Today, I am in familiar territory. Lying with my left leg elevated on a mountain of pillows, dutifully applying ice every two hours to my ankle and in a fair amount of pain, I look out my window, and I sigh a deep breath. And then, I laugh. A pair of crutches leans against my bedside table. Used ice packs lay strewn across my bed. Snacks and water bottles sit lined up perfectly within reach next to me. I am captive in my own home.
On Friday afternoon, reacting to the car honk of an impatient motorist, I ran hurriedly across a parking lot only to trip and roll my left ankle over a speed bump. Arms stretched out in front of me, sunglasses and car keys flung a few feet away, I lay face-planted on the asphalt, coffee cup still in hand. I thought speed bumps were supposed to slow motorists, not pedestrians. I may or may not have muttered some expletives. It didn’t matter. All of a sudden my left ankle throbbed with excruciating pain. Oh good god. My ankle. I think it’s BROKEN. Tears stream down my cheeks. What about my SWIM?!
Frantically I rummage around on the ground collecting my belongings. Picking myself up I realize I can’t bear weight on my ankle. So, I do what anyone else would do in a situation like this: I single hop on my right leg (the “bad leg” with significant peroneal nerve damage) down a staircase and 100 yards to my car. I don’t precisely recall the drive to Golden Gate Urgent Care. An unusual lull in activity here meant the doctor could see me straight away.
Formalities ensue: my blood pressure, temperature, and pulse are checked. The doctor examines my ankle and tells me the only way we can determine the severity of my injury is with an x-ray. Tears again stream down my face. What if my ankle is broken?! After describing my pain, the nurse hands me some ibuprofen and Vicodin for the pain. Here we go again I tell myself. The next thing I know I’m wheeled into the radiology room. Lying on the cold sterile table, at the instruction of the technician, I angle my left leg for imaging. As the x-ray is carefully aligned over my ankle, the bright pink crosshairs beam across my skin. In disbelief and fear, I cry again. “I have an open water swim event coming up!!” I share with the technician. “Oh dear, like an Alcatraz swim or something?” “Please relax and keep as still as possible while I take the images...”
And in that moment of intense pain and fear that my ankle could be broken ahead of my next big swim, I had a strange Vicodin-fueled moment of “connecting the dots.”
A pattern. A string of dramatic events leading up to a swim event that may include, and is not limited to, acts of God (lightning, weather bombs and monster swells), near amputation of a finger, severe vomiting and now an ankle injury.
The latter is thankfully diagnosed as a bad sprain and I’m instructed to rest, ice and elevate for the next few days.
I’m discovering that the one constant in this sport is that nothing ever goes entirely as planned. And for me that simply adds to the excitement of playing with the unknown.