Putting these broken toes into perspective

The moment the pain pierced through my left foot, the next six weeks of my life flashed in front of me.

Until that point, it had been a typical Saturday morning at the newspaper. I was writing the editorial in the quiet of the newsroom when the phone rang. Answering the newspaper’s phone on the weekend is almost never a good idea. If it’s a breaking news story, the individuals who need to reach me — the sheriff, the DA, the Forest Service — all have my cell phone. But every once in a while, someone will call the newspaper with a news tip so I picked up the phone. Mistake number one.

The person on the other end wanted a message relayed to our bookkeeper so I took the information and headed toward my coworker’s desk. Mistake number two.

As I was making my way to the front of the office, I was perusing my note to ensure that it was legible. Mistake number three.

And because I wanted to get back to my writing, I was walking fast. Mistake number four.

My sandal-ensconced foot was no match for the chair that it smacked. I hobbled home to find my broken toe box. Yes, I actually have a box dedicated to broken toes.

The first time it happened, I walked into a bathroom door jam, and looked down to see my left pinky toe at a 90-degree angle to the rest of my foot. My cries of horror brought my husband and oldest daughter running up the stairs, and they arrived just in time to see me reach down and push my pinky back into place. My husband refers to that as my “Rambo moment.”

We had been planning a trip to the movie theater, but instead headed to the ER. Despite diagnoses that involved potential surgery, I heeded the advice of a podiatrist and kept my baby toe bound to its buddy. He warned me that he had treated another woman with such a break and she didn’t listen to him so he had to sew her toes together. I don’t know if he was being flippant, but I did exactly what he said.

That was 11 years ago and for the first time in my life discovered what it was like to have a mobility issue. First I used crutches, then a cane. The latter not only helped me walk, it became my protector if someone came too close.

I broke my toes again last summer after I ran my left foot (that pesky left foot again) into a cabinet in my parents’ living room. In addition to retrieving my cane, I also went on the hunt for footwear. As a 5’2” woman married to a 6’8” man, heels dominate my wardrobe. I learned to embrace flats and prize comfort over style. This year I had edged slowly back into my platform sandals, but now they are banished again. Steel-toe boots have become a familiar refrain from friends and family.

Two weeks ago I took my 4-year-old grandson to the park and was mistaken for his mom as I climbed the play structure and slid down the slides with him. No one would make that mistake now.

Walking with a cane when you are relatively young is far different than when you get a little older. Back then, using a cane led grocery store clerks to personally escort me to my car, and for concerned members of the public to hold doors and inquire about my injury. Last week my coworkers came up with a number of interesting comparisons as to what I looked like, none of them being injured athlete.

I’m not looking forward to the next several weeks of recovery, but my most recent debacle coincided with the death of Sen. John McCain. Lying on the sofa with my foot elevated, I watched the around-the-clock tributes made to the war hero. Over and over again I saw the images of him lying in a bed as a prisoner of war, and listened to a litany of the injuries and abuse he endured. I looked at my toes and it put it all in perspective.