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Lessons from a sprained ankle

Running

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POSTED: May 5, 2013 10:30 p.m.

There’s an old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
I heard it growing up and didn’t understand it much. I recognized its message in Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi,” and I internalized it with the heartbreaks of my adolescence.
But I’ve never really considered how greatly the saying might apply to my health, mobility and agility.  
Every morning, I wake up with the assumption that I will have just as much— if not more— mobility than I had the day before. I have good fortune, age and my recreation activities on my side in that regard.
So my world was thrown into a frenzy last week when I collided with a friend while playing in a scrimmage game for my six-a-side co-ed soccer league. Both in a quest for the ball, my left foot and his right became snarled together somehow, and it seems my ankle gave way to untangle the two. I shifted the weight to my right foot thinking everything was fine, but when I stepped with my left leg I knew something was wrong.
That was the last time I walked with the certainty that a passive lifelong habit can provide. The next morning I sought the expertise of an urgent-care clinic, where they conducted X-rays and said there was no indication of a break.
Just a severe sprain. And when I say severe, I really mean it — I remember tweaking my ankles several times as a child and it was never more than a day’s pain and a few days in a brace. This time, I was given crutches, an air cast, prescription painkillers and orders to stay off my foot for at least a week.
Getting around on crutches is its own challenge, one that comes with an elevated heart rate and sore hands. But it also adds dimensions of hardship to things we do with ease when we’ve got all four limbs.
Plating my dinner and grabbing a drink to take to the table? Without someone else’s help, that involves pushing a chair back-and-forth with my knee and the items I’m trying to carry propped on it.
Changing clothes? Good thing I can hop on and off of my bed for support.
Getting up and down the stairs to my second-floor dwelling? That takes the cake. It’s one of the harder and most fear-inducing things I did all week. Compounding that frustration is that everyone who watched me navigate the stairs suggested another way I should do it.
While the two days I took off to properly ice and elevate my injury were a nice mental vacation, the truth is I was itching to be up-and-at ’em, running with our new canine companion and attending my favorite new group fitness classes.
The situation has been especially frustrating since I can only partially meet the needs of our newest family member, a 2-year-old rescue dog named D.D. We also entertained family in Savannah — one of the most walkable cities in the country during one of the most beautiful weekends in months — and we were tethered to a car and places with quick road access.
Fortunately, I had orders from a physical therapist to begin putting weight back on it Tuesday night, one week from when the injury happened. I’m still supposed to be vigilant about icing and elevating, especially as my first few days using my left foot will be painful, but I’m elated to regain some function.
This experience hasn’t come without some good lessons, though.
Not having normal function has given me a chance to see the world as someone with their own disabilities may see it; I’m more aware of the differences between American Disabilities Act accommodations than I ever would have been before. It’s also given me a sliver of understanding for the level of lifestyle modifications that Wounded Warriors have to make, but it’s shown me how incredibly resilient we can be as we search for ways to adapt our behaviors.
Relying on my other half more than ever, it’s also given me a profound appreciation for all that he did to help me this week, like preparing our meals and serving them to me, tending to D.D.’s needs and picking up all of our household chores.
It also brought out the softer side of all of my sources; I attended county and education meetings this week, and everyone I interacted with inquired about my injury and wished me a speedy recovery. Those words were a reminder that regardless of the differences we may have, we all have common interests and are in a supportive community.
But most of all, the week of inability has multiplied my appreciation for my health and ability, fueling the fire that inspires me to live well.

 

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