I write about the body and my relationship to it often. It’s something I feel changing over the years, as life happens. During the pandemic our bodies felt like machines to exercise and precious goods to protect. There was a battle between physical and mental health, where keeping ourselves safe came at a cost to our social connections. Friendships shifted and are still reconfiguring.
I emerged cautiously into the world since achieving double vaccination status. I joined a new local exercise class, a high intensity group workout. It aims to push your heart rate up into a zone of maximum efficiency for achieving fitness (the science is always a little dubious). I felt good about trying to get a new habit in place. I enjoy swimming and walking, but I’m not sure it offsets all the time I must spend sitting in front of a computer screen.
I’d managed two workouts so far, finding them very difficult but ultimately a positive change from all the sitting. It felt good to move. Then one day I was resting on my sofa, when I stood up quickly to take something back into the kitchen. It’s a blur but apparently my leg had gone to sleep and I only realised as I put my weight on it. My right ankle twisted and gave way and I lost my balance, falling down on to my left hand.
The pain and shock made me dizzy and nauseous (or was I dizzy before?) With my wrist and the opposite ankle hurt, I wondered if I could get up. You have that feeling of panic – will someone find me? How long will it take? I remembered when my Nan had a panic button worn round her neck for just this purpose but kept accidentally pressing it at night! Do I need a panic button? I pulled myself up with my good hand and wobbled back to the sofa, phoning for help. My left hand instinctively laid on my chest. Then it was off to hospital where I waited in A&E feeling shocked and clutching an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel with a cat on it.
In times of calamity you find many things to be grateful for. I’m lucky to live very close to the hospital in a country where you can walk in with a problem and receive help regardless of insurance or money. NHS doctors and nurses are amazing and deserving of every possible pay rise. We’re fortunate to have skilled people willing and able to do this incredibly stressful job. And thankfully being vaccinated makes the hospital a less risky prospect.
But in the moment it is frightening to be injured. An X-ray confirmed I had fractured my wrist. Hearing them say this was another shock. I could feel the exhaustion of doctors on a long, busy shift. They needed to process people and prioritise. It’s hard to advocate for yourself when events seem to escalate so fast. I asked for painkillers and was told to buy paracetamol. I was given a discharge summary which said I’d been given a sling to rest my temporary cast, but this was forgotten. A few hours later stronger pain relief and a sling felt important. But I was patched up and back home in a few hours.
The night that followed was a tough one. Dosing up with the paracetamol and ibuprofen, I was still in pain. I tried to rest my arm on a pillow to protect it, laying on my back. But sleep was impossible. As well as my wrist throbbing, I felt little irritations and itches inside the cast. In the early hours I started to panic and it felt claustrophobic. I have to do something to stop this, was my main thought. It was very scary but without other options, I resorted to deep breathing. I’d never experienced it like this before but the pain seemed to lessen slightly with the out breathes. I managed to calm down and get through to morning. I called my GP in desperation over the need for pain killers, which came a little too late.
I’ve now been back to the hospital for more X-rays and a new arm cast. I was so pleased to be able to choose the colour of my cast. You prepare yourself for enduring something hard, so that little bit of choice between the rainbow colours made me smile. I opted for pink first, then purple when the cast had to be redone. It’s something I can show off on conference calls. I try to see the cast as a friendly support even though it’s inconvenient. After all it’s holding me together.
And so it’s a brave new world of managing tasks with my one good hand. I can use the fingers of my left hand, but can’t put any weight on it or get the cast wet. I’m more dependent than ever on Deliveroo for food! I find opening jars and tins tricky, plus chopping anything is slow work. I’ve got an ingenious plastic sleeve for putting over the cast when washing. Again I feel grateful that my state isn’t permanent. Think of all those times I complained about washing my hair. Now I’m going to enjoy it when I get back to my normal routine.
Prior to all this, I had a lovely spontaneous meeting with a friend and her neighbour where we talked about Argentine tango. She leant me the book ‘Twelve Minutes of Love: A Tango Story’ by Kapka Kassabova. It was real escapism reading about the world of tango dancing and its elegant movement. Watching videos of the intricate leg moves executed in heels is quite the contrast from my reality. I’m plodding about slowly, wearing only trainers (still nursing a weak ankle) and tops I can manage to get over my cast. I sense there will be a reconnection with my body in future though. Once it heals, I’ll swim again and maybe even get on a dance floor.