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Its a marathon, not a sprint.

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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.

IMG_2532 (1)

~~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! 

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

 

 

 

Just say thank you.

This is my left ankle. It’s part God-given and partly from the hardware store. It’s all mine, for better or worse.  I had this X-ray taken today at my 6 week post-op appointment and I was given the good news that healing is progressing  well. I can now start physical therapy and start weight bearing on that foot again slowly. I also realized I was wrong. I have one more screw in the outside of my ankle than I had originally thought. I actually have 6 on the outside and two on the inside. Eight screws. That’s badass! 

After six weeks of being helpless I’m ready to live like an adult again, and just in time because my month of calendar-scheduled meals and caretakers is coming to an end. This calendar, that I initially turned down, has been our life support.  

When I was in the hospital both of my pastors came to see me to share comfort and wisdom. My Pastor Amy bluntly asked me how I was going to ask for and accept help. I will forever remember what she told me, (and I loosely quote in my own words) “Hospitality is a two way street. There has to be a receiver in order for there to be a giver. You’ve been allowed to be a giver many times, now give others the same opportunity.” Then, she took it up a notch and asked for specifics about to whom I would turn for help.  I said I would let my friend, Boni, put together the care calendar as she’d offered. To my horror, after Pastor Amy prayed with me and started to head out she said, “I’m texting Boni later to make sure she’s heard from you.” This forced me to accept the offer, no matter how uncomfortable. 

As physically painful as this injury has been, accepting help has been almost as painful emotionally.  I needed so much help for so long.  Every time I was given an offer, or someone signed up through the calendar, I had the urge to thank them and turn them down. Each time I just remembered my pastor’s words reminding me of my job; to be a receiver so others could give. 

I think the hardest lesson is yet to come: Learning to ask for help.  During the last 6 weeks the offers of meals, household help, and companionship have been handed to me. I only had to say, “yes” and “Thank you.” However, at no time did I have to seek it out.  But I think my day is fast approaching. Now I’m becoming independent. I’ll be able to walk and drive, no longer a home-bound lump.  But this is where I’ll try to do it all and exhaust myself. This is where I’ll push myself and have a setback day and I’ll need an ear and shoulder. This is when I’ll have to actually ask for help.

I’m so Thankful to my Pastor for giving me the wisdom that is allowing me to accept help. In a way, it’s the same grace extended by God. God offers up unconditional love and forgiveness and we just have to accept it. The next step is learning to ask God, through prayer, for help and forgiveness.  It turns out these earthly lessons have eternal meaning. 

There are two take away lessons that I can share. The first is that when you are offered help: Take it and just say thank you. The second is that when you know someone needs help just offer it, don’t wait for them to ask. 

There will be a third lesson about asking for help. Probably when I decide I can buy a full cart of groceries and then realize I can’t get them into the house alone. Or when I get sick of the stench and throw the dogs in the tub, not thinking through 65 combined pounds of soggy-doggy-mess. In the meantime I’m rejoicing in my progress, feeling thankful for the help we’ve been given, and looking forward to grossing out many more friends by making them feel the outline of my steel plate in my ankle. No really, you can feel it… isn’t that cool? 

~~Delaney 

Do unicorns have ankles?

Today is a big day! This is one month to the day since I demolished my ankle. It is also four weeks to the day since my surgery. And what progress do I have to brag about on this big milestone? Nothing! My healing is in a holding pattern. It’s like trying to watch a video on your phone and being stuck in endless buffering. Maybe a few seconds run, getting your hopes up and then back to the flashing swirly circle of eternal streaming purgatory.

I went to my general practitioner yesterday to lament about my frustration and lack of progress. My complaints: blood pressure drops, nausea, not regaining strength or stamina, and pain.

Let me say how much I love my doctor and how much I love honesty. So when she looked me in the eye and said, “You didn’t just break your ankle. Your surgeon told me how extensive the damage was. Honestly, we rarely see patients get an injury like this.” (My rough quoting) This was not upsetting, but confirming and comforting.

I’m a mom. I do all the household mom stuff and it is really hard to see it go undone. I also troll google daily and read stories of people with broken ankles and feet. By one month post surgery these people are up and around, maybe limping in a boot or using a knee scooter, and pushing on with their lives. Here I am still spending most days in bed or on the couch. I’ve been feeling down, wondering if I’m just weak. Am I ‘milking’ this? Why am I not  getting on with my life? So I’ve been pushing myself to do more and get up more and in return I feel worse and worse.

I needed to hear my doctor tell me that my injury is in a category of its own and so my recovery will be on a different timeline. I needed to be told to not push myself and that my body is still in the acute phase of healing.  I might have the mind of a badass superhero but right now my body is a delicate, and wilted, daisy. 

It turns out my electrolytes are all out of whack so I will now be sucking down Gatorade and broth all day.  I stopped all pain meds two weeks ago because they make me feel sick, little did I know that constant pain also has negative consequences for the body.  I’m trying a new scheduled pain management. I have learned that I’m the opposite of a drug seeker as I beg and plead with my doctors NOT to give me narcotics! 

One of the best healers, way better than narcotics, has been the love and support of friends and family.  One of the stranger parts of this experience is how little I knew what was going on around me when I was in the hospital. Geoff only recently told me how many of my friends texted and called him with offers of help and asking to come to hospital. One of those sweet friends and I were so happy to see each other once I was out of the hospital and this was our text exchange:


I love that she so quickly validated my (very real) concern and readily agreed that I might be filled with magic unicorn dust. Maybe that’s why, in the words of another friend, I got a unicorn of an ankle injury- one rarely seen! Fitting given my obsession with one-horned-equines. I guess I have to just remember that I’m not your average horse and I won’t heal like one. I’m a unicorn and I have to slow down and let my healing take the winding magical rainbow path. 

For now I take it slow and trust that my body is doing what it needs to do. And the next time I see my surgeon I’m asking if he was shocked to open me up and find that I’m filled with rainbow glitter! 

~~Delaney 

Anatomy of an ankle anarchy

How the hell did you do that?  Wow, you don’t mess around, you go all out!

These are common comments I get about my ankle injury. Especially from medical people. Broken ankles aren’t uncommon. Breaking all three bones is a little more uncommon. Breaking three bones with a complete dislocation is even better. However, the vast majority of those cases involve the ankle rolling toward the inside. Not me, mine completely snapped to the outside. You guessed it. That’s worse.

I must have really flown down a lot of stairs, right? 

Nope. I literally just slipped and only went down 4 steps. This impossible scenario confused all who saw (and repaired) the damage. 

Standing at the top of the stairs and asking detailed questions about my landing position, a wise friend asked, “Do you think your foot got caught in the stair rails as you fell?” 

That proverbial lightbulb clicked on and suddenly it pieced together. I remember my foot slipping out from under me, but by the grace of our built in emergency response system it all goes blurry. I’ve quizzed my family and they all concur that my body landed with my freaky foot facing into the stair rails. We have a winner!

I’m going to break it down: (Stop now if you are squeamish.) My hubby and I were watching our newest tv obsession and the kids were face-in-phone in the living room with us. During commercial break I thought I’d get a snack (next time stay on the couch chubs!) I took dishes with me as I headed down stairs because we had no functional kitchen upstairs at this time. I opened the metal dog gate and took a step but my Dr. Who slipper socks failed me and my feet slipped up out from under me. I began a downward slide. As my body gained momentum my left foot must’ve gotten caught up on or in the railing on the left and came to an abrupt halt as my leg kept careening forward. SNAP! Almost right off my body. In the mayhem the gate crashed down around me and shattered the dishes over me like evil sprinkles on a sucks-to-be-you-cake. 

In related recovery news, I am super proud to report that as of today I am officially released from being house bound. My blood pressure finally stopped bottoming out when I stand upright. Today my home health nurse tested me and determined me trustworthy on a walker without risk of passing out and shattering another limb. 

 

HOLY CANKLE! This is the least offensive picture from my first post-op appointment. I was so relieved to see my foot back on straight again! My cute toes deserve the Deluxe Spa Pedi as soon as the thought of someone rubbing my foot doesn’t make me gasp in anticipated pain.

I’m officially on the path to being healed and as soon as I have a willing driver and some tennis balls maybe you’ll see me and my nifty walker out buying new pajama pants to replace the ones the ER doctor cut off my body… yeah, I’m still bitter! And I never got my other Dr Who sock back!

~~D

Nothing is normal

I gingerly rubbed lotion into my broken leg and foot today. I sobbed. It wasn’t painful, it was just the first time I’ve really and fully touched my bruised, swollen in some places, saggy in others, flesh of that foot since my accident. It has taken three days since the cast removal to work up the nerve.  I knew I had nerve damage and numbness, but wasn’t sure the extent. I knew it wouldn’t feel like ‘my’ foot but I wasn’t ready to get personal with my new foot. 

I’m off of the major pain medicines. The good news is that I now have a clear head and can make decisions and memories (so sorry I didn’t remember your visit, Ang, I’m glad you found that funny instead of offensive!) but the bad news is that now I have to process my injury and recovery without blurry, drugged, edges. Now I have to learn to live with terms like, limited range of motion, limp, orthotic shoes, and permanent damage.  Under the beautiful blanket of opiates I heard, “minimum six weeks no weight bearing” to mean that in six weeks I’d walk out of my doctor’s office. Now I realize that means they won’t make any predictions until reviewing what the six week x-rays reveal.  

I don’t have a new normal yet. The bathroom is so far away and my blood pressure is still f*^%ing unstable so even peeing is an exhausting experience. 

I’m not the same mother. My kids have to help me get food and drinks. They help me get dressed. I’m not upholding any of my previous doting duties.

I can’t be the same wife. My husband is always my rock of stability but now he is sole provider, sole active parent, and alone in orchestrating this household. 

I’m certainly not the same daughter who calls her mother everyday to check in and laugh about life’s quirks. I’ve exhausted my mother in ways I can hardly think about over the last few weeks. 

I’m not even the same friend. I forget who I’ve talked to and don’t answer texts or calls for days. I’m taking instead of giving. I’m not there for anyone because I’m not yet able to be there for myself.

So I sobbed as I touched my new, not normal foot because I have to make peace with the new, not normal me. I have to put all my energy into healing, gaining back my mobility, and forgiving myself for not being myself. My husband sat with me saying all the right things but I know he’s hurting and scared too, because he’s also mourning the loss of our ‘normal.’

A friend said that I’ll find my new normal. But not yet. 

I just keep thanking God for kids, and husbands, and mothers, and friends who are willing to give me so much when I have empty arms in return. 

~~Delaney

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