Ankle

I originally wrote and published this story on March 24, 2020 about something that happened on March 2nd (i.e. a year ago today).


Things are weird so I felt compelled to formalize the last few weeks into a story, such as it is.

Twenty two days ago – a Monday – I took Gamma for a walk in the cemetery. She’s a 10 month old doberman and therefore a big, boisterous puppy. There’s one dirt path we frequent as there’s very little human/dog traffic and I can let her run around more freely. I’ve taken her on this path a dozen times before. Every outing we’d go up this one small incline where a bit is washed away from rain. I would hop to one side to avoid this small channel, and then after a few paces would hop back onto the main trail again.

Except this time I hopped and.. *crunch*. I have no idea why – loose gravel? – but I landed awkwardly on my left foot and the ankle twisted hard. I fell to the ground because the pain was immediate and severe.

Something that runs in my family is the Lebofsky penchant for having vasovagal syncope (i.e. a preciptious drop in blood pressure) when experiencing bodily trauma. I knew if I stood upright I would certainly pass out or vomit. Instead I sat there, covering my face and groaning uncontrollably.

Meanwhile Gamma had run up ahead without noticing the accident, but she’s such a good puppy she never goes too far without checking in. She turned to see me hunched down on the ground and then came sprinting back full speed. Here’s the thing: one thing she likes to do with Jenya and I is launch herself like a missile and crash into us with as much momentum as possible. Usually kinda hilarious and adorable.

So, suddenly… BAM! Gamma clobbered me and my glasses flew off, and I struggled to get her off me. I recovered my glasses as she continued to be a crazy puppy. We happened to be near a muddy puddle so I quickly got covered in paw prints. Normally her relentlessness would be super cute but right now kind of a real problem as I remained in agony and still trying to suss out the gravity of the injury. My glasses fell off again.

I tried to stand up to calm her, but the tunnel vision kicked in. I needed to lie down. But how? Where? I crumpled back to the ground and shuffled over to a flat, cement slab over a grave. Luckily I had a rope tug toy which I presented to Gamma and she immediately redirected her focus onto that. Good girl. So all I needed to do was lay there for about five minutes to regain my composure (and blood pressure) while Gamma tugged at the toy which I clutched on for dear life. As much as I could have used some help, I’m so glad nobody was around to witness this odd display.

Once normal enough I rose and limped back to the car – about a quarter mile. Stupid sprain fuckin’ shit up. Drove home. At least every time I mess up one of my feet it’s always my left one, which means I can still drive an automatic.

I fully expected to go to work after this. I took a shower no problem – I could rely on that ankle and manage but it soon swelled up to the size of a grapefruit. Jenya smartly insisted I stay home. I agreed and stayed in bed putting ice on it and checked in with my colleagues remotely.

But once I got out of bed I found I couldn’t put weight on that foot at all. Maybe I did more than just sprain it. In a panic I called my doctor and he signed me up for some x-rays and to get some crutches and a walking boot. So off to the main Kaiser medical facility we went. I got the full royal treatment, wheelchaired down to imaging as Jenya parked the car. The coronavirus was already on the radar at this point, but the general public didn’t really know or care. Still, I couldn’t help to think how these wheelchairs are probably not swabbed down between each use. Once I was done getting zapped Jenya wheeled me back out to the curb. The results were swift and negative, i.e. not broken. Phew. And now I had means for getting around outside of hopping like an idiot.

As it happens this was the very same day a friend of mine, who recently got rudely booted from his studio, started using our basement to give drum lessons on Mondays and Tuesdays. I spent the day laying in bed, writhing in pain, icing my joints, and staring at my laptop while randos thumped away on Jenya’s kit directly beneath the floor below me. I worried this would be an issue with my sanity, but strangely enough, it wasn’t that loud or abrasive. In fact almost quite soothing to overhear other people’s musical progress.

For three days I got by with the walking boot and crutches but remained pretty much stuck at home. I did go out for one dinner during this since Jenya as we had a friend in town and my ankle throbbed and throbbed during the meal. That Thursday I woke up in the morning ready to try walking again and took a step on it sans boot. Felt fine. I took a second step – searing pain shot through my foot and I fell onto the bed, yelling for Jenya to get me some ice.

Okay this is not just some ordinary sprain. My ankle was so swollen and bruised it look liked it was wholesale replaced with an unpeeled blood orange. I called my doctor again, and he referred me to a podiatrist, who I saw within a couple hours. This time I spotted a few masks on the patients roaming the Kaiser halls, but the doctor was old school and greeted me with an open hand. I had to shake it, I guess. He poked and prodded the injury and insisted it’s just a really bad sprain. May take weeks of staying off it, and then weeks of physical therapy. Fuck.

The pain seemed to get worse over time, as did the horror that I would be crippled for a long while. I was missing all kinds of visitors and activity at work yet finding it difficult to be productive from home given the constant, exhausting state of discomfort I was in.

By Monday nothing had improved so I called the podiatrist again in a panic, pleading for updated X-rays and MRIs. Maybe a small fracture was missed? He complied with my concerns, and appointments were made. But he also had me come in right away to look for blood clots. Once again I noticed an increase in masks and social distancing as I arrived at Kaiser. The woman who did the ultrasound had a mask on herself. No clots, though.

The shelter in place issue was finally ordered in our county. I had already been home for a 8 days but now I had another three weeks at least of holing up ahead of me. Yay!

Nevertheless I went to Kaiser again a couple days later for the secondary X-rays. At this point masks were everywhere, and people nervously approached the free hand sanitizer station at regular intervals. Painful images of my bruised and swollen appendage were taken from a standing position. Once again they were negative. I felt ridiculous constantly coming back to this coronavirus hot zone for needless procedures. But it hurt a lot! Plus my brother and father were convinced it was broken and kept nagging me to prove them right.

Eventually enough people took this quarantine seriously – I had an MRI scheduled but it was cancelled. At least the swelling had finally started showing signs of glacially slow improvement so yet another extra diagnostic seemed unnecessary. I also had vicodin at this point to get me through the previously sleepless evenings. The drum lessons in our basement ceased, so no more potential unknown germs entering our household (they were coming and going through the garage, so Jenya and I were never within range of their suspect respitory systems).

And then it was a long, blurry string of similar days full of healing and trying to be productive, making the most of our reduced lives. I did finally take my first bath in two weeks (since the day of the injury). Getting in and out of the tub is a major endeavor when you only have one working leg.

Jenya was able to take Gamma out for walks every morning and she reported back with news from the outside. I’m alarmed to hear her tales of the bored people out in droves doing nonessential things. What the fuck is wrong with everybody? Trump voters, people defying quarantine, same difference. Short sighted, stupid, selfish, weak ass motherfuckers. Remind me to never go backpacking or on a rock tour with any of you sorry ass losers.

So, now it’s just over three weeks later, and outside of these aforementioned trips I have not been outside my house. Yo I’ve been doing this quarantine shit much longer than all y’all. However I’m the loser because while everybody is getting creative/house projects done while I remain a useless slug, unable to do anything because my ankle still needs to be elevated every fucking second. The sprain was both wonderfully and horribly timed.

About Matt Lebofsky

Musician wearing many hats. Played in a bunch of bands, toured in hundreds of cities around the planet. Also a general geek who works on several of the world's biggest scientific projects searching for extraterrestrial intelligence. Grew up in suburban NYC. Now lives in Oakland, CA.
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