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BumpInTheNight

Important safety tip: don't try to leap barefoot over obstacles in a dark and cluttered room, especially before a long-anticipated ultramarathon!

I'm a tremendously lucky person --- things last evening could have gone much worse. I foolishly tripped and ripped a toe almost half off, so I'm out of commission for any running in the immediate future. But the digit down there still has some feeling in it, and I'm told that there's hope of patching the torn tendons. Also on the happy side, I've received a flood of supportive emails from friendly ultrarunners around the world ... including serious sympathy notes as well as comic admonitions to just "Suck it up!" and hit the trails. It's yet another demonstration of the wonderful spirit of that community (as illustrated by Neal Jamison's RunningThroughTheWall, Eric Clifton, PaulReese, etc.).

Meanwhile, two key questions remain:

Timeline Summary of Events

10:10pm: I put my laptop to sleep and turn out the lamp by the living-room couch where I'm sitting and doing email. In the semidarkness that follows I attempt to step over a pile of "stuff", misjudge, catch my left great toe on a sharp-edged backpack strap, and trip --- twisting the toe downward at a severe angle. It snaps. I cry out rather more loudly than is usual after one of my too-frequent stumbles. Daughter Gray and wife Paulette come immediately to my aid. The big toe looks quite ugly, folded over with a mean gash in the upper surface as if it's almost torn off. But interestingly enough, there's hardly any bleeding or pain. I put the toe back in place and hold it with one hand while I hobble to a seat at the dining-room table. Maybe it's only a sprain or a dislocation, I speculate, along with some surface abrasion ...

10:15: Daughter Gray remains calm; she phones the health clinic advice line, where after a short conference we're directed to call "911" and get somebody on the scene to assess the situation. My thoughts center on the sudden improbability of doing the Bull Run Run in 10 days ...

10:20: The 911 operator promises to send an ambulance and medical technicians. Paulette applies her Girl Scout training and wraps my oozing toe in gauze, binding it to the rest of the foot so that it doesn't move. The first aid kit that we assembled a few years ago as part of a Boy Scout merit badge project comes in handy ...

10:40: There are no flashing lights or wailing sirens anywhere near our peaceful street, so I call the health clinic back and get permission to proceed to the local emergency room. I dial 911 again and cancel the ambulance request. The dispatcher wonders where the vehicle could have gone ...

10:45: Paulette is driving me to the hospital, and as we approach a near-accident occurs: a car in a great hurry swerves around us and passes on the right as we are about to turn into the emergency entrance. Fortunately, there's no collision ...

10:50: I check in, sign some unexpectedly simple paperwork, and get a plastic hospital bracelet to wear. It's surprisingly calm, not like the madhouse of an ER that I had expected. The staff is friendly and helpful. A cluster of kids are quietly carousing, and near us a few other individuals and couples await their turns. Paulette and I settle down in the corner of the outer waiting room and commence reading ...

11:15: My name is called --- I'm invited into an inner treatment area and given a chair in berth #5. I describe the toe to a nurse. Ten minutes later a cheerful radiologist/technician materializes, gives me a short wheelchair ride down the hall, helps me unwrap the afflicted foot, and props it on a digital imaging surface. Three X-rays later and I'm back in my #5 slot. On the way a lady waiting with her husband in room #6 is grossed out by my newly-exposed injury ...

11:45: Not much seems to be happening, so I ask a nurse if he could get my book from Paulette. He invites her in and we sit together and read novels in our new abode ...

12:15am: A nurse sees that my foot continues to ooze, and so decides to prepare a small tub of iodine + hydrogen peroxide for me to soak the ugly toe in ...

12:45: After half an hour of generating bubbles (oxygen released from the breakdown of peroxide) my toe seems clean enough, and it's getting a bit cold too. So the antiseptic soak is dumped and I dry off. Back to reading ...

1:05: Little seems to be happening, so I limp to the main desk and ask for a situation report. "There's one patient in front of you," is the reply ...

1:15: Almost two and a half hours after my arrival, the physician's assistant in charge of the ER area looks at me for the first time. Immediately my status leaps dramatically and he teaches us a new word --- disarticulated --- which in his judgment the toe is only a little short of. He goes off to confer with Higher Authority via telephone, and returns with firm instructions for me to go to my usual health clinic as soon as possible when it opens. We joke about how to best convince the medical system's gatekeepers that this is a serious case, and he advises which words to use during the next conversation ...

1:45: A nurse commences an intravenous drip of antibiotics, in preparation for the sutures to come. Paulette chats with a neighbor who has a sliver of metal in his eye ...

2:15: The physician's assistant returns and we discuss college baseball, digital cameras, and retirement plans. A needle's worth of lidocaine hurts going in, more than any prior event of the evening. Four big stitches later the toe is stabilized ...

2:40: Paulette and I leave the hospital, with prescriptions for oral antibiotics and painkillers plus further instructions on how to treat the injury ...

2:50am: Home at last!

Half a day later, the results of this afternoon's visit to the health center are quite positive. I meet a smart (and funny) podiatrist whose examination suggests that the tendon may not be completely broken. She schedules herself to do repair work on it Monday. (Definition of "minor surgery": an operation performed on anybody other than oneself.) Also in her judgment the pain --- a throbbing ache, practically a giggle compared to mile 26 of some long runs --- is near its peak now, so I probably can survive without taking prescription narcotics. (My Negra Modelo and Yuengling Black & Tan consumption should thus remain unimpeded.) Full recovery is at least several months away, but that's considerably better than "never".

Salutations to Gray for her calm support in the midst of crisis, and infinite thanks, as always, to Paulette ...

(see also PatienceAndTime (11 Jan 2005), ToeTransplantProjectZeta (1 Apr 2005), ...)


TopicPersonalHistory - TopicRunning - TopicHumor - Datetag20050331


(correlates: OperatorHeadSpace, TeamWork, Forrest Gump --- The Movie, ...)

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