It began for me in mid-January when a new patient came for a session so ill she had to lie down on the couch, coughing and moaning through her session. Though I urged her to go home, stay in bed and take care of herself, she insisted on staying for the full session. I cringed inwardly but reassured myself that I hadn't been ill for years and had had a high intensity flu shot.
A few days later, I woke up with a scratchy throat, a severe cough and a high fever. I had an ear infection and bright red eyes from a concurrent eye infection. I went to the local hospital ER, tested negative for both strains of flu and also for strep, got a prescription for the ear infection. There was no testing for Covid-19 then, which still seemed a world away. So I came home and crawled under the covers, leaving it to Bob to entertain our weekend guests: his former Little Brother Ryan Grady and his husband Michael Collum who had come for the long Martin Luther King weekend.
I was awakened from a feverish sleep (103 degree fever) that night by Bob's screams from the bathroom. He was coming out of a grand mal epileptic seizure. I jumped out of bed, raced to his side and promptly fainted. When I fell, my left foot twisted behind me at an angle and then I fell on it, shattering all the bones in my mid and fore foot.
Michael stayed to watch over Bob, who simply needed rest, and Ryan took me to the Emergency Room where the doctor said my foot might be fractured and put an orthopedic boot on it. After visits to my primary physician, a podiatrist and a surgeon, the news got progressively worse: I had a severe crush injury, a lis franc fracture to my foot that would require surgical reconstruction with metal plates and clamps. The recovery period would be at least a year. And the surgery itself was delayed for four weeks because of my severe cough (which would have precluded me from having a general anesthetic). The surgery finally took place on February 18 with an extremely painful, extended period of immobility, two different casts and a variety of orthopedic boots, and eight months wheelchair bound.
Then the small miracles began: being able to use the bathroom by myself, being able to take a sit-down shower without assistance, being able to stand briefly, taking my first tentative steps in late September. Taking my first bike ride in late October.
Now I'm walking: sometimes with a cane and more often very carefully on my own. I can wear regular shoes for at least some of the day and am beginning to exercise again -- very carefully -- riding our three-wheeled bicycle two miles a day. The doctor says I will continue to improve over the next year -- perhaps able to take long walks sometime next year, able to walk barefoot long enough to get in the community pool for some lap swimming in a few months. Every step along the way feels wonderful and miraculous.
I'm immensely grateful that any of this is possible and humbled by how much help I've needed and received along the way. My husband Bob has been quite literally supportive and immensely patient through this ordeal. Friends and neighbors Marsha Morello, Vicki O'Hara, Kelly Hartwig and Sherri Brown brought food and comfort in those early, very painful days. And friends nationwide have offered support in so many ways: Georgia Bohlen painted a cheerful cat picture and sent it to brighten my days; Jeanie Croope sent a gift card for Panera Bread and Kathy Bernath, the daughter of our former neighbor Wally Skurda, sent flowers and visited. I got many messages of love from friends Mary Breiner, Tim and Mary Kate Schellhardt, Pat Hill, Robert Luppi, Pat Cosentino and Sister Rita McCormack. I have also been grateful for the patients in my practice who hung in there through all the cancellations and uncertainty of those winter months. All of this has meant so much to me.
Now in healing mode with my foot, I look around at the fears and divisions we're all having around the pandemic, Election day (whatever our political affiliations) and how incredibly our daily lives have changed this year.
Dealing with the dramatic changes 2020 has brought isn't easy to be sure. But trying times are so much more bearable when we support each other with kindness and compassion.
I was reminded of this during a recent phone conversation with my friend Bob Luppi, whom I have known since grade school and who renewed our friendship a few years ago after his retirement. I mentioned that these are turbulent, uncertain times. "They are," he replied. "I don't want to know your political affiliation and I won't tell you mine. I just want there to be peace and love and kindness between all of us. That's what matters most."
That is everything.