BLACK ICE, Y’ALL. BEWARE THE DARK HEART OF WINTER.
It got me, y’all. The ice got me bad.
So here’s what happened: I was walking past a bank a block and a half past work on Friday evening to go to yoga. I was on the phone with my partner, Jon, to make sure that it was ok that I go to said yoga class. And I slipped on an unseen patch of black ice. My left ankle twisted and landed underneath me.
The good: I didn’t hit my head or anything. Yay! The bad/ugly: when I tried to stand up again, everything from my midcalf on down felt like pain jello. My left ankle would not support my weight. There was pain (not, like, the most pain I’ve experienced), but it wasn’t the pain that kept me from using the leg. The leg simply wouldn’t work. Just wouldn’t go.
Lesson 1: NEVER USE YOUR CELL PHONE IN WINTER UNLESS YOU ARE SITTING IN A VERY SAFE PLACE.
At this point, Jon was still on the phone. I picked it back up and said NOPE NOPE HEY GUESS WHAT YOGA’S NOT ON THE MENU DONE SOMETHING BAD WRONG TO MY ANKLE HEY CAN YOU PICK ME UP.
“Are you ok?”
“Don’t know. Come pick me up.”
“It’ll take me about forty minutes. Do you want to call a cab or–”
“Nope. I want to wait for you.” I gave him my intersection, scouted my situation, and saw some planter boxes about 30 or so feet away that looked decent for the sit-and-wait portion of this terrible night.
Things like this are easier for me if I can break them down piece by piece into little solvable problems. I knew I was getting picked up. I had a place to wait. Now it was just about mapping a route to get to those planter boxes.
Being white, and being assigned female at birth and looking the part, and looking generally pretty young, I got a number of requests for help. I held out stubbornly until that last pillar, when the strength in my right leg was beginning to go, and when I saw that the tiles near the planter boxes were icy. Oh, for fuck’s sake, what if I slip and fuck up my good leg trying to get there. I took a little rest by the pillar to recalibrate. A woman offered to help me, and I took her up on it, hopping the final length, but letting her support some of my body weight.
The planter boxes were not benches. The space for sitting on them was only, maybe, and inch deep. There was no way to get comfortable. But at least I didn’t have to stand balancing on one tired leg. At least it was a place out of the way to rest. While I sat there, someone from the bank slipped out an put a caution sign on the patch of black ice. They offered me nothing. I saw at least one other person fall on the ice anyway, even with the sign there.
I managed to keep my shit together right up until Jon got me to the car.
Lesson #2: Try as you might, you never quite stop thinking like a poor kid.
Ok, so now I’m in the car. It’s all pain jello in my foot. I know it’s not ok, but I’m like, “let’s just go home, ice it, wrap it up really tight and just see how it goes.”
And Jon’s like,”….what?”
“Let’s just, you know, let’s just see.”
“I think you should consider going to the doctor, B,” he says, so very very gently.
And then this happened:
- doctors cost money
- what if it’s just a little sprain and I’m over-reacting THAT’S PROBABLY IT and then it would have been a $150 after-hours co-pay FOR NOTHING OMFG
- they also misgender me? and I’m also stressed out?
- and our other partner, Sam, is supposed to have a date with one of her boyfriends and now my stupid clumsy ass is RUINING IT
- what if it’s not a little sprain (it probably isn’t a little sprain) and the doctors do shit and IT HURTS WORSE
- WHAT IF THEY TRY TO GIVE ME SHOTS I have a thing about shots and blood (I pass out)
- DOCTORS COST SO MUCH MONEY
- THE MONEY! YOU ONLY GO WHEN YOU KNOW IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT AND i’M NOT SURE????
Every single time I think I’ve gotten over this shit it comes back. Every single time.
So I cried about it. And then I told him to take me to the hospital because it was the responsible thing to do even though I really, really didn’t want to go. And Jon was a wonderful caretaker.
Which brings me to:
Lesson #3: I really have to stop relying on my apparently ridiculously high tolerance for pain.
Jon wheels me in and gets me checked in. Someone comes in to see me. My lower left leg is swollen now. They ask me what my pain is at; I say about a 6 (using natural childbirth back labor as a 10). They take me for an x-ray. They ask me what my pain is at again, and raise their eyebrows when I say 6. The technician who wheels me back to my room says I “really did a number on my leg. You’re at a 6?”
I know then that I didn’t waste the co-pay. But all that really means is that there are more and more medical expenses waiting to pile up. Fuck.
Another doctor comes in, tells me that three leg bones join to make up the ankle. Lucky me, I’ve managed to break all three in a single fall. Always was an overachiever, I guess. Might require surgery, she says, and my mind turns on the white noise. They send me for a CAT scan. When that’s over, they try to give me intravenous pain meds (Dilaudid), but I CANNOT DO IT. I have blood injury injection phobia, which is part of the reason my brain went all NOPETOPUS when the doctor mentioned surgery, and is also why when the well-meaning nurse comes in the room bearing a needle I roll over to my side and hiss, “Pills, please give me pills for the pain, I can’t do a needle, I’m sorry, pills only,” while Jon tries to explain. But maybe I should have taken that goddamn needle and passed out and been done with it.
An hour or so later, the pain is at a me-7. A paramedic comes in with a percocet and tells me he’ll splint my leg, after which I can go home. But the single percocet is all the pain treatment I am getting since I refused the other meds, and am I sure?
I am sure. Gotta be now, right?
He comes back to splint me before the percocet has really kicked in, and we do the thing. So, what would have been done on derivative of morphine that definitely would have been running through my system at that point was happening to me on one single percocet that had not really made it to my bloodstream yet. This was grisly shit. The paramedic had a wonderful bedside manner, but this was still grisly shit–twisting bones back to where they were supposed to be through swollen flesh and wrapping all that in place. And my job was to lie there and take it. And I did. Using breathing techniques I learned for labor. It was intense.
Learn from my mistakes, friends. Watch where you’re walking. Use insurance if you have it. And don’t spend a lifetime minimizing your physical pain to an absurd degree such that it bites you in the ass.