I’m lost in my own little world as I head home from gym. I am so tired from my personal training session that I can barely concentrate for more than a few minutes, which means my electric wheelchair is zigzagging all over the path. Luckily, no one else is on the pathway that I am using right now so I’m not too worried about hitting anyone. The gym that my family uses is only around the corner from our house and it doesn’t take me long to drive there on my own. It’s not the most comfortable drive; I mean the pathway is pretty bumpy for a while, and depending on the season I’ll either spend the drive with frigid cold air blowing in my face or I’ll come home with red arms. But hey, it’s independence.
I am tired all over and my feet are really hurting from being strapped to my footplates. I am pretty keen to stretch them out straight, so when I see my uncle heading towards me with our family dog I get excited. I know he’ll undo the ankle strap if I ask him to.
I catch up with them a moment later and reach out my hand to try and pat Emmy as she walks by, she dodges my hand and heads over to eat some grass. She can be such a little bitch sometimes! I shake my head at her sudden rudeness and turn to my uncle, ‘can you please take my ankles strap off?’ I ask in a quiet voice.
He bends to take it off and a moment later I am enjoying stretching my legs out in front of me, letting the sun warm them all over. ‘Now do you want me to put them back on?’
‘Nah, I think I’ll just drive home with my feet hanging off the footplates.’ I smile sweetly at him.
‘Do you think that’s a good idea?’
‘It’ll be fine, it’s only a short distance to home.’ I continue driving my electric chair towards home.
We get home five minutes later and my uncle takes Emmy inside while I manoeuvre the chair slowly up the driveway behind them.
I had been going well, not hitting anything, but then I just got too cocky, lost control and hit an empty milk crate. I didn’t hit it hard or anything, but it was enough to make me scream in pain. Mind you, it was one of those silent screams where all the air has gone from your lungs, the pain was so sharp I felt like I’d been winded. Anyway, that’s what it felt like.
I had tears running down both cheeks, I can’t remember if I swore or not but I know that my uncle came over to help drive me inside the house. When we were inside and I had calmed down enough to speak I told him I thought I’d really hurt my ankle and wasn’t sure if I could weight bare on it to transfer. I went over to the couch with him and he took my runner off. My ankle didn’t look bad at all; no blood, no bruising or swelling. It looked completely fine, which kind of pissed me off because it hurt so bad and was still hurting. ‘Maybe it’s broken?’ Even as I say this I know it’s not true because it doesn’t hurt all over my ankle, just in one bit. I probably only bruised it and am only being a wuss about it all.
My uncle looks at me with raised eyebrows and starts stretching my ankle. Around this time Sam wheels over and peers at my ankle dubiously. ‘You’re ankle doesn’t look swollen at all.’
I look at my ankle which is now stretched fully back like normal. My uncle holds it between two hands and grins. ‘See, you wouldn’t be able to bend it back like this if it was broken.’
Great, so that means I am a wuss.
It hurt all day and all night. I kept on taking pain killers and telling myself to toughen up. I hadn’t been able to weight bare on it at all, I had been using the floor hoist to transfer me from the toilet to the chair or bed. I have never been more thankful for this clunky piece of equipment an OT from a community organisation had prescribed me.
I had an inkling something wasn’t quite right with my ankle, but I just kept hoping it would get better. The swelling and the bruising showed up at night and it was colourful, at least now the pain was showing. In a few days, my family was heading to Melbourne for a wedding, one that no-one wanted to miss and so I kept on telling myself that it would heal by then.
Five days later the swelling and bruising still hadn’t gone down, and I was still taking painkillers every few hours or so. I hadn’t been weight-bearing at all throughout the past five days so I was worried by now and the pain was getting worse. So it was on a Monday when we were visiting a local physio at the hospital that we decided to get my ankle x-rayed. The day before we were meant to fly to Melbourne.
When we are in Emergency a fairly young nurse comes out from behind the desk and kneels in front of me. ‘Hey, can I ask what your medical history is?’
I don’t even think – I just start listing minor operations I’ve had over my life. I am trying desperately to remember everything and make sure I don’t miss out on anything important when I realise my uncle’s smiling at me and so is Sam. It takes me a minute to work out what they’re grinning about. ‘Oh! You mean the wheelchair right?’
She nods and a light blush creeps into her cheeks.
I laugh out loud at the fact that I forgot about the most noticeable thing about me. With hindsight I’m pretty impressed that wasn’t the first thing I thought of. It’s a reflection on the way my parents raised me. Learning to never let my disability define me.
Anyway, it took a long time to find out but it turned out I had broken a little bone in my ankle and they put a giant cast on my right foot, which I had to wear for six uncomfortable weeks. This also meant that weight-bearing was out of the question which meant that my dad and I couldn’t go to the wedding in Melbourne because the room we had booked was way too small for a hoist.
I was so annoyed at myself for my stupidity after gym, I should have never taken my feet off my footplates. Because of my actions my dad wasn’t able to go to his sister’s wedding and I felt horrible about it the whole time we were home.
I’d never been in plaster before, and I never hope to again.