February 23, 2019
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Injury a real pain in the foot

There comes a time in every person’s life when a bit of self-reflection is called for. So here goes. I am, without a doubt, among the world’s worst patients.

Just ask any of my long-suffering friends who have put up with me over the past several weeks.

I’ve been by turns cranky, stubborn, contentious and — though painful to admit — even whiny.

Sometimes, I’ve been all of the above at the same time.

It all stems from a mushing injury I suffered before Christmas, back when northern Maine actually had snow on the ground.

OK, time for more self-reflection. Referring to it as a “mushing accident” is about as valid as saying tripping over a packed parachute on the hangar floor is a skydiving accident.

The thing is, one of my sled dogs — Little Moia — loves to dig holes. Really big, deep holes. And these holes get obscured by snow.

One afternoon, while feeding the dogs, I forgot about those holes, and with two full buckets of food and water in my hands, I tripped and fell into the biggest and deepest one, forcing my left foot straight down and bent back at a very unnatural angle. Because it was so much fun, seconds later I did the same thing in a different hole.

Ouch and double ouch.

But on the upside, not one kibble was spilled from either bucket.

By the time I had limped back to the house, there was little doubt some serious damage had been done.

The foot never really swelled up or bruised badly, but for weeks afterward, the feeling that it was being squeezed excruciatingly in a vise was disturbed only by a sensation akin to a drill boring through the center of it.

During that time, I followed my normal post-injury protocol — heavy doses of denial chased by shots of self-pity.

After watching me hobble through the holidays, those who keep an eye on me finally convinced me that it might not be a bad idea to have someone trained in medical care take a look at it.

Thus began a magical mystery tour through our medical system.

I was referred to an orthopedic specialist, who, for the sake of not incurring a libel suit, shall remain nameless, as will the hospital with which he is affiliated.

He entered the exam room where I waited — my bare foot exposed for all to see — looked at it and said, “What do you want me to do?”

“Fix my foot?” I said, to which he replied, “I am not a foot doctor. Why are you here?”

Thinking to myself that perhaps he had been absent the day they taught feet at medical school, I allowed as how a referral led me to his exam room.

This did not go over well, nor — I might add — did my attempts to lighten the mood with lame foot-related jokes.

When he finally deigned to look at the injured appendage, his only comments were: get an MRI, see a podiatrist, and you have arches.

Great, insult my feet while you’re at it.

He did impart one final bit of wisdom, “Try to stay off it.”

Right — the dogs, cats and chickens simply will have to feed themselves while the wood stove loads itself.

So I went back to ignoring the pain and completing the daily chores on one foot.

Several days later, when my friend Kim told me she could see me wincing from her car as I worked the clutch in my truck, even I had to admit that things could not continue this way.

Then came the flash of brilliance, and I placed a call to the folks at County Physical Therapy. Two summers ago, they saved my right elbow, taking it from 20 percent capacity to near-complete and pain-free range of motion.

Surely, I thought, they could do the same for my foot.

Placing yourself under the care of the therapists at CPT is a bit like enrolling at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry — it may be all magical and mysterious, but it works.

Since the initial exam just more than two weeks ago — during which if the therapist even looked at my foot, it hurt — the pain has decreased by a factor of 10 unless I step on that foot the wrong way.

To avoid stepping or twisting the wrong way, I’ve been given a walking boot. And isn’t it just lovely. Especially when pimped out in layers of plastic bags for outdoor use.

Not everyone can rock that look.

Don’t ask me exactly what it is they are doing to me at CPT, but it’s working.

Each session begins with the application of two sticky pads to my foot. Each pad is coated with some type of gelatinous goo — which I am quite certain has an actual medical name. Then, the world’s tiniest electrodes, which look like the jumper cables to Malibu Barbie’s dream car, are connected to the pads from a small gizmo — again, not the correct medical term.

For 15 minutes, the electrodes and gizmo work to somehow get the medicinal goo absorbed into my foot.

This treatment, coupled with rounds of heat and ice, has done the trick.

On top of that, there does seem to be an actual medical diagnosis for what happened.

I am the apparent victim of a Lisfranc injury, so named for French surgeon Jacques Lisfranc, who, in the early 1800s, noticed soldiers getting thrown from their horses while a foot remained caught in the stirrup.

This caused an injury to the middle of the foot — basically dislocating one or more of the small bones there.

Back in the 1800s, the injury often was treated with amputation. I can’t begin to say how relieved I was to read, “Today is a different story, and amputation is usually not needed.”

That little factoid was more than enough incentive to follow the CPT instructions for treating my own Lisfranc injury.

As things now stand — pun intended — thanks to County PT and to friends who have come to lend a hand with everything from feeding dogs to working the tractor, the foot is on the mend and my mood is improving by degrees.

Of course, just in case I slack off and start to ignore the therapists’ orders or start to get a bit too whiney, Kim has reminded me that there is undoubtedly more than one tool in the shop suitable for amputations.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award-winning writer and photographer who frequently submits articles to the Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She may be reached by e-mail at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.

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