It took me a long time to mentally prepare myself to write this post. The irony of the last thing I wrote being about roller derby was not lost on me as I sat for seconds and minutes and hours and days and weeks on end on my bum with an elevated leg and a frown on my face. Until recently I had never broken a bone, but I can say unequivocally now, having so far lost a month of my life to sloth and an expanding waistline, it totally sucks.
It all started on a Monday night. I had the opportunity to switch shifts at work so that I would be opening instead of closing. Despite the early start this would offer, it would enable me to go to ‘Rookie Tuesdays’, an informal roller derby training session run on Tuesday nights in an outdoor space in South London. The last minute nature of this plan meant I didn’t have a chance to buy the outdoor wheels I needed, but I put an order in before leaving the house in excitement. It wouldn’t be a problem… right?
I don’t know how it happened, whether it was the wheels, the outdoor space, the early start taking its toll or just sheer bad luck. All I know is that I lost my footing and one part of my leg did one thing and the other part had different intentions. Vigour Mortis, who was organising the practice ran over and said “Can you get up?”, to which I replied surprisingly calmly, “Nope. I broke my leg” before I screamed a lot in that human to animal metamorphosis way you see during pregnancy sequences in films. The next part is surreal conversations, pain, shock, people running around, people goggling…and me staring at a patch of concrete with an intensity that can only be achieved when one is trying not to think about the fact that you no longer know how to stand up. I desperately tried not to look at my leg, just in case a bloody alien bone was poking out through my tracksuit bottoms, but a sneaky glance confirmed that there was no way the skate should have all four wheels on the ground with the leg at THAT angle.
Laughing gas, scissors, rolling over, laughing gas, feel quite drunk, it only works if you breathe it, rolling over, don’t touch the leg!, it only works if you breathe. Ambulance. I sat in the back of the ambulance with a skate buddy, Snoop Dodge, while watching my rogue skate roll around and tap menacingly against the closed doors each time we turned a corner. It was taunting me, I’m sure. My heavily gassed voice sounded unnaturally deep so I kept telling the paramedics that I sounded like I was on a phone sex line. They indulged this weird area of conversation until they left me in the hospital to sit and wait and quietly freak out while pretending it was OK that my fat leg was wrapped in a giant splint and I was in a place with pictures of bones all over the wall instead of sitting at home with a cup of tea. Snoop tried to maintain non-disturbing areas of conversation while my eyes darted around and my leg got fatter.
After what felt like days a doctor told me that an X-Ray showed my tibia and fibula bones were broken and displaced, leaving the only option – to manipulate them back together and then have surgery to hold it in place. Not having a great deal of choice in the matter, I accepted the nightmare scene of people holding my arms while he snapped it back together and I screamed and screamed. Hanging out on my geriatric ward I got to know the other old ladies with broken bones who kept repeating themselves and making weird noises during the night. I didn’t sleep at all. The next day: an epidural followed by 3 hour surgery in which they hammered a nail directly into my bone while I chatted nonsense and tried to ignore the blood splattered apron of the surgeon and the dozen or so people who watched me piss myself without saying anything, although I didn’t know I was pissing myself because I was numb from the waist down. Still not that pleasant. At first I kept asking if I was going to feel anything because surely an injection can’t remove all feeling in my body, but then I saw a man holding an iodine soaked leg in the air somewhere far away, before realising it was my own body. Upon release into the recovery room I pissed myself some more and puked every time someone gave me a sip of water, before being lulled to sleep by the monotonous beeps of monitoring machinery.
For the next weeks I had to become accustomed to the throbbing pain in the leg, doing everything on crutches, how complex putting on a sock could be, relying on everybody for the smallest favours. Not only did I lose my job, get passively threatened with the suggestion I should move out the flat, lose my internship, miss weeks worth of university and jeopardise my masters, cancel my holiday and essentially lose the ability to do anything for myself, some friends found sending me a get well text message a little too much effort. The frustration mounted amid piles of paperwork and documents. Fortunately, I am surrounded by absolutely awesome people, both old friends and new, so I was flooded with visits and posi-post of books, CDs, food feasts, box sets and other reading material. I nearly went blind reading copies of Pick Me Up and Heat, not to mention the brain rot instigated by watching series 1-4 of Prison Break, including the feature length ‘Final Break’, in the space of two weeks. I started to believe I too was incarcerated in Fox River Penitentiary and Wentworth Miller was going to break me out, until he had his tattoos burned off and then I was indifferent to the prospect. I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, an epic tome at the best of times, in about four sittings. I read the Josef Fritzl book in one day and had weird dreams about basements and foreign language court proceedings. I procrastinated about essay writing for the entire duration and didn’t touch my books, then went mental when they closed the library on the day I decided I would travel there. I cried at least once a day for the first week… Out of pain, out of self-pity that I was sitting in my parents’ house, a giant baby, while the world kept turning without me, out of loneliness. I laughed at least once a day at the thought of a grown girl breaking a leg roller skating and sitting in a hospital full of pensioners and the inability to piss effectively into a bed pan. More than once I put too much weight on it and spilled the ripe contents all over my bed sheets and lay there cursing the day I heard the words ‘roller derby’ until a long suffering nurse rolled me over and changed the sheets.
When you can’t walk without an aid and your life becomes about the four walls surrounding you, you become incredibly self-absorbed and over-contemplative. I started to freak out about asking people favours, about something happening to me while the house was empty, like falling in the shower and having to lie naked, slippery and broken on the tiles until someone came home and could help me up, about people forgetting about me, about the first night sleeping on my futon bed and whether I’d ever be able to get up out of it. I ran over countless scenarios in my head of falling down the stairs or trying to catch a bus somewhere and stumbling out into the road.
The concerned phone calls have subsided, the novelty worn off.
Yesterday, as I tried to change my bed sheets by myself, I fell over with the pile of washing, smashed a statuette and lay splayed on the floor with crutches akimbo. All around was deafly silence and I lay with my cheek pressed against the laminate floor boards thinking how pathetic this scenario was before peeling myself up and crawling pitifully towards my futon.
Today I walked five minutes to the bus stop in a T-shirt because the sun was shining. The cherry blossoms are blooming and the bite of winter has well and truly left the air. Although I was drenched in sweat upon reaching the bus stop, I felt like I was emerging from hibernation. My pale skin soaked up the warmth of the spring air and even though my hay fever was almost unbearable and my leg was throbbing, I was smiling… Really smiling. Since I left the house last Friday and voyaged with crutches to Kingston to see the Lawrence Arms I felt like things are getting better. Although I’m still scared of people knocking me over, I saw in the way people rushed to free a chair for me to sit on and offered to help me travel around that this earth is not a cold dead place. There’s still a fiery heart beating and a concern for the fallen individual, at least with a healthy degree of piss taking. I know now who I can count on and what I can do if there’s a friend in a similar situation…I just hope that there isn’t one.
I’m not sure I’m going to skate again. Ask me when I walk.