Sunday, September 07, 2008

Putting My Foot Down: One Year Later

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the car crash that resulted in my calcaneous fracture. By writing this post, I certainly don’t mean to be celebrating the event. But it’s been a while since I’ve written about my left foot in any detail, so I thought I’d let you know where I’m at.

I limp. Given that I’m at the one-year mark, I guess it’s fairly likely that I always will limp. That sucks when I think about it. Not that others don’t have it worse. But it’s weird and admittedly a bit heartbreaking to me when I think back to days when I would just walk—walk without thinking about it, walk without feeling at least a little bit of pain—and realize that, as far as my mortal life is concerned, I’ll never do that again. Ever. I think of one day playing in the yard with my children, running around after them, and I know I can’t have what I’m imagining. Not quite, anyway. I can’t just chase after them. I can speedily hobble to them, sure, but gone are the days when I could hold Eddie up above my shoulders and “fly” him around. Yes, yes, I can sort of do it, but speed (not to mention comfort) is greatly reduced by limping. It makes it too exhausting to do it for more than half a minute, too. So even though my oldest child is only two-years-old, some activities are already lost—or at least greatly impaired. And yes, I get sad when I think about it.

My left ankle is still a tiny bit swollen. At least it’s a bit rounder than my right ankle. My doctor had told me it would take about a year for the swelling to reduce as much as it ever would. But it’s always going to be a little swollen I guess. A little. It’s been a while since I’ve tried to squeeze into size 10½ shoes, but I suppose I’m forever an 11 now. Not that I really need a size 11 shoe for anything other than my left ankle. 10½W should do the trick, but how often do you really see W shoes when you’re just looking at basic sneakers? I never see it. So 11 is my shoe size now.

I don’t have full range of movement in my left foot. That’s the first thing my doctor told me I’d never get back. Here are some of the most noticeable ways in which this impacts me on a daily basis. (1) I can no longer spread all of the toes on my left foot apart from each other. In particular, I cannot get my pinky toe to pull away from my next-to-smallest toe (that is, without manually pulling it apart with my hand). That may sound like a petty thing to complain about, but I really want to spread my toes apart sometimes. It used to be that after I showered, I’d spread all my toes apart and wave my feet around to aid in the drying of my feet. I enjoyed feeling the cool air moving between my toes. Now I cannot get the full experience with my left foot. The area between my pinky and next-to-pinky toe will remain forever moist unless I wedge a towel down in there and rub. But that just never feels satisfactory. I always want to spread the toes and wave them and feel like the job is complete. But I can’t. I really miss that sometimes. (2) I cannot squeeze into my shoes just by stepping into them. Again, not a big deal in any grand sense of the term, but it used to be possible for me to just step into my shoes, wiggle my feet around, and within seconds I’d have the shoes entirely worked onto my feet. Now I just can’t do that. I always have to sit down (or lean against a wall) and use both hands to put on my shoes. I can’t manipulate my left foot well enough to get it into a shoe by itself, and it’s tricky to do it with my right foot because it requires keeping my balance on just my left foot, which is not as strong as it used to be. So it’s a recipe for failure if I try, no matter which foot I’m using. I miss the convenience I once knew. (3) The most notable impairment is when I’m going down a set of stairs. Up isn’t so much a problem. But going down, I pretty much always have to drop onto my right foot. This is because I lack the strength and agility in my left foot to be able to roll forward onto the ball of my left foot. So, when I start to step down with my right foot, I can only go so far before I have to just “let go” of trying to hold myself up with my left foot, and I then basically just fall onto my right foot. I don’t even know how noticeable this would be to someone watching me, other than that I’d probably look like I’m stepping hard when I go down the stairs. But I worry that, over time, I’m really going to do some damage to my right knee. It's taking a lot of impact.

So there you have it. In so many ways, I was very fortunate to sustain only the injury that I did. It would be easy to think that I’ve got little to complain about. But the ramifications of the injury are far more reaching than it might appear at first glance. And probably the worst part about it is simply that the injury (and the car accident) are inescapable for me. So many moments throughout my day cannot help but remind me of what has happened. That can be sad, not to mention tiring. Again, I know my family has been incredibly blessed that nothing worse came of the accident. But these are the facts of how the accident has forever left its mark on my experience of the world, of how a few seconds of time that took place one year ago today will ever accompany me into the future.


  1. I'm so sorry, Ben! I love you!

  2. In order to appear somewhat optimistic perhaps in years to come they will develop a treatment or repair that will enable you once again to achieve all of your former abilities.

    I completely understand the fact that even though when looking at the big picture, these things seem small, but it is very annoying when it is the small comfortable things that are missing.

  3. This made me laugh and cry. I can just see you spreading your toes and waving your feet in the air in your Benny way- it's so cute I laughed til I cried. But the rest was sad and that made me want to cry too. This really is tragic. I had no idea it was so life changing. I'm sorry I wasn't more empathetic or something.

  4. You sound so depressed and I feel so heartbroken. I know what you feel with the nagging, bothersome 'inconveniences.' It should have been years before you had to deal with that stuff. I didn't know the accident left you so affected, although I worried about it. I hope you will get better. We'll keep praying for you. A dear friend of mine once said to me "Heavenly Father compensates you when things go wrong." She was an angel so I believe she knew what she was talking about.