Thursday, September 30, 2010

Break, Broke, Broken Revisited: This Time It’s Personal

“Did you hear something pop?” asked the paramedic.

“No,” I replied. “I couldn’t really hear much over the screaming.”

“Screaming?” he asked, looking all around. “Who screamed?”

“Me,” I admitted sheepishly.

These days I can’t seem to catch a break. Well, Okay, maybe this time I did. Sort of. You see, apparently appliances are not the only things that can break when times are tough financially.

Remember what I said in my August blog post, “Break, Broke, Broken”?: “Stuff may be broken, but I am not.” Well, just a month later, I almost was.

Confession time: I have a history of epic-level klutziness—the kind of stories you trot out at parties to make people laugh.

One incident involved a dark Halloween night, a winding country road, an Angus bull (2,000 pounds worth) and a totaled Toyota. The good news is, I didn’t get a scratch in the accident.

Another fiasco was a fall at the nursing home in front of no less than 100 onlookers—an event later requiring surgery and months of physical therapy. (Embarrassment trumped pain as I realized I, the young person, was on the ground being loaded onto a stretcher as the frail, elderly folks stood over me, watching solemnly.)

Thankfully, in my latest klutz attack, my foot and ankle did not get broken. Although, in all truthfulness, an actual break may have hurt less and healed faster than the torn ligaments I now have.

And, worst of all, I didn’t even get a good party story out of it. You’d think if a person has to clomp around for a month in a knee-high moonboot, it would be more interesting to relate a tall tale of being chased  by rhinos on a Serengeti safari. Or at minimum, a story of reckless Alpine snowboarding.

September 4th, the Saturday before Labor Day was beautiful in Georgia. It was the kind of late-summer weekend that leads a woman to daydreams of beautifully weeded flower beds, immaculately cleaned living quarters and super-purged closets. It was the kind of day when accomplishing that mile-long to-do list seemed possible.

But, my first thought was, I’ll quickly get the laundry chugging so it’ll have plenty of time to line-dry. (Dryer’s still broken.)

Apparently I wanted that laundry done a bit too quickly. As my mind focused far away on the to-do list, my body flew over the last step of the stairway.

It’s amazing how time slows in an accident. At some point in the endless freefall, I tossed the laundry hamper sideways, thus making room to land face down in the foyer as some woman screamed loudly very close to my ear.

My right foot lay at an odd angle beneath me as I sprawled less than a foot in front of my new water heater. (Okay, I love my new water heater, but falling down to kiss its feet is a bit much.)

Yep, klutzy is my middle name; I admit it.

As I rose carefully from the floor, I watched a big blue goose-egg emerge on the top of my foot.

This is not good, I thought, as I hobbled to the phone to call Mom and Dad (again).

“Call 911 this minute!” Mom instructed. “It’ll take us at least an hour to get there.”

“Is it gonna cost me if they come?” I asked, my on-the-dole persona flipping into instant alert.

“Just call them,” she snapped in that tone of voice only a mother is legally allowed to use—the kind of voice that instantly makes you feel 12-years old again and mentally adding the “or else” part even if she didn’t say it.

I called 911.

Five minutes later: two paramedics, two EMTs, two firefighters and three shiny red trucks arrived. Must’ve been a really slow morning in my semi-rural community, I thought.

In the middle of the chaos, neighbor Lynn burst through the front door in time to hear a trip to the ER was necessary. Still worrying about money, I actually did put six highly-trained emergency personnel on hold while calling to have my mother check the insurance plan book to see if I could afford an ambulance trip. (We have the same carrier.)

I could not.

Yes, that’s right. In the midst of total chaos and excruciating pain, my chief concern was price. I am, after all, living on the dole, and I just paid for a water heater, too.

Fortunately, Lynn stepped in to offer to give up her Saturday morning to drive me to the ER so that I could save the ambulance fee. Where would I be in this dole adventure if it were not for family and friends, I asked myself for the thousandth time?

Still, trust me on this, you do not want to have an orthopedic accident on a Saturday morning of a three-day weekend when your orthopedist won’t be back in the office until Tuesday. Let me explain the effects of this long weekend succinctly: “Ouch! Ouch! OUCH!” (for 72 hours straight in spite of heavy-duty painkillers).

Still, I did “catch a break” this time—the foot was not broken, but, I badly tore the ligaments, necessitating weeks in a cast.

Very funny, Doc. Wise cracks thrown in at no additional charge.

It’s a good thing that through my ongoing klutziness over the past 12 years, we’ve become friends or I might, in my pain and drug-fuzzed state have needed to hurt him for that one.

Oh, and just to make things interesting: Did I mention this foot in the cast is my driving foot? How am I supposed to get from Point A to Point B?


Oh, and as if driving me around like Miss Daisy is not enough, she also gets to cook my meals, scoop cat litter boxes, and push me in a wheelchair when I have a business appointment. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is when your mommy has to help you in and out of the shower? (Thankfully, at least it is a hot shower—glad I got that water heater before this happened). Meanwhile, Dad waters plants, runs errands and takes on whatever else Major Mom assigns him to do—all while remembering not to complain about the haphazard schedule now going on at his house.

It has been nearly four weeks since my fall. My foot no longer looks quite as much like a purple football with five fat sausages attached. More importantly, the pain has lessened to the point where I can now focus on other things—such as money.

Since that plunge down the stairs, my medical bills so far now total more than $2,000. Thankfully, insurance covers a big chunk of that amount. Still, I’ll have to figure out how to pay the hefty co-pays and deductibles. I’m hoping there’s no need for surgery or physical therapy, but the fact that it’s still swollen and discolored three weeks later is discouraging. That unmet annual deductible looms large, but I’m trying hard not to think of that too much.

As I consider my own situation, I wonder how people without health insurance manage? How do they pay $2,000+ for emergency medical care? And, my bills are just for a badly torn ankle and foot. What if it was some life-threatening emergency?

Right now, my insurance is somewhat reasonable, but still a stretch on my teeny-tiny dole checks. But, in April, my monthly insurance cost will skyrocket to an amount larger than my monthly dole check. 

In fact, at some point, the dole check will dry up entirely. I can only hope that the business I’m starting has taken off by then. I was making great progress on it until the fall, but a four-week setback at this point is not a good thing.

Yes, I still have financial worries but throughout my “broken” situation, whether it’s broken appliances, a broken bank account or even now my bruised-but-not-broken body, I’m learning what’s still whole in my life—my family and friends—and to be thankful for that with my whole heart.  

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Photos Courtesy of:

Cast & Crutch (not Ariel):
X-ray (not Ariel's X-ray):


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