Sunday, July 2, 2017

What's One Ankle More or Less (Part II)

When we last left our benumbed hero, he was returning, triumphant as it were, to the Elk's Lodge. It was around 5:30 in the morning. I think the party ended at 6:30, but, to be honest, my memory of that morning is a little fuzzy.

My fellow party goers were eager to show their concern, though they were also eager to sleep. I had many wellwishes from people who I suspected, correctly, I would never see again. The boot had a moderate effect on sympathy, but I found the crutches to be much more effective at inspiring sympathy amid random acts of service. Eventually I packed myself up and found myself settling into my own bed in a sort of codeine-induced afterglow. Sleep found me quickly.

Through squinting, heavy eyelids I perceived the "I'm graduated" sunlight filtering through my window, which was odd as my bedroom was not on the east of the house. I had little time to ponder this incongruity and upon opening my bloodshot eyes, the brain dumped the pent up pain that had been building all night.

My grandfather used to throw wet washcloths onto the faces of those he was waking for farm chores. Apparently this had the intended effect of quickly rousting the dreamer into consciousness. As I never endured this particular flavor of alarm clock, I can in nowise compare it to the instant wakefulness and dogged determination of a post-codeine head-and-ankle-ache.

The doctor had plainly said, "Make sure you stay off it for 6 weeks," as he handed me a prescription for codeine. "Take these if it hurts, but make sure you listen to the pain." This was the first injury in my life that had come with a "real" painkiller. The pain that now greeted my recently graduated brain seemed like the kind of pain the doc was talking about. I staggered upstairs, grabbed my pain pills, and settled into the couch to take mental inventory of my situation.

  • ankle in pain (hard to ignore that)
  • just under two weeks until BYU summer term starts
  • I'm registered for my physical education credits at I can take them and get them out of the way before my mission
I spent much of that day sprawled on the couch trying to find good tv to watch. I may as well have been on a quest to find a mythical unicorn.

The two weeks passed quickly, it seemed it me. At first, I spent a lot of time hopping around on one foot. Then I baby-ed steps on my ankle until, gradually, I could support more and more weight. The doc had encouraged as much physical activity as possible without causing undue pain. I wanted to get back to a walking condition, so I pressed hard. I figured that's what you do: you push through the pain, and on the other side there was the old me, waiting to go walking. All I had to do was keep pushing.

I should point out at this point that my upbringing focused a lot on determination. My father had build a business, clawing his way into the business community through unflagging determination. In my case, pain was just "weakness leaving the body."

Only, in reality, pain was really painful. It didn't seem like weakness leaving the body at all. I kept pushing, though, because that's what would get me through it.

After a couple of days, I added to my sitrep:
  • crutches are annoying
Within a week, I was hobbling around the house, able to attend to my own needs. I was trying to talk normal steps, focusing on full range of motion through my ankle. It hurt like the dickens (which, incidentally, has nothing to do with Charles Dickens). So, while halting, I was actually walking one week after the incident.

A few more days, and I found myself in Utah, preparing to attend BYU. I had left the crutches at home, insisting that I didn't want them as a crutch — literally. The psychology was simple: I wanted them to be as far away as possible because that would make my brain become independent and heal the body.

I didn't say the psychology was right.

On the first day of college, I learned that I would be keeping a running journal indicating when and how long I ran each week. I spoke with the teacher professor coach and informed him of my recent injury. He seemed to subscribe to my "crutches" psychology. "Run on it, it will make you stronger. You're in this class like everybody else. You'll run, or you'll fail."

Welcome to college.

I hadn't been running since the staircase, and I was a little hesitant to try. But the words of the coach returned to my mind, "You'll run, or you'll fail." My first runs were filled with inspiration pain. They were short, and they were not enough to make the grade at BYU. At the end of the first week, we found ourselves at the Smith Field house, running laps around the track there, setting our beginning of the term pace. I would have to show improvement by the end of the term: my grade depended on it.

Well, let's just say that it wasn't going to be difficult to beat my time.

I continued my runs. The overall pain subsided, though there was an annoying stubborn pain in my ankle that just wouldn't relent.

And so it was, about 3 weeks into BYU, about five weeks post originally injury, I found myself jogging down the sidewalk on the east side of campus. I lived at Deseret Towers, and I would bend my run south through Heritage Halls, where I had observed a most-intriguing collection of freshman females in a study group. They met often on the grass as the base of a great hill, just where my running path came down. There, in the shade of the trees, 12 or 15 girls would sit in a circle and throw biology vocabulary at one another trying to ensure they were ready for whatever exam may be upcoming.

I was one day running, on path near Heritage Halls, certain I would impress this little harem of BYU freshman. As I approached, I puffed up my chest and put on the best running form I could muster. I tilted my chin up, as if I were looking at something down path. I was a fine specimen, and I had noticed a few of the students watching me on previous runs. How could they not? It was at this precise moment, lost in self aggrandizement, that my right foot found the edge of the concrete. For any other fine specimen this probably would not have been an issue, but this particular fine specimen suddenly and forcefully remembered that relentless, tenacious pain and my ankle gave way.

If I had attended physics, I would have been able to run the calculations and formulas about mass and momentum. I could have calculated my velocity and how many freshmen it would take to slow the moving object that was me.

But I hadn't attended physics, and the best I could do was watch it unfold in slow motion. My right ankle rolled under, causing the altitude of my right hip to drop. This caused an immediate shift in course. My heading would have taken me within a foot of the co-ed nearest the sidewalk. Now I was on a collision course with the co-ed seated about 3 in from the sidewalk...or maybe her friend seated at number 4. The shift in altitude also caused the effect of essentially laying out in mid air. If bowling balls had the option to extend their entire mass horizontally — wings of destruction style, I'm certain everyone would want that option.

So there I was, virtually horizontal, hanging in the air like a pompous horizontal bowing ball. All physics needed was a little momentum to finish this recipe. Oh, wait, physics had plenty of momentum: I was running downhill afterall! On the leading edge of the circle, I hit three heads already bowed in books. I sailed into the center of the circle, where friction helped me expend most of my flying potential energy. The roll wasn't so bad until I hit five or six co-eds and the way out of the circle. Books, girls, backpacks, and my pride lay strewn about the grass.

I ended up draped over two very charitable young ladies who immediately attempted to ascertain if I was ok. The short answer to that predictable question was, "No," but I couldn't say that. Through pursed lips I uttered, "I'm fine," as I attempted to collect myself. I tried to look as few of them as possible in the eye as I tried to stand. The pain was searing, but physical pain can be coerced into submission to embarrassment. As quickly as I was able, I beat a hasty retreat up the path I had just glided down. I retreated to my room and spent the entire weekend there.

I adjusted my route for the rest of the term. It wasn't the danger of the hill, but the danger of potentially encountering one of the co-eds.

I re-began the painstaking process of range of motion exercises. I logged a lot of time hopping on one foot. I listened to the pain a little more, and gave myself a little more time to heal properly.

When I brought news of re-injury to the coach, his face softened as he saw the immense struggle I had going on. My plight was apparent, and he seemed to really "get" my situation. He nodded and then offered as mercifully as he could muster, "You run, or you fail."

I didn't get an "A" in Physical Wellness...but I also didn't fail. And my end-of-term run was much faster than my begining-of-term run.

Tune in next week to learn how womens shoes put and end to our hero's moving service!