Feb 202022

If the incident had occurred on an icy street in Copenhagen, or in a dense area of the Daintree, it would have made a better story. Slipping on gravel when taking the grandchildren home still reminds us that expecting the unexpected is a reasonable guideline for life.

When I fell, I twisted my ankle and felt the sharp pain that indicated my evening could be disrupted. A local doctor advised an X-ray immediately. The trip to a public hospital resulted in news that the fibula bone near the ankle was broken, that it would require an operation, that I would need to be in hospital for several days, and that I would not be able to walk without help for about six weeks.

I had never been to an Emergency Room before. All the staff were very helpful and efficient – my leg was plastered quickly into a state of immobility. As it turned out, I spent a night and most of the next day there since no beds were available in the wards. I was placed in a cubicle that did have curtains, but no soundproofing. From my arrival, through the night and into the next day, there was constant activity. Lights aren’t turned off in emergency wards and humans have the capacity to make a range of unique sounds. Uniformed people from police, fire services. SES, ambulance and others came in throughout the night. There were times when I felt like an extra in an action-packed movie.

The next afternoon I was taken to a room in a regular ward. The comparative quiet was an elixir and I could glimpse clouds through the window. Again, staff were helpful, dedicated and often very funny. They were also tired. Many of them were doing extra shifts to compensate for staff on sick leave due to COVID. My operation was delayed (busy times for doctors and operating theatres), but eventually my broken bone was mended with a metal plate. My leg was set in a heavy cast that could substitute for a fence post.

After I had wobbled home, the transition from independent, competent mover to dependant, needy hopper continued. I was fortunate to have my husband John to give his essential daily care. Family and friends brought joy and delight. I reflected on the whole experience and told everyone cautionary things: “Be careful!” “Watch your feet!” “Don’t take chances!” Repeat.

In the grand scheme of things, my injury is minor. Many people manage conditions that are far more serious and some that will not recover. As we get older, our wisdom and wonder come at a price. Still, there are books to read and things to do, even in a modified way. It is a gift to be able to choose.

Reading during my recovery provided another perspective too. A Buddhist poem, quoted by Jane Hirshfield in an interview, says:

  Although the wind
  blows terribly here,
  the moonlight also leaks
  between the roof planks.

Leonard Cohen expressed this idea in another way: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

My bone will heal and the cracks that make us human will always offer insights into fragility, strength and gratitude. Now I just have to figure out how to do yoga in a moon boot.