I had, once in a while, twisted an ankle a little bit before, of course, as most people have. But I had never before had an injury anything like the severe sprain I experienced in mid-January this year.
As a copy editor, supposedly someone with an “eye for detail,” you would think I would have seen that spot of ice on the sidewalk.
Instead, in my hurry to reach the indoors, I didn’t look at where my feet were landing. I was carrying from the car to the house a couple of bags from a shopping trip that had been cut short by the bitter-cold wind. My husband trailed behind me as I marched against the wind, heading to the house at an ankle-breaking pace. Or nearly so, anyway.
I dodged the typical icy spots on the sidewalk but was unaware a new spot had formed in the past day or so. My high-heel boots hit the patch, I did a little dance and went down. One knee bent as I descended, putting my foot squarely under me, so much of my weight came down on it, forcing my foot to point straight and then go a little farther.
It was excruciating. I probably would have said more swear words had I not been shrieking. I think my husband nearly had a panic attack at the sound.
My first thoughts were of the pain, but the next thoughts: This is embarrassing; I hope the neighbors aren’t watching.
After I got indoors, landed on the couch and started icing my ankle, my husband and I reassessed my condition. Luckily, I hadn’t hit my head on the concrete, and I had only minor scratches on my hands from bracing against the fall.
As the saying goes, it could have been worse. I only had one non-life-threatening injury, I had my husband there to help me and I was only about 10 feet from my front door when I fell.
We poked, prodded and inspected my ankle, which was swelling to grotesque proportions, and I moved my foot around and tried walking with minor success and great pain. He was insistent that I be seen by a doctor that evening, but being skeptical and a bit frugal, I resisted.
We eventually went to an urgent care clinic, where the doctors concluded I did have a major sprain but escaped breaking or fracturing a bone. They gave me a note that said I didn’t have to go into work the next two business days (I went in, anyway) and sent me home.
My husband bought a standard ankle brace for me, which helped significantly, but the recovery period endured for months. I’ve found that, nearly a year later, though I’m perfectly mobile and brace-free, I still have a few limitations, especially in flexibility and impact resistance.
That was the last time I wore those high-heel boots, which went into the trash, as I recall. They were wearing out, anyway.
On a nice evening in November, after a light snowfall, my husband and I went for a walk near the Anoka-Champlin bridge – but certain places on the sidewalks on our route had iced over. I found myself thinking of the sprain, recalling the pain and dreading another fall. I shuffled along at a snail’s pace as he scooted a little faster across the icy stretches, pausing to wait and watch over me. I felt I was about 90 years old with my new walk-shuffle.
With more recent snowfalls and the cold, I’m continuing my careful shuffle and leaving anything with high heels in the closet. I don’t care how long it might take to cross a parking lot or sidewalk. Haste makes waste, as the old adage goes, and now I understand better why everyone says to be so careful out there. I sprained my ankle once, and I really hope to never experience that again.
I hobbled out of the last winter season, and I’ve shuffled into the next.
And I recommend that you take care, too.
Be careful on the roads when you drive or when you are a passenger, keeping another set of eyes on the road to help the driver. Be prepared for road emergencies by bringing things such as shovels, jumper cables, blankets, water and food, like granola bars, when you travel.
Be warm despite the cold weather; bundle up by wearing or bringing layers of clothing.
And be careful on the sidewalks – those icy spots can be so hard to see when you’re walking into a cold wind and just want to get inside.
Sarah Peterson is a copy editor with ECM Publishers.
Sarah Peterson is at email@example.com