I’m not much of a dancer, but when I stepped off the stairs Saturday night and rolled my left foot, I heard snap, crackle, and pop, clutched my smarting member, and started hopping on the other like a Mexican jumping bean. I knew exactly what had happened. I knew by the sound and the pain. I’d broken my foot.
I knew this with as much certainty as if an apostle had said so because I’d done exactly the same thing almost a year to the day before—October 19 last year, October 16 this. Further troubling the laws of probability, it was the same foot. And if the locus of the pain meant anything, it was the same bone too.
So there I was, hopping. I gained my composure after a moment and hobbled to the freezer. I grabbed an ice pack and then crawled back upstairs to sit and keep the swelling down while I waited for Megan to return from her errands. The pain and the ice made me shiver.
Because it was Saturday night, going to the emergency room was out. Given the increased inflow of drunkards leaping from the roofs of K-Mart buildings, freak bicycle-and-cyclone-fence accidents, and other bloody trump-card injuries, I knew that I’d be sitting in triage for several hours before a doctor could look at the ghostly impression of my fractured foot on an x-ray, put me in a boot, and send me home with a prescription for codeine. So when she returned, Megan helped me get comfortable and we settled in for the night.
Sunday morning we went to the doctor’s, the whole family—Meg, the kids, and me. The sign said, “Walk-in Clinic.” I thought, Who are they kidding? I limped in, dragging my damaged extremity, feeling mocked by the sign. My daughter and son both tried helping me through the door.
The experience went as well as it could. Seated in a wheel chair, I was whisked from one room to another before a doctor confirmed my self-diagnosis: broken. When I told him that I did it the year before, he suggested that it might have improperly healed. The good news was that I still had my boot and crutches from the previous time, he said, right? No. Thinking that I’d never again have need of those torturous instruments, I cast them aside as soon as I was sound. So the doctor gave me a new set of crutches and had me fitted with a boot so big it looked like it belonged on a lunar landing.
We made it to church with plenty of time, and I was soon enveloped in the prayers and hymns and readings. At the kiss of peace before we partake of the Lord’s Supper, a friend behind me put his hand on my shoulder and said with a smile, “It’s for your salvation.” He chuckled a bit, but I know he was being serious. Orthodox believe that in God’s providence all things work together for our salvation, to transform us ever more into the image of Christ, even broken feet.
After the service, people asked what happened. I told them I stepped off the stairs funny. They groaned and said that I was a writer and could come up with something better than that. So I started again, this time with ninjas and purse snatchers.
Others encouraged me and told me it meant that I was getting old.
The next day Megan secured a follow-up appointment with the orthopedic specialist. The lobby for the Bone and Joint Clinic was thick with fellow gimps and wobblers waiting for readings and diagnoses and consultations and updates. My name was called and I hobbled on my crutches to a room where I waited for the next hour. There were no magazines or leaflets in the room, and the walls were devoid of any art except a lonely map on the wall. I’m grateful I had a book or my other foot would have broken from sheer boredom.
Finally the new doctor came in and confirmed the previous confirmation. But he added some good news. While the same bone had been broken, the break was in a different place and was pretty minor. He called it a “stable fracture.” I could even put weight on it, he said, though he suggested that the boot I was wearing was too big, something I was grateful to hear because it was. Fitted for something smaller, I wobbled forth ungainly but happy.
It’s hard to take life in stride when you can’t really stride, but as I made my way back to the car I thought about what my friend at church said. And if my brittle and broken bone can make me more pliable, then thank God.