It was during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which was being hosted here in South Africa. Myself, my heavily pregnant wife, and my then two and a half year old daughter had – one Friday night that July – gone around to friends for a braai (that’s a barbeque for those still on the Imperial system).
We sat sipping wine with Bruce and Penny and, sometime into the evening, I popped outside for a smoke. There were no lights on in the backyard, and I hopped off what I thought was a low porch onto the grass below. It was more like a metre. Worse, there was a bit of a slope where the ground met the porch wall and I stepped right into it, with my full weight and momentum.
Something gave way in my ankle. I not only felt it; I heard it too. My ankle turned over at a funny angle and I collapsed. With the music and laughter coming from inside, there was no way anyone was going to hear me call so I pulled myself back onto the porch and crawled for the back door. Penny, being a trauma nurse, did what she did best: rushed to sort me out while the others had a chuckle. Because that’s what friends do.
She got an ice pack on the ankle and strapped it up solid. Suggested I go and get it seen to in the morning. I figured it was just one of those things that happen, nothing serious, nothing ever is, so I manned up and resolved to gut it out.
By Saturday morning the ankle had swollen twice its size. I had barely slept from the pain. Every time I turned around it woke me up. By Saturday afternoon it had changed colour. By Saturday night, even more colours.
By Sunday morning I figured Penny might have been onto something and I might be in a spot of trouble.
So into the car and off to the emergency room we went. The nurses gave me a wheelchair to mission around in and the doctor – a guy sporting the Netherlands’ colours (as they were playing that day) – sent me off to radiology for some x-rays. My daughter hopped onto my lap and off we whizzed, down the passageways of the hospital.
A matronly-looking radiologist had the duty that morning, along with a young trainee. The two of them got me onto the bed, positioned their equipment/scanner/x-ray thingie, and popped behind the radiation screens. The equipment/scanner/x-ray thingie buzzed and clicked, and the young trainee girl popped out with a thumbs-up and told me I could head back to casualty.
So off we went again, buzzing around in the wheelchair. The doctor already had the x-rays up on his screen when we arrived. Nothing broken, but the third degree ligament damage was still going to require six weeks in a cast. Off to another room, where they shaped and fitted the cast, and then off to the hospital pharmacy for pills, wonderful pills, and more importantly: a set of crutches.
So here I am, at home, my left leg in a cast from toes to knee, and I am walking around on the crutches, getting used to them. Not so difficult: lift and swing, lift and swing. Easy-peasy. Nothing to it. After a couple of trips up and down the passageway you start to get brave, doing like turns and tricks, like standing on one crutch.
That one crutch then slipped on the tiled floor and hit me in the pinkie toe on the right foot. It hurt. A lot. I fell down again. I cradled my poor foot as best I could but it’s difficult to do when your toe is hanging off from the middle at a 45 degree angle. So I did what every self-respecting guy will do. I got some tape, and some bandage, and I taped that sucker up.
But now there is a problem, right: I can’t walk because the foot I need to put weight on can no longer bear the pain.
No sleep on Sunday night. By Monday the toe was purple. By Monday night it was black with shades of blue around the edges.
By Tuesday I was back in the emergency room. And who was on duty? Same Netherlands Doctor. He took one look at the situation and laughed. Not very professional, I thought, but I got another wheelchair out of the deal. Off to radiology we went. And who was on duty? Matron-Lady and Young-Girl-Trainee. They positioned me on the bed again and moved the equipment/scanner/x-ray thingie over my left ankle. I said: “ah, no…I’m not here for that. I think I broke this toe.”
Young-Girl Trainee laughed and Matron-Lady gave her a look. They positioned my foot for pictures and went behind their screen again. There was a buzz-click and a pause. Then both of them laughed. Young-Girl-Trainee popped her head out of their booth.
“Yup,” she said. “It’s broken.”
Not just broken like a shard or two missing. Proper broken. In half broken. Broken diagonally, in two, clean through, the toe hanging off to one side. Back to emergency. Splint, strapping, all that stuff, and another prescription for more Happy Pills.
I sent a message to Bruce to tell him what happened. He called to commiserate but I could hear Penny laughing in the background. He tried to apologise for laughing but I wasn’t buying it.