Up With the Good: Five Lessons From a Medical Leave’

I blame a wish: I sighed to myself how nice it would be to take a week off and sit on the couch watching tv. Then I had a little fall in the house three weeks ago and hurt my right foot. I thought maybe RICE ( Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) would take care of the issue, but as the day progressed, that seemed less and less likely. Finally, I drove myself to urgent care (since of course it was on a Sunday.)

After x-rays, the doctor came back into the exam room with a diagnosis and a fresh Ace bandage. “We think it’s just sprained, but you may want to have it rechecked in five days.” I limped out, filled my prescription for pain meds at the pharmacy next door, and drove home. It looked like I’d take a few days off work after all, but this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. Enter Netflix, no chill. Well, I watched the pale blue on my foot bloom into purples and blacks, and the swelling shift around my ankle (hello Cankles!) over the next several days.

Finally, my husband persuaded me to go to the orthopedic clinic for reassessment. I felt a little foolish hobbling into the building. What if it was just a sprain? Then I wasted two hours, a copay, and risked insurance not paying for the whole damned mess, not to mention the balance bill from the facility I’d inevitably have to fight if insurance did okay everything. Stress City.

I went for more comprehensive x-rays of not just my foot, but my ankle as well. The technician wanted me to walk up two short steps to position my foot properly for the views. I tried to think of what choreography I needed to get myself up there. I received my first lesson: “Up with the good, down with the bad,” said the tech.

That struck me. It seemed like good advice, not just for radiographs, but for life. How often do we do just the opposite, magnifying the negative while diminishing the positive? I know I’m guilty.

Well, finally the PA came into the room. “What did urgent care tell you?” I repeated the diagnosis. “Huh, because you broke your foot. And sprained the ankle.”

“What?!? Where’s the break?” The PA pulled up the view on the computer. There it was, a broken right cuboid bone. “Son of a bitch, so I’m not a weenie!” Couldn’t help it, the filter between my brain and my mouth just slipped out of place during the fall.

PA looked me dead in the face. “No, you’re definitely not a weenie.” I felt a little vindicated, and very pissed at urgent care. A sprain is a little different than a break. Lesson number two: listen to your husband.

It was then down the hall for me, to get a dapper black boot and a cane. Instructions were “minimal weight bearing” and to use the cane or crutches as needed. I received another choreography lesson on cane usage, since the last time I used a cane was in a dance routine as a kid. There was nothing “Razzle Dazzle” soft-shoe going on here.

At the recheck I was told to go COMPLETELY non weigh bearing on that foot for six weeks. At first I balked when my mother offered to bring a walker, but after a day of crutches, I welcomed it. It’s a real challenge to figure out how to do everything on one foot. Years of ballet and yoga have actually been helpful. Who knew you could brush your teeth or fix dinner while doing tree pose with a walker as a prop? I still have five weeks to go. Lessons three and four: swallow your pride, and take ballet and yoga.

Adding yet another medical complication on top of the ESRD, anemia, and lupus threatened to undo me. Seriously, how much can one person take? Then I remembered a lesson (number five) from art therapy: Step Back. When you’re working on a piece and reach a point where you just know you’ve ruined it, step back and get a fresh perspective.

I wasn’t ruined, I just needed to reset. As a “recovering” Type A, I tend to laser in on the details and can get lost in the murk. I need to remember all the beauty in the world that’s around every day, if I just lift my head and look at the bigger picture. Like Macy Gray sings, there’s so much beauty in the world.

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