13 Ways of Looking at a Broken Leg

I. Falling is never as bad as the anticipation of falling. It happens so quickly that there’s no time for fear or pain. One moment you’re walking down a little ramp that leads from one room of the bakery to another, the next you’re lying on the floor looking up at the ceiling.

II. When someone falls, it deeply disturbs something in the ones who witness it. They want you back on your feet immediately.

Are you okay? Here, give me your hand, I’ll help you up. Here, you put your arm under her shoulders and I’ll put my arm under her waist and we’ll pull her up.

Sit up as much as you can. Smile and put your hands over your right leg. “Thank you. But I’m just going to stay down here a little while.”

No, no, come on. Give me your hand. We’ll help you up. It was a little spill, that’s all. You’re fine.

Keep smiling. “I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”

No, no, no, it’s not broken! It was a tiny fall. If it were broken you’d be crying in pain.

Keep smiling. Shake your head until everyone droops back to their tables. After a while, take your boots off. Try to stand. Hop on one foot back to your table. Collect your things. Ask your Spanish-speaking friend, the one who’s there at dawn every morning sweeping, clearing tables, smiling, asking how you are, to help you to your car. Lean on his shoulder and hop on your left sock-footed leg.

III. Once in the car, realize that you’re going to have to drive two-footed. This will be a new experience. Bad leg on the gas, good leg on the brake. Surprisingly, this isn’t that hard.

IV. Park as close as you can to the Urgent Care entrance. Hop on one sock to the trunk of your car. Scrounge around for that extra-long windshield scraper thing you bought a couple of years ago. Aha! Pull it out and use it as a cane. Hop and windshield scraper-cane your way into Urgent Care. Use the scraper-cane to punch the automatic door opener button. Feel great happiness as the doors yawn open and stay open while you hop-scraper-cane your way in.

V. “What makes you think it’s broken? It’s not very swollen.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s broken.”

VI. Try to answer the question “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, what is your pain level right now?”

The worst pain you ever felt? Childbirth, just like a million other women. This is definitely not as bad as childbirth, so. . . 6? 7? Wait. Even childbirth had moments that didn’t hurt so bad, like when the contraction receded and you had a few seconds to regroup before the next one. And this doesn’t hurt all that much unless you try to stand on it, in which case it hurts way worse than . . . childbirth? So should you say “8” then? “9”? But you’re not putting any weight at all on it right now, you’re sitting in this wheelchair, so it doesn’t really hurt much. So. . . 3? Wait, maybe you should split the difference between 9 and 3. 6? Isn’t 6 what you started out with? Yes, it is.


VII. “I have bad news. Your leg is broken.”

Smile and nod.

VIII. Stick the windshield scraper-cane down the sleeve of your coat and crutch yourself and your compression-booted broken leg back to your car. Start the car. Put the boot on the gas and listen in surprise as the gas roars and the brake clenches simultaneously. Realize that the boot covers both the gas and the brake. Take the boot off, which you have been told not to do until the broken leg heals. Drive to the orthopedic doctor/surgeon/specialty clinic with your broken-legged foot on the gas and your left foot on the brake. Drive home the same way.

Once home, realize that it is 100% dangerous to drive like that. Realize that you will not be able to drive until the broken leg is no longer broken and the boot/cast is off.

IX. With immediate, unquestioning and surprising calm, accept this new reality. Mentally shrug and think, Okay then. No driving. Cancel everything that requires you to be somewhere for the next two weeks except the class you teach. Figure out how to get to/from the class without driving.

Think: You have come a long way. You really don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, do you? Feel proud of yourself.

X. That night, almost fall as you let the dog out and in. Almost fall as you put the cat’s food down. Almost fall as you figure out how to get up the stairs. Think: Yikes, you better carry your phone with you everywhere, because what if you did fall and you couldn’t get up again? Remember the long-ago commercial about the woman who fell and couldn’t get up. Think: You can do this.

XI. Late at night, drink some whiskey and take a painkiller and lie in bed completely enjoying the silky blurry feeling traveling up and down your body.

XII. Three days later, hobble around your kitchen cleaning it up. Think: You are so lucky this didn’t happen in the beginning of summer. Think how miserable and pissy you’d be then. 

Use a crutch to haul the wastebasket closer. Think: You are so lucky that it was a clean break. No surgery. No pins and screws.

Use the backs of chairs as little springboards. Think: You are so lucky to have all these friends bringing food and offering to do the laundry and walk the dog and go grocery shopping and keep you company.

Lean against the sink for support. Think: You are so lucky that you knew it was broken even though everyone kept telling you it wasn’t. Imagine if you had just come home and iced it and then kept trying to walk on it.

Run the water until it’s extremely hot and then soap the sponge and hobble around on the crutches and scrub the table and all the counters. Think: This took you an hour and a half and it would usually take you 15 minutes.

Lean back on the crutches and admire the clean kitchen. Be flooded with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment. Think: When was the last time you felt this great about something you accomplished?

XIII. Think: What if you felt this good about something like a clean kitchen all the time?

Think: Maybe you could. Maybe you could choose to.


  1. ali catt · December 2, 2012

    nooooo, alison! what part of it did you break? what a bummer. 😦 i hope it heals fast and flawlessly.

    your broken-legged driving, though, makes my broken-footed hobbling to the ER look like child’s play.



  2. alison · December 2, 2012

    Broke the fibula, alicatt, so it’s not a bad break. And broken-legged driving was actually easier than broken-legged hobbling with the windshield scraper – so I’d say we’re equal. 🙂 XO


  3. Karen · December 2, 2012

    Oh no, I’m so sorry! A broken bone has a certain feel, doesn’t it? It’s been a while, but I remember.

    It’s interesting how important it was for people that you be “okay,” regardless of reality.

    I had an argument with a doctor, once, in which she pointed to an x-ray and told me my foot wasn’t swollen, and I pointed to my foot and tried to convince her it was. She won, and I walked around with tendonitis for a year before I was brave enough to go to another doctor. I keep hoping I’ve learned my lesson.

    And can I just say, the thought of trying to rate my pain ties me up in knots. I never know how to evaluate something like that. Being able to rate it accurately would probably get in the way of sometimes-necessary things like broken-legged driving. I’m impressed by that, too.

    I hope you heal quickly!


  4. herhimnbryn · December 5, 2012

    Alison, All I kept thinking while reading this post was ‘she is wonderwoman’. I would have been on the phone to soemone to be there with me through out the ordeal of hospital etc. Whisky and painkillers always help. Take care of yourself. If you get a chance pop over to my new bloggyplace.

    Ps.How long for it to mend?


  5. Hope · December 6, 2012

    Oh dear! But such a great post. So, worth it??


  6. Tessa · December 9, 2012

    It’s weird how these things happen in the blink of a moment. I was at the theatre once with my niece and I have no idea why but I fell and my knee started to bleed profusely. My niece looked at me and said Auntie Pie, AUNTIE PIE. Are you ok? Yes, I said crying because tears are my auto response for almost everything.
    I hope your leg fixes itself soon. Whiskey and painkillers sounds just about right:)
    Take care of yourself.


  7. alison · December 10, 2012

    Tessa: sorry, but the only thing I can focus on is that your niece calls you Auntie Pie. Auntie Pie?? I love it.

    HHB: I am *so* not Wonderman, much as I wish I were. (If you could see me crawling up the stairs, hauling my crutches along with me, and then reversing the process to come down again, I think you’d agree.)

    Karin: Yes, there’s something about a broken bone that you just know, instinctively. And what is up with the doctor insisting your foot wasn’t swollen, when you were pointing to its swollenness??

    Hope: Nope. Not worth it. SAD FACE.

    Thank you, everyone, for your good wishes. I should be back in action in another 6-8 weeks!


  8. Nicole · December 29, 2012

    So sorry to hear about your broken leg!!! I know I am like a month late, but I hope you have healed well!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s