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The Unwanted Gift that Keeps on Giving

All the king’s horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. Much like the surgeon and all his men on my shattered ankle. It turns out that when you destroy your bones and shred your soft tissue, it can’t all be fixed in one surgery. 

Yes, I recovered to the point of being able to walk. When I am well-rested I can almost walk without a limp. Once I’ve been up moving  a while I walk like a drunk. When I’m not wearing good shoes with my custom orthotic I walk like a drunken Frankenstein! 

As fun as it is to let people think I’m THAT mom who goes to the grocery store stumbling drunk at 9:00 in the morning, the constant pain hasn’t had the same comic relief effect, it’s been my personal hell. 

After going to several specialists for opinions I relented to having another surgery in the hopes that I could gain even a slight increase in mobility and a decrease in pain. 

Surgery is a very different experience when it is carefully planned in advance instead of being thrust upon you in a traumatic shit-show. This time I could clear my schedule, shop, clean, and make sure my leg was properly shaved and ready to be flayed. The only benefit of being ambushed by surgery is that you don’t have to dread it for weeks. Knowing that I was going to willingly have my ambulation taken away again for a few weeks was a big pill to swallow. Even though it’s been extremely painful to walk on this janky- ankle at least I could walk, it’s hard to go back to the walker/crutches/balance on one leg lifestyle. 

Two days ago I underwent surgery to address damage that still existed in this mess of bones pretending to be an ankle. There were quite a few issues to be addressed: bone spur, scar tissue, and a large tear in my posterior tibial tendon. Also, since the ankle was already prepped it was decided that going ahead and taking out all the metal hardware would be best. All in all I had incisions on three sides of the ankle. It hurts every bit as terribly as you would imagine. 

I’m back to zero weight bearing and spending most of the day with my toes elevated above my nose. It sure feels like I’ve gone back to square one. Fortunately this time everything was carefully planned and calculated. Recovery should be much quicker and more predictable. This time I know the tricks for using mobility aiding devices. This time I know how to maneuver from wheelchair to walker to toilet without drama. Believe you me, toilet drama is an added insult to injury that no one deserves.  And this time I didn’t start out by spending four days writhing in pain and hallucinating while corked up on morphine. All things considered, this is just a normal, sucky, surgery recovery. 

I’m praying this is the last ankle surgery for me. I’m praying I will have much less chronic pain after this heals. And I’m praying this horrendously unwanted chapter of life will really come to an end. In the meantime I am looking forward to playing Mario Kart through the aisles of Schnucks on the motorized scooters again soon! 

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I literally feel your pain!

Exactly 10 months ago I shattered my ankle. It’s a great story, if you missed it click here. At the time it happened I scoured the internet for an injury just like mine. I could find lots of ankle fractures, a couple trimalleolar fractures, maybe a dislocation, but I could never find one so grotesquely dislocated to the outside (eversion) like mine. As I was repeatedly told by doctors, nurses, and physical therapists it was a “unicorn” injury. It just wasn’t common enough to find a lot of them online. I needed to see it though. I needed to know if I’d ever be okay. I wanted to understand what happened inside of my skin that day and to read all about the process of recovery. But, alas, I was kind of alone to blaze the trail.

All this changed a few days ago when NBA Celtics player, Gordon Hayward, did pretty much the exact same thing to his ankle.  It was described as grizzly and gruesome and I can’t get enough of the media coverage. On one hand it stirs up my PTSD to see him laying there on the court with his foot pointing to wrong direction (I remember that feeling!) on the other hand I’m finally getting the detailed information about this horrifying injury that I so desperately wanted when mine was so new. This handy graphic is a great illustration of what broke and how my foot was able to turn 90 degrees to the outside and then fall limp away from my leg.

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My heart absolutely aches for Gordon. He has no idea what’s in store. Although in most ways I know he is in a better position to heal from this injury than a middle aged, not in great physical condition, housewife with commoners insurance and limited access to covered physical therapy, but I still know that he is not going to be returning to playing basketball anytime soon, if ever.

I think about the frustration and tears I’ve had in the last 10 months because I can’t go to the mall, zoo, or Six Flags with my kids. I have to plan one outing at a time with lots of leg up rest time afterwards. I’m in pain EVERY SINGLE DAY. When I’m not wearing supportive shoes with an orthotic insert my foot collapses and I can barely walk. It’s life changing. It has been humbling. I haven’t always handled it well but at least it didn’t end a dream career for me.  I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have joked about being thankful I don’t have to walk/stand/run for a living! It’s not a funny joke anymore.

The articles I have read so far mention that he won’t walk with full weight for 1.5-2 months (It was closer to 3 for me) and that he has 4-6 months of intense therapy (yup, so far I can agree) and that it will take a couple years to see where his full recovery lands him (I’m not there yet.) So far everyone seems to be keeping alive hope that he will return to professional basketball. I pray that he does. I pray that this injury doesn’t steal his livelihood and his happiness. I pray that he has a great support system and lots of friends and family to rally around him in these horrific first months where he will have so much pain, frustration, and fear.

Best of luck Gordon Hayward, from one broken janky-ankled gimp to another.

~~Delaney Rhea

*Too bad the only way I’d ever physically have something in common with a professional athlete is in broken bones!

That time I posted porn on the internet…

A few weeks back I was just chilling out on my deck, talking on the phone to a friend, looking out at our acreage and living my comfortable and predictable life.  I saw something up by our garage that just didn’t seem right.  Still on the phone, I wandered over to investigate.  There, half sticking out of a hole by the garage door, was a rather large and healthy black snake. Now, I’m not one to try to name snakes and make friends with them but I’m also not phobic so I put my gal-pal on speaker and snuck a few pictures of my slithering guest.

While I was still standing there I noticed a couple more black snakey heads pop out of the hole near the big one. Uh-oh! I don’t mind a snake just wandering through and stopping for a break, but I’m not sure I want a whole Duggar-style family pad right at my garage door.  I snapped a few more pictures and decided to look for a way to handle this situation.

Did you know that there are actual snake LOVERS out there who are more than happy to identify them and help out with information about relocating them safely? It’s awesome, and right there on social media.  I found such a group and posted my pictures and concerns.

Me: Hi, this big black snake is in a hole by our driveway and two smaller ones were poking their heads out. Nest? Should we relocate or leave alone?

Within minutes I got a reply.

Snake Guru #1: Western (Black) Rat Snake (Pantherophis obsoletus.)

Snake Guru #2: Snakes don’t nest. These are males since it’s breeding season.

Breeding season? I was thinking it was a mama black snake and her babies (silly non-snake person.) It was porn.  I posted snake porn! I’m a monster! 

Hangs head in shame.  

But really, who knew?

It’ll just share this ‘clean’ picture with you… well, as far as I know, who can tell what’s really happening in that Redlight District Hole by my house? 

Happy snake mating season! 

Its a marathon, not a sprint.

Posted on

Today is 5 months to the day from my accident resulting in a shattered ankle.  Five months can seem like a lifetime or it can pass in the blink of an eye. I feel like this past 5 months has simultaneously been both for me.  What do I have to show for these last five months?

I’m not regularly using any kind of bracing on my ankle these days. I often have kinesio tape wrapped around it like the worlds most expensive and unwanted burrito. I will sometimes use a compression sleeve if I’m having a particularly swollen kind of day: burrito gordito. I own the most expensive ugly shoes imaginable and inside of them are more crazy $$ orthotics to help support my poor foot in ways it can’t support itself. Basically, I’ve spent ridiculous amounts of money to wear terribly ugly footwear. I had a shoe saleswomen tell me, “People should be looking at the smile on your face, not the shoes on your feet anyway!” I kicked her. No, I didn’t, I broke my good kicking leg. I punched her. No, no I didn’t do that either. However, didn’t buy a new pair of ugly orthotic $150 shoes from her either.

All my life I’ve heard people say that a sprain is worse than a break.  I always assumed those were dumb people. I mean, a broken bone is the worst, right? My breaks were complicated, out of place, shatters and you know what? They are healed. Yes, there is a lot of metal holding them together, but fortunately I’m still young enough to have strong bones and they have grown back together and are finer than frog fur! So, why then am I still in so much pain and still doing so much therapy to learn to walk without a limp? Oh, that would be because of all the strained, sprained, and torn soft tissue in the foot and ankle from my grotesque dislocation. (How do you know a “grotesque’ dislocation? When the paramedics make comments as such and ponder how to splint a foot that’s pointing the wrong direction and kind of dangling off of the leg.) I completely hosed the ligaments and tendons responsible for holding my foot in place and allowing for proper movement of the ankle and they are slower to heal that molasses is to flow on a cold day.

Here’s the good news and celebratory update: When I’m rested, moving slowly and really thinking about it… I CAN walk without a limp. So we know it is possible. That is truly a wonderful blessing. I was warned early on that it might not be a possibility for me. However, I’m still working up to the strength and mobility to be able to have a normal walking gait naturally.  I suspect that this will be a few more months. But I’m finally starting to believe that it really will happen. In the meantime, when I get tired I wobble and hobble along like a drunken peg-legged pirate. Ahoy, matey, soon I’ll be walkin’ like a real landlubber, but fer today I be a three sheets to the wind seadog.

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~~Delaney …the drunken pirate

One small step for mankind…

One giant leap for Delaney Rhea!

Today is three months exactly since my accident and shattered ankle. Three months is merely a drop in the bucket compared to a lifetime but it has gone by so very slowly for me.

Progress is a fickle thing.  Some days it is obvious and other days it seems to tuck tail and retreat. It turns out that the anesthesiologist who took care of me during my surgery is also a client of my husband. They had a jolly time of shaking hands and catching up over my morphine-laden, shock stricken, belly-aching pre-surgery self.  In fact, I think they knocked me out sooner so they could compare the latest sports scores in peaceful quiet. Last week my husband was at this doctor’s office to do his tax-magic-stuff (numbers and math… eyeroll.)  My hubby told him that I am making progress in my recovery. The doctor confessed to my husband that because of the complexity of my break he assumed it would be about three months before I’d see much in the way of progress.  Then… get this… they laughed!  Yes, caring doctor and doting husband laughed.  In my husband’s words they laughed in mutual agreement because, “Progress sucks!”

Truer words have never been spoken.  Progress sucks!  If you are doing it right it hurts. Only in the last couple weeks have I not had to take painkillers and muscle relaxers to be able to sleep on a nightly basis. Now only after a particularly long day or hard session of physical therapy do I need them.  It doesn’t feel like progress when I’m in pain but I know that I’m pushing myself harder and doing more so pain is going to go hand in hand with healing.

Now I am weaning out of the boot into an ankle brace that I wear with a regular shoe.  It sure looks like progress. I can even get around with only one crutch now on most days. But in the evening, or on a rough day, I still need my boot and I still need two crutches. Then the progress seems lost. That’s where it is so important to remember that, indeed, progress sucks! 

My husband works crazy stupid hours this time of year and has always depended on me to carry more than my share of home/parenting duties during tax season. This year I’m not up holding my end of the load. I asked him if he’s stressed out and frustrated. He laughed again. He reminded me that he saw my foot immediately after the accident. He sat in the E.R. with me before it was set in place to face the right direction (apparently it was black/green) and he was with me everyday in the hospital. He took me to my first post-op appointment when the cast was removed and we first saw my swollen, bruised, patched back together Franken-foot. He laughed because he has always had realistic expectations for my recovery. He said I’m exactly where he imagined I’d be three months out. Apparently I’m the frustrated and stressed out one with unrealistic expectations. 

I’m really hoping that in another week I will be walking in small increments without a crutch at all.  I might even be able to do short errands without them. But when the pain and exhaustion set in I have to remember that returning to the boot or crutch isn’t a setback in progress, it’s proof of progress and proof that I pushed myself.

Go make progress. Even if it sucks. Find what you need to use as your crutch and push through the pain. Set realistic expectations and surround yourself with people that love and accept you every step of the way.

And just for honesty’s sake, yes, I will absolutely miss using the motorized carts! They are the slowest yet most fun way to grocery shop! 

Maybe you should pray for me…

When I was a little girl I thought prayer necessitated folded hands and kneeling bedside. The problem is that I was smart enough to know that monsters live under the bed, so I knew that kneeling next to the bed was just asking for it; prayers or not! Not much later in life I imagined that prayer deserved gowns and candles and chanting. Actually that makes me wonder what ancient religion I was channeling. Plus, it seems wise to never mix fire with long gowns. Now I’m at a very different stage in my prayer life. I just sat here and wrote a beautiful account of how I’ve matured into a solemn and professional praying Christian. Then I laughed out loud and deleted that steaming pile of lies. The truth is that sometimes praying is emotional and powerful, but mostly it’s awkward and organic. I have proof.

The following is an (almost) unadulterated account of a recent prayer session of mine:

I was in the car stewing over a rough family situation and obsessing over how to handle this delicately festering relationship. I finally decided it was time to give it over to God and I began to pray out loud:

Dear God.

Sheesh, why’d I say that so stupidly formal. 

Yo, Big G.

Oh that’s just wrong. Sorry.

Okay, God, here it is,  I need to unload this…

** Suddenly a car cuts me off, causing me to spill my hot coffee on my lap**

OH FIRETRUCK! (except, I didn’t yell firetruck, because who says that when they scald their crotch during a near-death road rage incident?)

Oh great, I just said that during prayer. I’m sorry. Wow. Um, God? Did you hear that? Of course you did. Duh! Yeah, so, I’m a hot mess, obviously my problems are probably my fault.  Throw a poor dog a bone? I may not be the most lost sheep in your herd. I’m just the one walking in circles and butting my head into the fence over and over…

Beautiful prayer time. Just precious.

The only reason I share this ridiculousness is because sometimes prayer seems like it’s supposed to be beautiful like a Norman Rockwell painting.  It feels like it requires fancy clothes, gentle words, and pomp and circumstance. In reality, prayer can be as messy as life.  Prayer is a conversation with God. Sometimes those conversations are thoughtful and eloquent, but more often they are sloppy and barely coherent. And that is okay.  Better than okay: It’s important and necessary.  If you wait until you think you are all put together, or until you have the perfect words, to take your needs to God you will rarely, if ever, get there.

My prayers are more like a slop bucket filled with life’s messy leftovers.  That sometimes feels like a really unfortunate gift to offer God.  If prayers were given line numbers according to their eloquence, I’d be waiting outside, in the cold and around the corner. But thankfully (and thank God) prayer is not like that.  It is beautiful just to offer genuine prayers about genuine life, laid before our genuine God.  I like to think it’s okay to get real and get messy. Prayer isn’t about coming to God once you feel worthy of being listened to.  It’s about realizing that you have been listened to all along. And you have always been worthy.

And, don’t drink hot coffee and drive.  Or at least be smart and use a travel mug with a lid. Better yet, maybe you should pray for me.

~~Delaney Rhea

prayer-hands

 

 

 

Don’t be the bird in the bush

My mom has a beautiful and powerful saying, “Don’t be the bird in the bush.” It’s a reference to a scene in Bambi. The hunters are coming through the woods and the animals run to hide. There are three quail hiding under a bush. Two of the birds remain calm and quiet while the third one starts to panic. One bird keeps telling the panicky one to remain calm and quiet. As the hunters draw near the panicked bird just can’t take it and instead of heeding the warning, flies out into the air in an escape attempt. Then you hear a shot fired and see feathers floating down.  Oh little scared bird, if only you’d remained calm and quiet in the face of danger you’d have survived this scene.

bambi-quail

I live with generalized anxiety disorder. There are many treatments and coping tools but my reality is that living with anxiety is like having a permanent, unwanted, roommate living in my brain.  This roommate is a jerk too. She’s always telling me that the worst is going to happen, I’m not good enough, everyone hates me, and that above all I will never be strong/smart/good enough to handle whatever I might be facing in life. This roommate also has the most amazing imagination. Anxiety can act out the worst case scenario in my head with the full force of emotion as though it already happened.  Hollywood writing and special effects have nothing on the horrors my anxiety creates. No wonder so many artists are tortured souls, without their anxieties their art might be nothing more than scribbles and blotches.

In essence, my anxiety causes me to approach daily life as the bird in the bush. When I encounter the typical setbacks and frustrations that happen to all of us, that nasty little roommate of mine tells me to panic and my default coping method is to start flapping my wings, making noise and commotion that just causes chaos and confusion.

My anxiety is having a field day with my shattered ankle.  I’m constantly comparing myself to others, even those who have had very different injuries, just to judge and berate myself for my slow recovery.  I must be totally wimpy and lazy that I’ve had all these complications and I’m not walking yet. I project thoughts into the heads of my family, friends, and doctors thinking that I’m a worthless slacker.  People climb Mt. Everest after leg amputations and here you are crying over Plantar Fasciitis, and an SI joint out of place, my anxiety quietly tells me.  I try to cling to the hope of a full recovery and then anxiety whispers in my ear reminding my of the last ten years I’ve lived with chronic hip pain that has never left me alone even after two surgeries. Just like the bird in the bush I want to freak out and give up without even trying. But just like the bird, that will seal my fate.  My fear of failure will force my failure. I must conquer my fear of tomorrow in order to succeed in the tasks of today.

Anxiety convinces me that I’m a terrible person and that my mistakes are immense and unforgivable. My immediate inclination is to save myself.  I want to send crazy texts and make phone calls explaining everything I’ve ever said to everyone I’m convinced hates me. But this too is the bird in the bush. All of us make mistakes. We all do and say the wrong thing. That is being human and we have to forgive and expect forgiveness. The number one reality  is that other people are rarely thinking of us at all.  If you start acting crazy, then they will think you are crazy. And if, by chance, another person really is mad at you, or truly doesn’t like you, then that is a choice they have made and there is probably nothing you can do about it anyway. I must focus on loving myself and not get lost in the fear of the opinions of others.

Anxiety tells me that any failure of my children is a reflection of a failure by me. A bad grade means that I didn’t teach work ethic or skills. An angry outburst is proof that I haven’t parented with enough love or support. Anxiety tells me that every bad choice or wrong move on their part will start the domino effect of unraveling their future success all because of my faults and flaws as a mother.  I don’t blame my parents for my collection of poor decisions.  We all lay out our own path and we are all responsible for following or straying and I know this includes my own children. But anxiety says that it’s too late and the damage is done. It’s never too late. Every day that I can spend with my children is a blessing and I can’t let anxiety steal these blessings away from me.

I was very young when I heard the first murmurs of self-doubt and was filled with the desire to flee from the hunters.  In reality, the hunters only exist because anxiety tells me that they do.  In the many decades that followed I have tried dozens of methods to evict this unwanted roommate. I don’t think I can. Some days anxiety torments me, but it also makes me empathetic, creative, and helps me boost the funny and comedic side of my personality for balance.

I have learned to quiet, cajole, work alongside, and cohabitate with anxiety. I have learned to listen to my mother, “Don’t be the bird in the bush.”

My favorite bible verse is no surprise:

be-still-and-know-that-i-am-god

Even scripture affirms my mother’s wise advice. “Be still.” No need to panic and fluster in the face of anxiety.  God has this.

Be still. Be safe. Be blessed.

~~Delaney

 

 

 

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