August 13, 2012

Broken foot on Mother’s Day and a 10K on Father’s Day

That’s me. How’d I do it? I followed the instructions in my book, You’re the Boss!

It was a perfect spring day. We had our annual Mother’s Day basketball game in the driveway with my sons and uncles. I recall giving pre-game safety instructions that included, “No one’s going to the ER. Let’s concentrate on offense, and keep defensive contact to a minimum.” 

During the third game tie-breaker, I came down with a rebound and landed on the left side of my left foot. There was a distinctive snapping sound as the metatarsal bone broke like a chicken wishbone. For anyone who has snapped a bone, you remember that sudden mild nauseated feeling in the pit of your stomach. I knew I would have a 15-minute window before reality sets in.

I was angry with myself for such a stupid move, but quickly dismissed this feeling because it wouldn’t help. I was able to finish the last ten minutes of the game in a semi-state of distress by staying clear of the action. I faked my way into the house holding onto the car, garage wall, anything allowing me not to put weight on my left foot. When I got there, I put up my left leg for relief.

It was time to apply the five steps – first, I needed to learn everything I could about a broken metatarsal. There was no bone sticking out of the skin and no misalignment, so immediate ER action wasn’t needed. Second, I remembered the diagnostic process. It’s usually an x-ray, and sometimes an MRI. Third, the treatment. In the past it was an ankle cast up to the knee. Now it’s an improved soft “boot”, and sometimes metal pins. Fourth, monitor the progress, noting the amount of swelling, amount of blue discoloration, and amount of pain. Fifth, I was going to approach the situation with a positive approach. Treating it at home had some risk and was slightly against the rules, but I was confident I would succeed.

The first 48 hours were the hardest. I kept the weight off my left foot by hobbling around the house holding onto chairs, tables and walls. Otherwise I kept my foot elevated and iced either with ice cubes or by freezing a paper cup of water and using the paper as a handle. The area needing ice was obvious, it was a big bump above the broken bone and 15 minutes of icing turned the area numb. The first night was especially difficult because the swelling had spread to the entire left foot and the toes became indistinguishable, like an extended foot without spaces. The black and blue areas also spread from the left side of the foot to the toes. Yet, I survived the night without too much anguish. The second day and night were similar – hobbling around lots of pain, but bearable pain. The swelling and blue-tinged foot didn’t change but didn’t worsen.

After the first 48 hours, it was time to get back to the fast-paced life. I returned to my daily workout, very slowly with no lower extremity work, and a big swollen left foot with a non-tied sneaker. It was difficult getting around keeping the foot straight, but not impossible. I was able to work with the foot propped up all day. The swelling and blueness had not worsened.  

This is the timeframe for a broken metatarsal: two days of pain and swelling, three weeks to knit the bone, two additional weeks for hardening, and one additional week for safe measure. I followed that timeframe like it was a formula – and took special care not to reverse the situation during week four.

But during those initial three to four days, negative thoughts assailed me. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like just to be able to go one-half block to the end of the street. The thoughts were so powerful, it actually felt like I could never do it again! I positively told myself I could, and, by the end of the first week, I was making the trip – albeit with an awful hobble. I expanded the distance little by little during the next two to three weeks at a walking pace and continued my daily strength-training workouts. 

At the end of week three, I did a low-key spin class without the left-peddle stirrup, and sometimes hanging my left foot in the air. I also started walking on the treadmill and holding on to the hand rails. Then I gradually increased the pace until week five when I was able to have a reasonably good run. On Father’s Day I had a wonderful 10K run through the tree-covered Wellesley/Westin roads, between the ponds, with my beautiful wife Joan. We completed the Boston Athletic Association 10K medley race the next Sunday. 

My left foot sometimes reminds me of the broken bone with an ache while running, but overall the broken bone is quickly becoming a forgotten memory. Two months later, Jerry asked, “How’s the foot?” I answered, “It’s a hundred percent, and even stronger now because the bone is twice as thick.”

Editorial note: This story is for information and to show an alternative management option. This has risk. Although this situation was successful for me, individuals who have this type of injury should seek medical attention and physician-directed management. 



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