insult (and injury) to injury

At this point I’ve gotten pretty good at life on one leg. So last week, for some added interest, I figured I’d take one hand out of commission, too.

I accomplished this through a combination of crutch use, residual effects of a five-year-old shoulder injury, and the sheer gall of presuming to go swimming. Whatever the precise distribution of blame amongst those three factors, the end result was that I crawled out of the slow lane with two fingers not working. The medical term for this is “ulnar nerve entrapment”—but it also has a few nicknames, all of them super mean:

  1. Handlebar palsy: Cyclists commonly get this from bad bike fit or high mileage. Cyclists less commonly get it from falling down the stairs, breaking a foot, and not riding bikes, at all, for months.
  2. Pope’s benediction: As blessings go I would say this is not his best work.
  3. Spinster’s claw: By this they clearly mean a strong, independent woman’s … otherwise powerful fist?
This informative diagram courtesy the talented Danielle MacIndoe and the black hole of injury blogs I fall in every time I break something. Thanks, Internet!

Whatever you want to call it, things were already getting grim when the orthopedist informed me that a new X-ray of my busted foot suggested I’d blown my lisfranc joint—a multiple-surgery repair job that, apart from sucking in general, would require months more on the crutches I needed to quit in order to revive my left hand. Dilemma!

Needless to say, it was an anxious week of waiting before the MRI verdict came back in favor of forgoing the hardware. I am too cautious to celebrate (or even fully believe) this, but for now at least I can take the whole thing as a timely reminder to control my impatience, no matter how badly I want to ride/climb/hike/generally resume life in time for summer.

So remember, kids: the injuries you don’t rehab completely will come back to haunt you—not only when you least expect it, but also when you’re least able to deal. Repeat after me! I will do all my PT, I will do all my PT, I will do all my PT …


Dispatches from the bright side

Today marks one month of the fracture (fractious?) waiting game. With a bit of luck, that’s halfway to walking—but given that I managed to break four metatarsals within sight of my own bed, I’m, uh … not making assumptions. In any case, it seems a good time to review some aspects of this thing that I appreciate:

1) I’m (thus far) not in a cast. Nothing to sign, but I can shower and get jeans on—which is critical, because who can stay positive in cargo pants?

2) There’s no treatment for pathological fear of dependency so effective as being literally unable to stand on your own feet. Beyond the rides and food provided by my (excellent) friends, there is also The Kindness of Strangers—such as crowd-control from the guy on BART who cleared my way to the 19th Street transfer by screaming at the packed car, “MAKE A HOLE! MAKE A HOLE! MAKE A GODDAMN HOLE!”

Big fans of my new crutches include this otter, who examined them at length, and the elderly man in the radiology waiting room who deemed them “fly-ass sticks.” He paused to reflect and then added, “Look like Star Wars.”

3) Navigating my apartment has become a fun bouldering problem featuring countertop mantles and crimps on crown moulding. Plus, all the hopping and one-legged squats are on my weak side, so in a way my current problem is just PT bootcamp for the last one. It’s not a muscle imbalance if both sides are janky, right?

4) My new neighborhood is beautiful and quirky and, like so many things of that description, also exhausting and impractical. The exciting sidewalk terrain has helped me transition quickly from dismay that I’m losing fitness to immense relief that I had any to start with. If I’m going to spend months hopping everywhere, at least I accidentally trained for it.

This is the last of eight
Easter Way, my route to the bus line of last resort. This is one in a series of eight staircases that gains you 150 feet in a tenth of a mile, assuming you don’t have a heart attack first.

5) For all my smartphone angst, I’ll admit they make gimping in 2015 easier than ever. I can track buses, summon cabs when said buses inexplicably disappear, and then spend the ride browsing Instagram for pictures of people who have broken themselves more extensively than I did. I call this “maintaining perspective.”

6) This particular injury comes with a built-in deterrent against one of my most dangerous coping methods for boredom, namely, online shoe shopping. The inventory of things I have not purchased primarily because my right foot wouldn’t fit into them is like a twisted fantasy of Imelda Marcos and the Zappos UX lead. All for the best.

Sorel, what the actual fuck.
Seriously, Sorel, what the actual fuck?

Return of the gimp

By now, I’ve spent enough time disabling and rehabbing limbs that I have a good grasp on the injury gods’ peculiar humor—a potent and sophisticated blend of irony, caprice, and comic timing. So as the date of my return to weekend-warrior-ing approached, I grew wary. A long and challenging work project finished, a semi-frantic house-hunt happily resolved, all my bikes and knees working, and my very own trad rack: that only sounds like a setup for an excellent summer. In reality, it’s just asking for it.

Therefore on Thursday, as I test-rode my new motorcycle, I honored the speed limit and scanned the road for errant deer. I came home, did my PT exercises with the fervor of a rosary, and ate token salad. I packed my bags for Tahoe with every piece of mountain biking armor I own, making a solemn pledge to check my ego and walk any obstacle anywhere near the limit of my abilities. I brushed my teeth, popped some echinacea, slipped on the stairs like a goddamn grandma and broke my foot.

Ah, Alta Bates. It had clearly been too long!

The emergency room never fails to entertain. The surgeon on duty, bald and mad-eyed, cruised the hallways in scrubs whistling “Ode to Joy” while a collection of strapped-down drunks raved at him from various parked stretchers. I chatted with a girl whose muggers had punched her—quite unnecessarily, I thought—in the nose. Around 4 a.m., the PA brought me some graham crackers and prepared a splint. “Is it possible to tape it at, like … maybe an angle that doesn’t hurt as much?” I inquired. “Sure,” she smiled, serene, “if you’d like for the doctor to have to re-break it later.”

“Never mind,” I said. The mugged girl made a sympathetic face.

Well, I did trie.
I even tried to Strava this little adventure, but I was moving so slowly it wouldn’t get off auto-pause. -_-

Since I can’t get a surgery verdict until later this week—and since Jack promised me cookies—I went to Tahoe anyway. One short-lived attempt at “hiking” on crutches was enough to put the fear of fractured wrists in me, so now I’m in the market for some other way to get out on trails, short of crawling. (Current front-runner: pony). Let me know if you’ve got ideas.

In the interim, I’m dusting off what I learned (or hope I learned) the last time around: perspective and patience, grace and gratitude and grit. And I ordered myself five pounds of pancake mix on Amazon Prime, just in case I get too tired to hop down the hill for food. So, you know. Pretty much invincible.