When I Broke My Foot
We were barefoot, running back and forth in the sand in front of my Mom’s house, which was positioned right on the beach, facing west towards Great Abaco island. We had walked about 50 feet out her back door and made our sprint running course right there in the sand. She and several of her friends swarmed like bees around the arbor that she had built earlier that day. They climbed up step stools and ladders and were draping plants, flowers and ribbons over it as they chatted and giggled like young girls.
I whizzed past them. From what I could see out of the corner of my eye, the flowers, plants and ribbons were beautiful. They had braided huge palm tree leaves in and around the structure and tucked small conch shells, sand dollars and flowers in among them. It was delicate and sweet. Exactly what a wedding arbor should look like.
Our sprint course started in the sand just in front of my mom’s house and went two doors down to the house we had rented. It was about a good 150 yards. Luke and I were running back and forth and doing push ups in between. Luke was timing his sprints as he always did, running back and forth with his watch in his hand and studying it every time he finished a round of sprints. We had constructed similar imaginary courses on almost every trip we had taken and Luke timed himself every time.
I ran as fast as I could to the imaginary finish line and hunched over to catch my breath. As I rose, I saw Luke speeding in my direction. I watched him as he ran, his gait so long and sturdy. I stood upright and began to jog slowly towards him. We both stretched out our arms as we neared each other and I giggled loudly. The smile on his face was enormous. Just inches away from him, I leapt into his arms and shouted, “I do! I do!”. We laughed together in that deep, simple way that children laugh when they’re being tickled, a gentle, light-hearted, trusting laugh. He kissed me on the lips, a single curl bouncing on his forehead like Superman’s.
“You goof. I do too,” he said as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders and put his fingers through my hair. I wrapped my arms around his waist and pushed my head into his chest. He was so much taller than me. I had to crane my neck up to look into his eyes.
The wedding ceremony was only four short hours away. I still didn’t know how I was going to wear my hair. I really wanted braids, but I wasn’t sure if the lone island hairstylist could accommodate. I had asked and she said yes. But, it was island life down there and, as we had come to learn, everything was a yes.
I had on my usual attire, workout shorts and a workout bra. All of which Luke had bought for me. The bra was a bright white sports bra with criss-cross straps in the back. That morning he had called to me from the bedroom.
“Come in here for a minute, babe,” He said loudly. I followed his voice and saw him standing there with one hand behind his back and a mischievous smirk on his face.
“What did you do!” I giggled as he pulled a tissue-wrapped bundle from behind his back and handed it to me. I unwrapped it slowly and the pearly white bra almost shimmered in my hands.
“Babe!” I shrieked. “I love it!”
“I know, right?” He said. “I like it too. I think it’s my favorite one so far.”
After two more sprints, with our fingers intertwined, we slowly strolled towards our rental house. Peering back towards my mom’s yard, we could see the bustling crowd of women still hard at work.
“They are really getting after it. Aren’t they,” he said.
“Oh my gosh, is that my Aunt in the bushes taking pictures of us? Hilarious. She looks like the Paparazzi.” I said with a smile and a wave in her direction.
We climbed the wooden steps of our rental like a sleepy old couple and entered through the sliding glass doors to the living room. The entire house was covered in pastels and everything was shell-shaped. There was a shell-shaped clock on the wall, shell-shaped pillows, a shell-shaped rug. It was an indoor living room, of course, but filled with outdoor wicker patio furniture.
Luke laid his sandy body on the light blue and purple couch and summoned me to accompany him. I floated towards him, kneeled between his legs and gently lay myself on his chest. He stroked my back, tracing his fingers underneath my new wedding bra. His hands moved from the back to the front and I felt him gently push my top up and over my head. His lips touched mine and our bodies pressed together. He enveloped my entire body in his arms and flipped us both over so I was lying on the couch with him hovering over me.
“You should probably take off those shorts,” I flirted. “You’ll just get the couch all sandy if you keep them on.”
“Oh yes, of course,” he said. “We wouldn’t want a sandy couch”.
With the sliding door still ajar, the warm Bahamian air blowing in and the sharp blue sky finally poking through the clouds, we melted into each other.
When we awoke, a short time later, we laid in silence. Then Luke spoke.
“What do you think about having our own ceremony tonight, just the two of us. We can finish writing our vows today and then read them to each other tonight. That way, we can have our own thing without everyone.”
“Oh my gosh. Yes. Definitely. I love that idea, Luke.” I was giddy with emotion.
“I think it will be better this way,” he explained, “tomorrow we’ll be more bothered with the people and I’m not good at talking in front of people, as you know.”
“Yes. Yes. I agree. Let’s do that. I love that.” I was beaming. Something like that had never occurred to me. But Luke always began every action he took with a series of thoughtful and analytical steps, whereas I had mostly lived my life by crossing my fingers, closing my eyes and jumping. I was ready for the wedding the very second he had asked me to marry him. Luke was different. His eyes were focused and calculated. He always played the long game.
We stood underneath the arbor, which had turned out plush and incredible, Vernon spoke. Vernon had officiated dozens of wedding in the Bahamas and many of them in my Mom’s backyard. It was easy to get Vernon to officiate as he was a local who doubled as the town grocer and notary public. Luke and I stood hand in hand in front him, leaning hard against each other, our backs facing the tiny crowd of family and friends.
“There is a metaphor I like to bring up when I officiate a wedding,” Vernon said, “it begins with a garden. A beautiful garden full of flowers. A garden that we tend and take very good care of. A marriage is like this garden. Full of wonderful flowers. Over time, we start to see weeds in our garden. Tiny ones at first. It would be very easy to simply pull those small weeds out before they get too large. It is these small weeds that we need to pay close attention to because if we don’t, before we know it, they can grow so large and unwieldy that we might need to get professional help in order to handle them. So tend to your tiny weeds before they grow large.”
I looked up at Luke, my face beaming, my bare feet planted firmly in the sand, our hands entwined. I was so excited, weeds and all.
“Do you Kacy take Luke to be your husband?” Vernon asked.
I had been training for a half marathon when I met Luke. I was minding my own business on the treadmill at the gym when he slyly interrupted.
“What are you training for?” He had asked.
“The half,” I told him. He looked at me with a slow grin.
“How funny, me too,” he said.
Since that day, we had run 6 half marathons, twelve 10k’s and five 5k’s together. I had yet to beat him, but I didn’t mind so much that he was faster than me because he was always there at the finish line cheering me on.
“Yes. Yes, I do,” I answered Vernon with tears in my eyes.
“And do you, Luke. Take Kacy to be your wife?” Vernon said, looking at Luke.
“Yes. Absolutely,” he squeezed my hand he stated in the solid, deliberate way he talks when he’s having a business conversation.
Bumping over the Atlantic, we headed to Florida to catch our flight back to Austin.
“It went so fast.” I said sadly, my head on Luke’s shoulder.
“I want to come back again already,” he said.
It only took a couple of days before we were back into the swing of real life, fighting the daily traffic to and from the office. On Monday nights, I had been taking a class downtown for work, so the first Monday we were back, I grabbed the foldable, compact bike I had ordered online and threw on my backpack to start my 10-minute bike ride downtown.
“Be back in a bit,” I said to Luke.
“Okay, babe. Love you,” he said.
“Love you,” I replied as I flew out the door.
The minute class was over, I bounded down the stairs and felt a surge of glee as I thought of getting home to Luke and our pups. I leapt onto the bike the second I was out the door. My class ended just after 10pm, so it would be just about bedtime when I got home. Bedtime was one of my favorite times with Luke. That and morning time. He and our two dogs would cuddle in bed together, sleepy-eyed and relaxed. We had merged two queen beds together so we would have enough room for all four of us so the surface area of the bed was now huge. We all piled on top of it with blankets and pillows and dog toys and various other items the dogs would bring up in bed. It was heaven.
Riding on the sidewalk, I wheeled a bit faster and stood up on my pedals. Without warning, the handlebars quickly sank into the base of the bike. I wobbled uncontrollably back and forth, unable to steer. I could not gain my balance and screamed out of fear that I was going to crash. I was going too fast to just stop, so I stuck my foot out to steady myself against the ground. And then I really screamed. I didn’t hear the bones break and I didn’t feel them move. In that first moment, more than pain, was the extreme tension I felt as my foot had been pulled incomprehensibly too far to the right. I felt my entire body tighten. Then the pain came next. It wasn’t acute like the kind of pain you feel when you cut your finger. It was broad. It took me over. There was nothing but the pain. I was smothering me like an untouchably hot, violent, paralyzing blanket. It was as if I had been pushed inside the pain, rather than the pain had occurred on me. Like jumping into a pool, where I was surrounded in every crevasse by it. My bike had slowed from the resistance my foot had produced and I tumbled to the ground. Sprawled across a set of stairs, I was cemented there. My body pushing down heavier than gravity was pulling. I could feel myself holding my breathe as my body continued to tighten. My palms were face down on the cement and started sweating. The temperature in my body was blazing hot down by my feet and icy cold near my torso. My vision began to blur. I looked around to see if anyone was near. I couldn’t make out my surroundings. I was alone.
“Help!” I screamed, over and over. I heard nothing but the distant hum of passing cars.
With one of my hands, which was now shaking, I reached behind my back and pulled my phone from the tiny front pocket of my backpack. My vision was closing in. No matter which direction I looked, there were giant blurry, black blobs.
I couldn’t think who to call. But I knew I needed help. I dialed the number nine, but then I thought of Luke. Why couldn’t I have just made it home. I was so close. It was almost bedtime. I found his number in my recent calls and pushed his name. He answered after two rings.
“Luke? I fell. I fell off my bike,” I stated firmly. He asked me something, but I couldn’t focus. People had started to gather around me.
“Are you okay?” A woman asked leaning over me.
“No. I fell off my bike,” I spoke loudly. “Can someone call 911 please?” I felt immobile. I gripped the phone that still had Luke on the line. The pain was exploding around me like a pulsating cloud filled with a red and furious fire. Like a bomb just after detonation. The cloud growing as the minutes passed. I didn’t want to deal with this. I didn’t want to be hurt. I clenched my eyes shut and handed my phone to the nearest person, the young woman who had asked if I was okay.
“Will you tell my husband where we are?” I pleaded. My husband. It was the first time I had ever used that word. I felt the anger come. The regret. Already wondering what had happened exactly. How had I lost control? Why did the bike break? I wanted to be in our bed with the dogs cuddling among the blankets and dog toys.
Minutes later, an ambulance arrived and a paramedic kneeled down beside me. My vision was still splotchy.
“Can you tell me your name?” The paramedic asked.
“Kacy,” I said. I tried to look at him, to really see him, but everything ran together. I was involuntarily clenching everything. I felt completely stuck in place.
“Do you know where you are right now?” He asked.
“Yes. Near Congress,” I said.
“That’s right,” he said. “We’re going to turn you over, okay?”
He and another paramedic held me on either end, one near my knees, the other at my shoulders and gently turned me over onto my back. Like a mannequin, I stayed locked in the same position as I had been face down.
“Oh boy. Yep,” one of them said as he looked at my foot.
“Yeah, that doesn’t look quite right now does it. Looks like a pretty major break and severe dislocation, young lady,” said the other paramedic.
“But I’m a runner.” I said.
“Oh boy. I’m so sorry, ma’am. Let’s get you up and out of here right away then.”
They loaded me onto the gurney and wheeled me into the ambulance. I was facing the back and looked out the open doors onto the street. About 50 yards off in the distance, jaywalking across the street towards us, I saw Luke. He had on his black Quicksilver board shorts, a black t-shirt, a black hat on backwards and flip flops. I exhaled a deep breath, my eyes softened and a faint smile appeared on my face. I wished, like I was a believing little kid, that we were back on the beach and not facing this reality. His blondish-brown curls popped out under the hat and bobbed a bit as he jogged toward us. He came to the open door that was to the left of me and stuck his head inside, his mouth agape.
“What happened?” His face was that of confusion more than concern or worry.
“I broke my foot,” I said. I watched his eyes as they moved down to my foot, which was jutting out almost 90 degrees to the right.
“Oh my god. How? Are you all right?” I could see just how wrong my foot looked by the expression on his face.
“What happened?” He asked again.
The words would not come to me. The pain was now suffocating.
“Can I get something?” I asked the paramedic who was sitting to my left down by my feet.
“Like anything?” I begged.
“What happened?” Luke asked again, this time looking at the paramedic. I couldn’t explain. His face was more unemotional than I had expected. I had expected a hug, a passionate embrace — or maybe even a leap towards me as he threw me over his shoulder to race me to the hospital with only his feet to carry us. Something, anything. Instead, he seemed confused. Maybe even annoyed. I had known Luke now for six years. I had watched him over the years and always tried to learn him. And I knew, even in just those first few minutes, I knew this was going to be a struggle for him. He is pragmatic and simple. He likes things that can be measured and timed, predictable and reliable — and this was a mess.
I could tell he was trying to gather facts so he could come to his own conclusions. He would need to take into account the things I said, what the paramedic said and even information he gathered by looking at my foot. He was going to come to his own conclusions after some very careful consideration.
“I don’t really know,” I mustered. “The bike broke. The handlebars sank and I lost my balance.” I said, knowing this was not going to be nearly enough information for him, but being in far too much pain to explain any further.
“Yes. I can give you some pain meds,” the paramedic smiled at me. “Not as much as they’ll give you at the hospital. But it’ll be something.”
He was a portly, Hispanic man with a round, kind face and a genuinely sincere smile.
A bit of chaos ensued as the paramedics began to pull everything together to head to the hospital. Luke climbed into the ambulance next to me. He put one hand on my head and gently rubbed my shoulder with the other hand, his expression now bordering on surprise.
“How did you lose control?” He asked, continuing his investigation.
I didn’t have answers. My foot was on fire. I thought only of finding relief.
“I don’t know honey. The bike broke. My foot is on fire.” I said.
“What were you doing?” He asked.
“I was riding the bike!” I said, almost shouting.
“But how did you fall,” he asked.
“I didn’t fall. The bike broke. Do you want to just meet us there? So you’ll have the truck?” I asked him.
“Yeah. Sure. If that makes the most sense,” he said.
“Yes. That’s fine,” I said. “Meet us there.”
“I love you,” he said as he kissed my head and climbed out of the ambulance.
“Love you.” I replied, the pain surging through my entire body in one gigantic pulse. My whole body was shaking now, not just my hands.
I could see Luke come around to the back of the ambulance and talk with the other paramedic who handed him the bicycle. He was probably getting more information to add to his own investigation. Luke lifted up the bike with one hand and gave me a quick wave with the other and headed towards his truck.
I found myself lying in a private room in the emergency section of the hospital, where I drifted in and out of awareness. Luke was in the room with me.
A voice spoke to me in a rapid and urgent manner.
“Hi, Kacy. My name is Monica. I’m a nurse,” the voice said.
Through my blurry vision, I could see the petite figure of a girl with pink skin and curly brown hair.
“I’ll be helping out with the relocation of your foot. I’m taking you down there now,” she said as she started collecting my IV. “We’ve got the team ready and we’re going to put that foot back in it’s place. Sound good?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Can my husband come?” I asked.
“Of course. He can come down to the procedure room with us. But he probably won’t want to stay in there while we do the relocation. It’s pretty unsettling to watch for most people,” she explained.
I lay under the yellow and white fluorescent lights while Monica and a male nurse moved around the over-sized room. Luke watched as the nurses scurried about. His eyes were following the nurses’ every move. I imagined he was analyzing every piece of equipment they used, the things they said, the movements they made, trying to calculate the probability of something, perhaps the answer to the question of whether they were good at what they did. I could tell by his hunched shoulders that he was tired. It had to be after 2 a.m. The male nurse tended to my bodily needs, taking my vitals and accommodating my request for a puke bag while Monica talked to me.
“So, we’re going to put this foot back in place,” Monica said. “In order to do that, we have to give you a drug called Ketamine.”
“WIll I feel it?” I asked softly, lying on my back with the well-used puke bag resting against my chin.
“Oh no, definitely not,” she said. “I promise. We’re going to start now,” she continued to speak, facing in Luke’s direction. “So, if you would like to go ahead to the waiting room, we can let you know when she’s all set.”
“I’ll be out here, babe,” he said towards me as I saw the silhouette of his tall frame duck behind the curtain.
Minutes later the room swarmed with people. It was so bright and my eyes felt so sensitive, that I couldn’t tell if they were open or closed. I heard Monica’s voice coming from the top right side of the bed next to my head.
“I’m going to put this oxygen mask here just touching your nose, okay?” The rubber tubes were placed just inside my nostrils and incessantly tickled my nose.
“All right, Kacy. Looks like we’re ready. Are you ready?” She asked. She was on my left side now, still up near my head.
“Yes. I’m ready,” I said.
The next morning, in the pre-op room awaiting surgery to put my bones back in place, Luke walked in.
“Hi,” I said.
“Hey. How are you doing today?” He asked.
I shook my head as if talking about it actually made it worse.
“How are the dogs?” I asked.
“Good,” he said. “I took them out and fed them and everyone is safe and happy. But they miss their momma.”
“I miss them.” I said.
“Hi,” the Doctor said as he ducked under the curtain and approached us.
“I’m Dr. Borer. I’ll be performing the operation,” he said. “So, you have a really bad break. You broke the foot and the ankle. You’ve fractured the base of the second, third and fourth metatarsals and the lateral cuneiform bone. But along with that, you have a distal fibular fracture and a posterior tibial malleolus fracture. Basically, you’ve broken most of the midsection of the foot, the fibula and the tibia. Not to mention the dislocations. Overall, it’s a pretty bad break you have here,” he said with a quick and somewhat compassionate smile.
It always struck me how unapologetic doctors could be when they delivered bad news. I am the kind of person who takes responsibility for other people’s feelings, no matter whose fault it is, especially if I am the one who delivers the bad news. But doctors never seemed to have that issue. They stated bad news like the weather. I envied him.
“When will she be able to run again?” Luke asked.
The doctor turned towards Luke as a pleasant smile appeared on his face. I looked at Luke like he was crazy. I imagine he had been doing some calculations in his head already, but that after hearing the doctor’s evaluation he had to re-assess the mental timeline he had created.
“Well, like I said, she has a very severe break here. It will easily be 10-12 weeks before she will be able to put any weight on it at all. Then she’ll need to walk first. So, running is a ways off. ”
“So maybe double that for running?” Luke asked. The doctor looked surprised.
“Well, not exactly. Let’s get this surgery done first and then we can get the recovery going. I would strongly urge you to be diligent with your recovery,” he said glancing in my direction. “You’ll have to stay off the foot completely for at least 10 weeks. Maybe 12. No weight-bearing. Then after that, let’s get her walking first before we think about running. Sound good?” The doctor said in Luke’s direction.
Luke looked at me.
“We’ll get you up and running in no time,” he said.
I was almost glaring at him now, my foot throbbing as the pain medicine had begun to wear off.
The recovery room was smaller than the others. My eyelids opened slowly to reveal a typical, stale, white hospital room with one small window, a chair and a TV hovering off the wall just past my feet. I looked down and saw my foot that was now covered in ace bandages and propped up on a few pillows at the end of the bed. I squinted at it through my drugged and tired eyes.
“Hi, foot. How’re doing down there?” I mumbled at it.
It was mid-morning or so on Tuesday. Emily was my nurse during the day. The sweetest Alice in Wonderland look-alike I had ever seen. She had long, thin blond hair that was loosely tied in a low ponytail and perfectly white teeth that had probably been covered in braces at one point. She typed information into the computer in a slow, calculated manner and would look me directly in the eye when she spoke. She never asked a question without listening intently to the answer. I had always envied girls like her. Probably because I felt, and probably was, so completely opposite. Sweet was a persona I could be. But it was not something I was. But for girls like Emily, her sweetness was as real as her blood and bones.
I spent the day marked by Emily voice. She came every four hours to check on me and give me my medicine. Sometime in between her visits, the CN would come to take my vitals and empty my bed pan. They were all so kind. I don’t know if I would be that gracious emptying anyone’s bed pan.
Luke had left that morning some time after my surgery to head into work for awhile. He returned later in the day and was sitting with me. The nausea was bad.
After Emily left one time, Luke climbed into the bed and curled up next to me, his arm draping across my torso, our foreheads touching. We closed our eyes and rested there entwined like messy tree branches. I had so many things to say to him, so many worries. So many things to ask him. Could he do this? Was he scared? Was he worried? Was he having any feelings or just calculations?
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. Are you?” He asked as he opened his eyes. We were face to face as our eyes met.
“I mean, about this. This is going to be hard.” I said softly.
“I know,” he said with a sigh. “I know.”
“I’m not going to be able to do stuff for awhile. You won’t have your running buddy. Your workout buddy. Your partner. Your wife,” I said, my words trailing off as tears welled in my eyes.
“I know. We’ll take care of it. We’ll take care of your foot. We’ll get you back,” he said as he brought his hand to my hair and patted my stragglers down.
“Okay.” I whispered, the tears puddling faster now.
”We need to make sure we elevate your foot a lot. And we should get ice packs so we can help bring down the swelling. I have that ankle brace too that you can use if you want, when you’re ready for that anyway,” he said.
“Okay.” I said. His analysis, while not resulting in emotional support as I had hoped, was resulting in some possibly helpful conclusions.
I felt his curls tickle my forehead and his rough, fuzzy chin scratch my cheek. We entwined our hands, relaxed and drifted off to sleep. We slept for the better part of the day like that.
Thirty-six hours after the accident, I was released.
As I sat on the edge of bed, having just sat up for the first time in two days, the phone next to the bed rang. It was Luke.
“I’m here. I’m downstairs,” he said. I didn’t know what to say. I was quiet. Why wasn’t he coming up, I thought.
“Are you there?” He asked. “I’m here. Right out in front”. Out front, I repeated in my head. I needed help with my bags. I needed another set of ears to listen to the discharge instructions. My heart started beating fast. My hands started shaking as I stared at my foot, my toes still painted in the light pink I had worn at our wedding. Why wasn’t he coming up to help me? I couldn’t walk and I wouldn’t be able to for awhile. I would need help in ways I had never needed help before.
Emily came in at just that moment and saw the tiny puddles of fear in the bottoms of my eyes.
“Is everything all right? Can your husband still come to pick you up?” She asked so entirely full of love and concern.
“Yes. Yes, he’s coming. He’s here. He’s downstairs. I just… I just wish my mom or sister or someone was here to help. I mean, girls are just better at this sort of thing.” I choked out.
I was terrified. Anger swelled in my gut.
“Hey,” I looked up to see Luke in the doorway. “Ready to blow on out of here?” He said with a smile. He was kneeling on an apparatus that looked like a scooter but with a lifted seat where one knee went, his hands were on the handlebars and the other foot stood firmly on the ground.
“What is that?” I asked, a smile creeping onto my face.
“It’s a knee wheeler. I didn’t want to lug it all the way up here, but I was thinking maybe you might actually be ready to use it. You rest your bad leg on the padding here and you use the other leg to push. Just like a scooter. There’s a basket on the front here so you can carry things around. Oh, and look,” he said as he reached into the basket and then raised up his hands. There were three ice packs in one hand and the ankle brace in the other.
“Oh my goodness. Thank you, baby.” I said with a soft smile. It wasn’t exactly flowers or hugs, but it would be useful.
“Want me to carry you over to your new transportation apparatus?” He asked with a smirk.
“Yes,” I said softly, my arms reaching up towards him, as he leaned over, kissed my cheek and wrapped his right arm around my waist. “Yes please.”
“Okay, I’ll carry you,” he whispered in my ear as he wrapped his left arm under my legs. “I’ll carry you.”