Broken Ankle! (or Here We Go Again)

So most of you know by now, on July 19 during a MovNat class, I took a wrong step and ended up breaking my tibia in two places, and fibula in one (called a tri-malleolar fracture) and dislocated my talus (the upper most bone in the foot which fits snugly between the two aforementioned bones). Just in case you think MovNat is to blame, this was not during a guided portion of the class, we were simply walking from one spot in the park to another. I was going down a hill on a slant and the super dry glass suddenly turned slippery; my foot went out from under me and then after a brief struggle to stay upright, I collapsed my full weight on my foot as it took a 90 degree turn from my leg. It was my own weight falling from a height of 6′ that broke my ankle bones. If I’d gone straight down the hill, I likely would have just fallen on my bum and given the other class members a good chuckle. As it was, they all leaped into action. The teacher, Alex Schenker (Level 3 MovNat) picked up me and carried me across two baseball fields to the community centre and actually thanked me for the privilege of putting his training into action. Let me just paint the picture for you. I’m a big 155 pound 6′ tall woman. Alex is a martial arts type, wiry, strong but not big. He was sweating buckets by the time we got to the bench. The other two men in the class drove me in my car to the hospital and followed in another car to take the first man back. I owe them a debt of gratitude. My husband was sailing on the lake and does not get phone service out there, so I had to wait for him to get back to land to check his phone. This meant for most of the time in the hospital I was alone.

Long story short, the X-rays showed the fracture, I was sedated and the dislocation was reducted (learned a new word!) and cast and scheduled for surgery 4 days from then; a Monday.

Sunday night was a devastating one for Toronto; we had a mass shooting on the Danforth, a neighbourhood close to my home, and 7 of the victims were treated at my local hospital, including two gunshot wound victims. Of course they took precedence and all scheduled surgery was bumped to try and save these lives. My surgery was fine to wait a few days, it wouldn’t change anything. So I was rescheduled to Thursday, when it so happened that the orthopaedic surgeon on call was a foot and ankle specialist!

Thursday, surgery was completed and I was given some hardware to keep it all in place. One of the things that was under consideration was a pin connecting the tibia to the fibula. I wasn’t too happy about that; it would add 2 weeks to the non-weightbearing portion of recovery (8 instead of 6 weeks) and I was concerned it would decrease range-of-motion at the ankle because the fibula moves relative to the tibia when walking etc. The surgeon told me that after the bones knit, this movement just causes the screw to break! It stays in, but breaks when the movement is sufficient to create a shear load to it. Luckily this was not deemed necessary, and one of the breaks didn’t require any hardware at all. The tibia has one screw and the fibula a small plate and several screws. I came out of the recovery a bit rough for wear but a few days later was getting on with life.


The main disappointment for me is to miss RES week in August, and a trip out west to see my kids. I had to cancel my flights. Needless to say I won’t be going to a MovNat workshop in October either.

So now that you know the story, I want to talk about what this all means to me. And you.

I’ve had it said that this would hurt my business (movement teacher) not because I’m struggling with crutches and an arm that is still recovering from a break earlier this year, but because you might not think I’m a good example of a mover, or question my claims that weight bearing loads such as walking long distance and backing hips up increases bone density. Maybe I have no business giving you movement and wellness advice.

I admit, this is a blow to the ego, to my confidence in moving going forward, and teaching you better and more ways to move.

But I know a few things: firstly, both my falls had commonalities. They were both going downhill. In both cases, I had traction one minute and none the next (sudden and surprising slippery surface that was unpredictable). Second, both falls could have been much worse. In the case of my arm, I chipped the radial head. It did not even require a cast. It has resulted in less range of motion in my elbow to date due to soft tissue damage that was not diagnosed or even considered important. But my bones held up for the most part, I didn’t break any wrist bones. I didn’t hurt my shoulder at all (amazing!). 155 pounds fell hard on ice from a height of 6′ and the only thing that happened was a small chip at the top of one bone. Try dropping a plate with a turkey on it from 6′! I’m pretty sure someone less active and without all the prior shoulder work I’ve done would have suffered far worse, and not walked away to continue their daily chores and carrying groceries home before going to the hospital.

In the case of the leg, the angle of the hill and my weight conspired to drive my foot sideways and the foot itself drove the lower leg bones apart breaking them. I’m pretty sure the break happened before I hit the ground because I watched it happen. The head of my fibula (according to a credible source) was also driven up like a piston but then returned to its rightful place. There was no damage there (beyond bruising). The bones cracked in nice big breaks, no crumbling, no little pieces. This isn’t low bone density – this is just a sad experiment about how much force a bone can take before it breaks. My knee was undamaged (amazing)! ¬†After the fall, seconds after – I was helped to my feet and with my arm around Alex’s shoulders hopped back up the hill to take stock about what to do. He suggested carrying me, not because I wouldn’t be able to hop that distance on one leg, but because the foot dangling from my leg was grossing me out every time I jumped up and down. So I held my foot on, and Alex carried me.

So I do think I’ve suffered some bad luck. I’ve been hiking in Ontario, Washington, and Vancouver Island without incident, done all kinds of crazy things not befitting the behaviour of someone my age, and never suffered more than a scratch or a bruise. Simply walking down a hill where I wasn’t even aware of a dangerous situation resulted in life changing injuries. (The only other time I broke a bone was 10 years ago when I was hit by a van on my bike and broke a small bone in my foot – the same foot as it happens.)

I’ve also (without knowing it) been training for these injuries. My right leg is strong enough to lower me to the floor and raise me back up again (harder) because it’s strong enough to. Dozens and dozens of times a day. My arms can press my body weight up from the floor so I can get up from the floor using my arms. Most people would need a chair and a bed with an injury like this. I’m still resting and sleeping on the floor, which requires getting up from the floor multiple times a day (and night), and also moving in more unique ways than just upright with crutches; I’m crawling, crab walking and scooting too! The injured leg’s knee and hip are fine and can take part in rehab right away, keeping them moving in full ranges of motion, weight bearing (even if my foot cannot be). My previously injured arm is able to take my weight again, because it has to. This will actually help it.

I really feel confident that this will give me so much insight into this injury and what is possible (and what isn’t) during this phase of my life. I hope you continue to believe in me. I’ll be following up this post with one on pain and one on bone density soon; I have lots of time for writing.

Cheers eh!

ps to get some ideas of how I’m rehabbing, follow my Facebook and/or Instagram pages. Rehab started on Day 1 people – do not wait for the cast to come off – there are so many body parts that need your support through something like this! You need to keep moving!

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