It took me a month to realize I had been given this opportunity. At first, I was scared, thinking this meant I was actualizing what our culture purports, that age means being more vulnerable to falls. I soon came to realize that 1)I’m only sixty-five years old which is the young side of old, 2)nothing about me is frail, and 3) I had slipped on stairs when I was thirty-nine years old, which is not old!
What was similar in my falls was I was on slick steps, not wearing proper footwear, and most importantly, not focusing on what I was doing. In my mind I was already down the stairs, doing the next thing. In fact, I fell twice on the carpet-covered steps when I was thirty-nine years old! For the first fall, my friend was within reach and caught my infant propelled out of my arms when I slipped. The second fall only had a laundry basket to slide down the stairs. Both times I injured my tail bone. My antidote after the second slip was to always count the thirteen steps, so I would focus on walking up and down those challenging stairs. I find I still count steps with my grandchildren, whether or not they are learning one to one correspondence! It’s for me!
I no longer live with the thirteen-step carpeted stairs, and now have an enclosed porch of sorts, with three painted cement steps and a landing to reach the screen door and the yard. I had slipped on it eleven years ago and chucked the knock-off crocs that I deemed to be the culprit. And hadn’t fallen since. On February 9th, after this lovely day of a hike that I wrote about here: A Local Adventure in February, I slipped again. I realized I had tracked in some of our walk onto our kitchen rug. I immediately removed the offending shoes and picked up the rug to shake it off outside. When I slipped, stocking-footed, on the cement step, I took all of my fall on my right hand. I felt something happen in my right index finger, and the pain brought tears and whimpering. When I took stock, I could flex my finger without pain, so thought nothing was broken, just over-extended. I didn’t have any other injuries and was relieved I hadn’t injured my tail bone again. I considered going to the doctor, but dismissed it as unnecessary.
When I saw little progress in healing after three weeks, and the swelling and pain persisted, I decided to go to the doctor. She didn’t seem too concerned but showed me how to buddy-tape my index finger to my middle finger for relief. She sent me to the lab for an X-Ray anyway. She was as surprised as me when she called to say I indeed have a small fracture in the middle phalanx of my index finger. I don’t think she has had as much experience treating a one-month-old injury, because she hesitated on a course of treatment. She decided to not do a splint but to continue buddy-taping it when I was going to be active, like doing garden work.
But knowing I had a small fracture in my index finger helped, as I now had an explanation for the ongoing pain and a course of treatment. I needed to stabilize it, not exercise the pain away as it was not a stiff muscle or ligament. I was already favoring the finger, holding it out and using the other three fingers for lifting pans, and other implements. It turned out it hurt the most when I was doing kitchen things. And tying my shoes. And flossing. Okay, it often hurt. I am left-handed, so one would think a break on my right hand wasn’t as much of an issue. But not the case! I found I tend to stabilize something in my left hand and do the action, like opening a lid, with my right hand. To avoid pain, and perhaps further injury, I now get the opportunity to think through and plan actions I do automatically. I found I can now hold the jar with my right hand, and twist the lid with my unharmed left hand, albeit a bit awkwardly. When I was telling my husband about the various challenges he said I could ask him for help. I am not sure why that had not occurred to me. I now sometimes take him up on that offer.
It’s been interesting because this tiny fracture is not acute pain, but an undercurrent of pain, which in the end saps some of my energy. So, yes, sometimes when I am fatigued I ask my husband for help.
I thought I heard the doctor say I could buddy tape the fingers when I needed it. I was with my husband and a couple of friends a few days later, and told them of my surprise little fracture in my finger. I said I wasn’t buddy-taping it because it was uncomfortable and one friend observed that I was a bad patient. That comment startled me, because I tend to see myself as quite the rule-follower! He was right, though, and in discussing my non-compliance with my husband later, I told him I thought it was causing more pain when I buddy-taped my fingers. He suggested I put a spacer in between the fingers prior to taping them together. I remembered I had a toe spacer (for toes to dry after a pedicure), so I cut off one segment and put it in the top part of my finger, where the fracture is. It certainly doesn’t look tidy, and an orthopedic person might be aghast, but it has reduced the pain and increased comfort.
I am now taping them more often. I realized I need to buddy-tape my fingers when I am around my grandchildren, as I am more active and forget to be cautious. And one never knows when they will dive in for a hug!
It’s important for me to understand my injury is due to not paying attention, and to remain confident in continuing to be active. I have seen people be fearful and shrink away from the activity they were engaged in when they had an injury.
Although I would have rather I had been mindful five weeks ago, and not caused a fracture in my finger, I use it to help myself take one movement at a time, one step at a time. Thus the mindfulness, and being very conscious of what and how I am doing my daily tasks. The side effect of this is that life is more enjoyable if I am present for every moment, every seemingly mundane task in front of me. Indeed, the joy is in the now.
Post-script: It didn’t occur to me to read about buddy taping, but here’s a great article about it! “How to Buddy Tape Fingers and Toes”.