Out of the Blue

10 Mar

 

 

Out of the Blue

By L. Stewart Marsden

 

The photo above isn’t of my driveway, but it might as well be. I live in the mountains of North Carolina, and unlike last year, this year has been rife with snow and bitter cold, with short rests of 60º and higher weather –– enough to confuse the trees into budding early.

Each morning I take my new rescue dog, Gordie, for his constitutional, and Wednesday was no different. Overnight a light covering of very dry snow had fallen. Bundled up, and shod in my overpriced walking shoes (at least look the part, I always say), I snapped the lead onto Gordie’s halter and we set out as always, crunching onto the snow.

We had gone about ten feet when I stepped down on my left heel and –– whoosh! My leg splayed out to the side awkwardly and down I went, experiencing incredible pain along the back of my left leg. Did I say incredible pain? There’s not a word to adequately describe the shot of paralyzing agony that became the focus of my being for the next few moments.

Did I mention it was 7 AM?

Did I mention it was in the teens temperature-wise?

Did I mention I live in a cluster of condos where the owners are present ONLY during the warm weather mostly?

Flat on my stomach, grinding and writhing in anguish, with a confused Gordie licking my face, it dawned on me there was no one about; I didn’t have my cellphone (Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!); and I was already feeling the intense cold.

A sheet of ice beneath the snow (the original culprit) kept me from any progress at getting up, much less the pain I felt shooting down my leg whenever I tried to move.

I managed to get to my hands and knees somehow. There was nothing in the empty parking lot to grab to help me pull myself up.

So I crawled. Inch by inch. Slowly. Feeling woozy. Mentally seeing myself found days later frozen to death, by the propane gas man who periodically checks to see if my tanks are adequately filled. Or the electric meter reader. Most likely it would be the attractive postal carrier who brings mail to my door whenever one of my Amazon orders arrive, and I remembered I have two or three orders out there. It was 7 AM, and she comes around 10:30 AM. Then I remembered I hadn’t showered and I knew my hair was a mess. Which was enough impetus to continue my desperate crawl towards my condo door.

Gordie looked confused and a bit guilty …

All the while Gordie looked confused and a bit guilty, as though perhaps it was his fault. I did all I could to let him know he was not the problem, but my sporadic shrieks of pain didn’t help. Gordie is a rescue dog, as I said, and is about 20 lbs and just turned eight. He is a Havanese, but doesn’t look at all like the photos on the internet –– so I figure he’s a mix. The Havanese was bred initially in Cuba (Havana, get it?), and looks kind of like a terrier and Scotty dog mix. His previous owners got a new dog –– a big dog –– and Gordie didn’t take to the intruder. Small dogs are no problem. So, in their infinite love, they chose to give up Gordie for adoption, preferring the new dog. Their loss. The dog community around here is irate about it.

Anyway, I digress.

I managed to get to the wooden walkway to my front door, which has wooden rails on either side. I pulled myself up, and began the hurtful shuffle to the door, and then back inside. Both Gordie and I were glad to be inside where it was nice and warm.

Navigating through the first floor by holding onto doorknobs, counters –– anything I could use for support –– I finally fell into a recliner love seat in my living room.

Relief! Gordie jumped up onto the nearby sofa and curled onto his special dog bed and stared –– obviously worried.

Across the long room, which got longer as I looked at it, was an umbrella stand with several walking canes next to the fireplace. From

Across the long room, which got longer as I looked at it, was an umbrella stand with several walking canes next to the fireplace.

my vantage point, I could remotely operate both the gas fireplace as well as my TV, so warmth and diversion were not in question. But I knew my body was going to demand that I eventually get up in order to go to the bathroom –– either that, or the you-know-what consequences. And I wasn’t about to spend the money to recover the recliner.

There is no comfortable way to get out of a recliner when you have injured a leg muscle. I figured it was a hamstring, and looked it up on
my iPod, which happened to be close enough to the recliner.

How to treat?

I had ice packs in my freezer …

RICE, is what the internet told me. It’s an acronym standing for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The rest part was simple enough, as the pain that resulted from nearly any movement below my waist was plenty motivating. Ice. I had ice packs in my freezer. A mere 15 or so feet away. May as well have been in Siberia. Compression? Nothing. Elevation? Tipping the recliner to its maximum was the answer. According to the information, reducing swelling was the goal.

What if something tore? Perhaps a ligament that held the muscle to the bone had ripped away during the slip. I knew a guy who snapped his Achilles muscle during football practice in high school. I imagined how that muscle shot up his calf –– like a taut wire snapping. Nothing I want to experience more than surgery and the recovery necessary to repair that kind of injury. I will have a new respect for athletes who experience a torn hamstring. I swear.

Rather than recount all the tedious detail, suffice it to say I literally hobbled about to prepare my new command post for the next several hours/days/weeks/months. With each venture from the chair, I planned out every move carefully, from getting a cane, to getting the ice pad, and, eventually, struggling to the bathroom.

I popped Aleve beyond its maximum dosage suggestions. I mean, death by drugs can’t be worse than death by the pain I was experiencing. That probably wasn’t the wisest decision on my part. But the pain did gradually diminish to around a 7 on a scale of 10.

What to do with Gordie? Like me, he needed to be fed and relieved. My door to the deck is a few million feet from the recliner, and with the snow covering it, what did I care? Plus Gordie enjoyed frolicking in the white stuff.

It’s now Accident Day plus two. Surprisingly, I was able to stand and quasi-limp around later that afternoon, and learned very quickly what stances were not painful. I ordered a set of crutches from Amazon, and my son sent me these neat retro-fit snow/ice shoe grips for future use. All arrived overnighted the next day. The attractive mail carrier left them at the door and was gone before I could limp over to greet her. Snap.

All my family in the hinterlands (I live alone) berated me for going out onto the snow and ice. In my defense, how was I to know Nature had it in for me, and was going to striketh me down out of the blue?

Biggest question on my mind as I improved to hobble status was whether or not to Facebook the account. I decided not to do it. I figured most of my Facebook friends had experienced way worse, and that it would be seen for what it was: a ploy for sympathy. Well, not that day, anyway. I like sympathy as much as anyone.

I knew this before, but it’s different when you really know because you go through something that strikes out of the blue: there’s a learning curve.

I learned just how much my hamstring comes into play for the simplest of things, like putting on socks, or getting out of bed, or standing on tippy-toes to turn off the smoke alarm when the blackening salmon fills the kitchen with enough smoke to set it off.

I learned that crutches suck, and are not very comfortable no matter which way you use them.

And while I have written this meme many times before, I know that “this, too, shall pass.”

I pray this is my out-of-the-blue experience for the year. Last year it was kidney stones, which was not anything close to the pain everyone warned me about. My doctor shot the stones with sound waves, and the residual passed with no discomfort. Yeah, I know. I dodged a bullet. Actually more like shotgun pellets.

At 68, I’m hoping the health malady waves don’t begin to hit the beach with increased frequency. For me it’s a matter of doggone it, I don’t have time for this crap! Know what I mean? Places to go and people to see. Better ways to spend my time than detailing out how I’m gonna pull on my Tommy Johns in the morning.

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared, and that’s all well and good. As much as I can, I try to prepare, and have band aids and Aleve in the condo, and chains and emergency flashers in my car. Sometimes I run out of tonic water and limes, though. But I don’t take it to the nth degree like some of the Preppers do.

So, no doubt I’ll get caught again with my pants down when something happens out of the blue. I hope that’s a ways off, though.

∞∞∞

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