have to. I am enjoying the view of the flowers that people brought and sent to me. I have re-acquainted myself with The West Wing (forgot what a great show that was) – watched hours of the Gilmore Girls, and now that I am not so tired all the time, I’m starting to read my books. Next week I will be working again, which should help, but I will remind myself to take it slow. I may never again have a couple of weeks where I am told to do nothing but sit down, so perhaps I should figure out how to enjoy it, (now that I’m not in excruciating pain anymore…) not yell at the kids, eat what people make for me, and put on whatever color shirt someone finds for me to wear. Maybe my next trip to the car will be a little easier as well.

Most of all – thanks friends, for texting me, emailing me, sending me nice posts on Facebook – it is all appreciated, and if you ever have the opportunity to buy Joe a drink, do it – he deserves it! Here’s to the healing process!


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