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Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Used to Dream of Flying

This is the second post documenting my experiences, living in Manhattan, after I missed one step on the way to the laundry room and broke a bone in my foot. First post was here: The Fractured Fifth - Manhattan Life with a Broken Foot 

I started getting used to my crutches slowly but surely around the apartment.  I would still roll around with my office chair whenever possible, but when I needed to stand, often it was easier to just use the cane, as sometimes it was difficult to navigate my small apartment with crutches.  Crutches would be for the outdoors, when I needed to go outside.  My friend Zack stopped by to enjoy sushi with me and Aliona.  He also helped move some things out of the way, which were difficult to navigate around with my computer chair.

I began to take not only anti-inflammatory drugs such as tylenol regularly, but also vitamin supplements, including my normal multivitamin, plus calcium/vitamin D tablets.  None are likely necessary, but I'm doing whatever it takes to heal faster.

The shower stool arrived.  It was SO much easier to get into the bathtub.  Also, I was able to sit on a stool rather than on the floor of the tub.  I felt before like an animal at the bottom of his cage.  With the stool, I was able to sit up, and lean into the shower water when I chose.

I also received the latex and plastic foot cast cover as well, which keeps my cast dry without the need for a trash bag and packing tape.  It has been sometimes difficult to get the thing over my cast without straining something in my foot or unraveling the bandages forming my cast, but it certainly felt far more civilized and sane.

I made a point, on Sunday, to enjoy some time on the rooftop of my apartment complex.  It was quite an ordeal getting to a good spot using crutches, and when I finally collapsed into a seat in the corner, I noticed I was downwind from a smoker a couple chairs over.  I had to move, being allergic to cigarette smoke, finding another nice shady spot.  That's the smoker on the left.  Eventually I noticed the smoke from someone else on the rooftop, but he was far enough away for me to ignore.

On the way back to the elevator, the security guard helped open the door for me, suggesting I take longer strides with my crutches.  That advice proved invaluable later, for when I went outdoors and would have to travel on crutches for much longer distances.

Monday morning, I woke up early, unable to sleep due to needing weird positioning of my imprisoned foot for it to be comfortable.  I sleep normally on my stomach, so the foot naturally rests on the toes, which is not comfortable.  Aliona was still asleep and I was on the sofa, eating breakfast around 8-9am, and I heard unusual noise at the front door, like maintenance is being done in the hallway.  Shockingly, I saw light begin to stream in from the front door.  Someone was entering my apartment.  I grabbed the cane and limped over.  The guy quickly saw me and exited, then rang the doorbell.  He explained that my apartment is supposed to be vacant, and he was going to confirm whether or not I should be there.  I knew there's no way this is the case, but I worried about how many places I'd have to physically go, foot and all, and how distracting this will be in order to clear it up.  Fortunately, I got a very apologetic phone call from the building manager who provided the wrong apartment number.

A couple hours later, I was cheered up when my bone stimulator arrived!  I learned that they retail for about $5000 each, and the insurance covers it in full:

While the guy was showing me how to use it, I asked him how to return the thing when I'm healed.  He said I keep it.  I imagined perhaps I could sell the thing, which he confirmed is done on eBay, despite it not being allowed, as it requires a prescription.  On eBay, it looks like you can get the same model new for a couple hundred at most.  Anyway, he told me, as Dr. La Puma suggested, that I should optimally use it twice a day, but if I can't be bothered, once was almost as good.  I knew that there would be no way in hell I'd miss any opportunity to use it if it was going to speed up my recovery for even a day.

I have to put some strap on my foot, then a conductive gel on my skin.  I insert the thing that delivers ultrasonic waves into my foot, then seal up the enclosure and press the big orange button.  Then I sit for 20 minutes per session, twice a day.  It can sense when it's not directly on the skin.  If I place it poorly, it beeps at me a lot until I fix it.  The hole on the cast was getting stretched a bit, so this was a problem for the first week.  During one session using this thing, I counted the number of sessions I'd have with this thing over the course of the next two months, at least.  About 120 sessions with 40 hours of my life stuck on the couch, waiting for this thing to beep.  I can't believe I have to deal with this crap.

While I wait each 20 minutes, Luna likes to watch me while sitting on the case I store the bone stimulator in.  She prefers I throw around her toys for her to chase, but sitting on new things is her next most favorite thing to do.

Monday, early afternoon, I went to my new PCP for a "general checkup", just so I'd have a PCP who could give me a referral when I needed it.  Getting a taxi at 1:30pm wasn't so bad once I went a block away to a busier street.  It was shaky getting in, though, and I felt bad when my crutches hit the taxi awkwardly.  I arrived and entered the office, happy I read beforehand on the internet how to use crutches on stairs.  These 3 steps had a handrail.  The web site also explained how to use crutches on stairs with no handrail, but I find that concept terrifying.  I was told to fill out some initial information on a tablet PC.  I had no way of carrying the tablet PC back to my seat.  Eventually I was able to convey this to them and they carried it over, and then back when I was done.

It was my turn, and they held the door open, guiding me to a door not far down the hallway.  The assistant took some basic measurements and readings from me and asked me some questions, then explained I'd have to go pretty far down the hallway to see the doctor.  After I settle into the new room, the assistant explains the doctor wants me to go one more door over to his office.  I finally saw the doctor, and then he immediately apologized, saying he would have come to me if he knew about my foot.  If only doctors read the patient history that takes so much effort to fill out every time you see a new doctor.  They rarely do.  "Broken foot" was certainly something I prominently recorded on the tablet PC as a "reason for my visit".

I learned my new PCP is a pulmonologist, which hopefully won't be relevant to me until my dying breath, but he was courteous and certainly knowledgeable.  I realized I probably should have brought the X-rays, but he said anyway, because I'm relatively young, he would recommend that I get surgery right away.  I explained what I heard from the foot specialists, how they both suggested it may heal fine on its own, describing the fracture as still mostly aligned and with no tissue damage.  He relented, seemingly ambivalent.  He had someone draw some blood, and I was on my way.  It was still fairly early in the afternoon, so I had no problem getting a cab, which I only really appreciated later.

When I got home, I was notified that my knee walker had arrived.  I was elated, as everyone on the internet was raving about how much better it was than crutches.  It lets you carry things in a basket, and scoot around freely.  Stairs are still a problem, but I wasn't going to be needing to deal with stairs around home.  Fortunately, the staff was nice enough, again, to bring it to my door.  This could be very well owed to a sense of guilt from the earlier incident.

I was warned in the Amazon reviews that the assembly was not complex but the instructions were abysmal.  I have confidence in myself to figure it out, but was pretty unsure at various junctions.  Luna meanwhile played with the packaging.

When I got the thing assembled, Luna was in heaven.  Once again, Luna was an obstruction.  While the kneepad is certainly too small for me to safely sit on, it's the perfect size for Luna.  She likes the basket too sometimes.

Later that afternoon I got an email from my boss.  After affirmation from me that I could work full-time, aside from my Wednesday podiatrist appointments, five projects were piled onto me!  Modestly complex projects, but five of them were plenty.  I felt a bit worried, not having worked so heavily remotely before, but I'd make it work, and I needed something to make the time go quickly.  The deadlines wouldn't be unreasonable at all.  I had my work, and I could do it from home, so I was grateful.

I saw notification from a project manager of one of the projects that I was required at a meeting that fell right during my podiatrist appointment.  She explained that just this meeting couldn't be moved.  I didn't want to push my appointment to another day.  The podiatrist appointments were my key to getting out of this broken foot hell, so I figured that perhaps I could move the appointment 2 hours later and it still should end before rush hour.  I reluctantly agreed to try to move the appointment, and I was able to.

Got more more instant message from a project manager working on a project I hadn't been assigned.  She said "I hear we'll be working together!"  What?  Soon another email arrives from my boss, saying that I get to work on that sixth project too.  It seemed simple enough, so I welcomed that as an easy brownie point.

On Wednesday, I had my meeting.  I rushed off to a taxi to get to the podiatrist afterward, hoping to get out of my 3pm appointment sooner rather than later.  I told the taxi the address, and despite me yelling "Stop!" he drove almost a block further, which seemed not a big deal to a cab driver.  Unless you can guide a cab driver precisely, you'll rarely end up exactly where you say, and that only registered in my mind then, when every step was a significant effort.  Fortunately I got up to the office no problem, and soon was treated to another whirlpool foot bath and this time, a new "sono" treatment, which I believe works similarly to the bone stimulator.  A machine was hooked up to conductive pads that were applied to my foot.

I honestly don't know if the foot bath or this sono treatment was actually useful, or was just to make me feel psychologically content, but I was going to trust the doc and was also just happy not to have to limp around on crutches for a while.  I was, however, starting to worry about the time.  They seemed to let me sit in "therapy" for longer than I needed to be, and I feared it was getting too close to 4pm, when I figured the rush hour traffic would start to kill my chances of getting a taxi.  I was on crutches now, and did not want to have to painfully navigate the subway system again, risking more injury to my foot.  I wanted to tell them to hurry it up, but I didn't want to interfere with anything that could help my foot heal faster.

Afterward, Dr. La Puma applies a new cast.  He cuts a wider hole in my cast to help with the difficulties with the bone stimulator beeping.  It felt less comfortable than the last soft cast.  I figure since the soft cast is manually constructed, the fit varies significantly.

I was good to go, but it was already past 4pm.  I tried to get a taxi after, on crutches, traversing a "long block", which, in Manhattan, is three times longer than the "short blocks" that are north and south.  The taxis are mostly on the north-south roads (avenues), so it only makes sense to traverse the long blocks, and the next avenue always seems to have more taxis.  The available taxis have a lit up sign above their roof, and during rush hour, very few if any of them are lit up.  That was certainly the case in the ultra-crowded midtown, slightly after 4pm.

I tried at the second avenue for a while to hail a cab, to no avail.  I notice someone walk slightly in front of me and start trying to hail a cab.  I was pretty sure he was unaware that someone on crutches behind him was desperately trying to hail a cab, and had been for a while.  It would have taken a lot of effort to get his attention and state my case, but I didn't think I was going to find a cab anyway on that avenue, so I decide to head down another long block.  Following the security guard's advice, I was taking rather long strides, but I'm getting so exhausted.  I wondered if I needed to make my crutches higher, but would that reduce my stability?  I feared how easy it would be for me to slip somehow on crutches--to have something go horribly wrong--but I was forced to deal with them for the time being.

Eventually I reach the third avenue and saw so many taxis, and some of them were still lit up.  I tried desperately to get the attention of some of them, but they just ignored me.  I shouted into the open window of a lit-up taxi as it drove by helpless me, but that only served to startle some unsuspecting pedestrians.  Trying to wave at a taxi, I accidentally slipped and stepped on my bad foot.  I thought seriously about limping out into the middle of 4 lanes of traffic, stepping in front of any taxi with their light on.  They move slowly enough.  Surely they wouldn't run me over?  I certainly would have gone for the subway at that point, but I made the wrong choice, and I no longer had the strength to get to a subway station.  I feared my best option was to sit on the ground and weep until rush hour ended.

I made one last, desperate wave at a taxi on the far side of the intersection.  I could have sworn he made some sort of gesture of recognition.  The light changed and, yes, he pulled up and I got in!  I tried to explain where I lived in the Financial District.  He didn't recognize many of the street names.  He recognized an intersection about 3 blocks away, and I used hand gestures to communicate where exactly I lived.  He nodded and I dozed off.

A while later, I was relieved to see he was driving the right way.  He asked me whether to take exit 1 or 2.  I wasn't sure, but suggested exit 2, the Brooklyn Bridge exit, was a safe bet, maybe at worst slightly slower.  He still didn't know where I lived though.  Even "turn right here and go 3 blocks" didn't work.  I got out at the intersection 3 blocks away and had to fight my way slightly uphill, 6 steps at a time.  I was so tired.  People who have to use crutches a lot build up their upper body strength, but I was new at this.

Eventually I saw my building.  I weakly made my way in, panting heavily.  Just one more hallway from the elevator.  A neighbor I've never met realized "that guy on crutches lives next to me" and asked if I needed help.  People generally want to help the crippled, and it's nice that so many good samaritans are ready and waiting, but I didn't need help anymore.  My advice is to help people on crutches hail taxi cabs.  There's an app, "Uber", made for hailing cabs electronically, but due to politics, it doesn't work in Manhattan.  Only the more expensive options are available, including car service which would run $30 more.

I fell into my chair, tired and sweaty.  The cat crawled on top and comforts me, as I was left to worry about whether or not I'll need surgery now that I had stepped on my bad foot.

I get back to work, with the cat on my lap.  We moved some chairs around, so I can get around easier, but one chair was still quite a bit in the way.  By putting it on the table next to my work laptop, it turned out to be the perfect hangout for the furball to snooze her life away, occasionally checking up on me.

I have always loved beer, at least since my college days, and had a sizable (22oz) one in the fridge, which I was really needing at the time.  At the end of the work day, I embraced this bottle, which apparently contained "maca root", and despite the beer being very obscure and hard to drink a lot of, I got through it, and felt much better.  But my coordination was off.  3 times my knee slipped off the pad of the knee walker, and the third time, I accidentally stepped a bit on my bad foot again!  This started to send me into a downward spiral emotionally for the rest of the night, but thankfully, strong beer helps me sleep fast.

I became paranoid about making sure my knee was securely on the knee walker before using it.  It's not like a bicycle, where you don't have to look to make sure where the seat is.  I found that even without beer, I sometimes would not place my knee well, so I had to check each and every time.  The knee walker does not turn around well, so much of its usage involves carefully rolling backwards and trying to steer, then awkwardly turning the thing around while maintaining my balance.  Hopping from the knee walker to the sofa also can be difficult with the armrest in the way.

I now worry about what I'll hear at my next podiatrist appointment.  Did my two accidental steps screw up my foot even worse?  Or perhaps I didn't put enough pressure on my foot, and with rest, time, and the bone stimulator, my fracture will look better?  I got an email from work, telling me that my desk has moved to a different location that I like a lot.  I was surprised that they didn't give the seat to someone who had been there longer, but they apparently like me, and informed me the seat will be ready and waiting for me when I get back.  I imagined cutting off my foot, and using a prosthetic, but when this is all said and done, I'll look back on this ordeal as an obstacle I overcame.  Everything would be back to normal, yet I would appreciate having two feet.  Still, if my fracture looks worse at my next appointment, I'll be very motivated to opt for surgery, so I can at least have a fairly guaranteed recovery schedule.

I really have to emphasize how much Aliona has stepped up during these trying times.  So many healthy, fun meals prepared for me, and also dealing with many of the menial house chores that I used to handle.  Outside of a computer, I feel pretty useless, and will surely feel that way for some time.  I really cannot wait to be able to simply walk again.  In my dreams, I still can walk, and it seems so easy.  I used to dream of flying.


  1. Tylenol is not an anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen, aspirin, Naproxen, etc., - the ones that you have to have food with - are. Tylenol, as far as my experience goes, is useful for fevers for small children, but that's about all. Even then, I'd rather use Motrin.

  2. Do not use any anti inflammatory meds when you've broken a bone. New studies show these meds greatly inhibit bone growth and healing. Tylenol is a safe way to alleviate pain associated with a broken bone. I just had surgery for 5th metatarsal fracture on December 24th.