Finally, Im getting down to this month’s LEB post. I was hesitant to get started at first because my feet have quite a story. Also, I have been dreadfully unhappy with my health of late. Patience is a virtue I am constantly working on
But, it is important to stay positive and focused on recovery, to be kind to
my body. That, is something my feet taught me.
I have always been conscious of my thighs, they have always been thick. Oh but they are strong. They came in very handy when I practiced boxing and carried weights in the gym. They kept me swimming strong against the tide and seamlessly in a pool.
I hid behind Bermudas and knee length skirts because I have always been shy to show them. So today, when I am wearing shorts again..it feels like an accomplishment 🙂
My calves have always been muscular and tough. They look pretty awesome when I flexed them during dance practice.
So let me get started on my feet now.
It’s a long story, but I want to tell it.
In early 2004, I was struggling with my first severe bout of depression while living in Australia. My parents would often call me from Singapore and horrible arguments would ensue. My relationship with my sister grew estranged. I was constantly fighting with Suresh. Every day was a battle and I was so angry. Filled with rage at life.
On January 17th, the rage got to the better of me. I was so angry with my parents, Su and I were having one of our awful fights. I felt utterly alone in this world and misunderstood. In a fit of rage, I kicked my foot through the glass kitchen door. If I had only left it at that one kick. I kicked the right foot again through the cracked hole in the glass door.
The motion of bringing my foot back out after that kick did me in. The surrounding jagged glass on the door slashed open my foot, severing the Achilles’ tendon and the nerves around it. I fell to the ground screaming in pain like I never had before. Blood was spurting out uncontrollably, I could not stand up. Suresh called the paramedics and I was shuttled to the neighbourhood hospital.
It was a sunny Sunday morning, that was what I noticed while the paramedics and Su spoke to me. I was losing consciousness. The hospital was quiet and devoid of surgeons, so I was given morphine while waiting for people to attend to me.
No one told me what was going on.
I had X rays done, my foot bandage was replaced every few hours because the blood was still spilling.
I don’t know what bravado possessed me but I refused to believe that this was a serious injury. I wanted to head to the bathroom and requested for a wheelchair. When the nurse suggested I should use a bedpan, I looked at her like she was completely bonkers. She looked at me like I was completely bonkers.
I don’t know if it was because an international student who had hurt herself was not considered a priority, but I did not undergo surgery until the next evening. I had lost 3 pints of blood by then. Su had the ill fortune of having to call my parents to inform them of this incident. I don’t think they realised the extent of the injury until they saw it in person. My mother, who is not someone who likes to be adventurous, took the next available flight out to be with me.
That gesture and spending the next month with her in Melbourne, brought us closer together. But I digress.
As I was awaiting being wheeled into the operating theatre, my surgeon came in and said “Well I hope you are happy with yourself. I don’t know what led you to do this but you will never be able to walk again. Well done.”
I just started bawling after she made that statement and they had to give double the dose of anaesthesia to put me under. 7 hours later, I awoke to an anxiety attack and asthma attack..because of those haunting words.
Nobody should ever have to hear such scary words right before undergoing life altering surgery.
Suresh anxiously waited for me to be wheeled out and he was so upset when he saw me crying out to him, because I had to tell him what the surgeon told me. The attending doctors of my ward had to listen to me sobbing while I asked them if what the surgeon had said was true. They were really upset with her and reassured me that it wasn’t all that desolate.
I had never used crutches or a wheelchair. My mental and physical agility was something I took pride in.
The physiotherapist on hand had to train me to use crutches to climb up stairs since there was no lift landing for my apartment. It was a long flight of stairs.
My foot had tripled in size, resembling a rugby ball. The lightning scar around it that kept it together was scary to look at. My foot dangled instead of stayed steady, it’s called drop foot (yes it’s true). I could not feel my toes, could not move them even if I wanted to.
5 days later, I was discharged.
I rented a wheelchair and bath furniture and brought back a pair of rickety wooden crutches. Getting out of the hospital and feeling the sun on my face, instead of lying in a bed staring at sterile hospital linoleum was a very welcome change.
I will never forget the kind Iraqi taxi driver who helped Su carry me to my doorstep. I wasn’t strong enough to walk with crutches then. It took me a month before I got the hang of it. You always remember the unexpected kindness of strangers when you find yourself constantly struggling to get by.
Mom arrived a day after I was discharged and she was stunned beyond words to look at her usually tough as nails daughter in this state. It was a relief to have her there but at the same time, there was a lot of tension since we had been fighting so much over the phone. If you think that we reached any kind of resolution over that matter, you’re wrong. My parents will never, ever doubt their parenting skills. They’ll only ask “What have we done to deserve such children?”
As if I had a say to be born into this cuckoo family..
If you think the rage left me after the accident, well you are wrong. I was angry at myself now for having hurt myself. I only ever hurt myself. I don’t know what I kept punishing myself for.
I was so angry with having to get help to do menial things, like take a bath. I was so angry that I couldn’t just walk into the kitchen and make myself a cup of tea. I was angry with my parents and Suresh for having brought me to such a point where rage completely wrecked my existence.
Humility and Love tore the rage down.
After being snapped at by mom for screaming obscenities while waiting for a cab, After having her walk out on me refusing to help me step out of the bathroom until I calmed myself down.
I learnt to be grateful for the people around me, I learnt to appreciate the simplest things that we take for granted, I learnt to understand the power of sitting in silence and watching the day unfold around me.
This irreversible mishap altered me completely.
I had a sole focus in mind – to walk again. Never mind what the doctors had to say, I knew I had it in me to do the impossible. So everyday, I used all my strength to move my right toe. A monumental task, given that I had lost all function and motion in my foot. It looked like a very stale, rotted bloated mango.
Move the right toe.
Move the right toe.
Move the right toe.
It will happen, you can do it. You will walk again so help me god Aarti.
This was all I existed for then. I strengthened my arms, thighs religiously with stretches and exercises to keep my mind sharp and body devoid of malaise. I hobbled around the apartment, down the stairs again and again. I made Suresh and mom bring me out for coffee every day so that I could remember the sights and sounds, to keep myself motivated for when I could walk over to a cafe unaided. They complained of course! hahaha. Bringing a person with a wheelchair around who needs to be lifted from flights of stairs and all is not fun. But I kept myself happy, we joked around and laughed at silly daily happenings.
I knew, at the back of my mind that I was going to need this positivity to keep me going. So I kept trying to move the right toe and prepare to fly back to Singapore. A flight I didn’t want to take but I had to because I needed my mother and it was time for us to go home. Having to live under the same roof with my father was going to be hell.
Finally, one morning..the toe showed a flicker of movement. I showed my progress off proudly, and just kept working on moving it beyond that flicker. The pain during those exercises was intense and I began to suffer from migraines.
I remember being in such pain when flying back to Sg. I had to keep the foot elevated at all times and there was hardly leg space. But a very kind steward brought his own bags for me to prop my legs on. He also helped me hobble to the bathroom, which I can assure you is a very scary experience when you’re on crutches.
A few days later as I settled back into the parental home, I knew that there was no way I could stay with them any longer than the duration of my recovery. My father was spitting emotional venom all the time. I could not talk sense to my mother who went with everything he said. My sister and I had nothing left to salvage, my father had gotten to her and I was on my own. I am not going to go into the drama that ensued for the year and a half that I lived with them but oh it was bad.
I really have to give credit to my doctors and physiotherapists here in Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Singapore. They got me started on stretching my toes, that were beginning to wiggle a little. They stretched my foot and made me howl, sing in pain (I would suddenly start singing Sesame Street tunes in response to sharp pains). These guys knew I had it in me to walk again and they were tough taskmasters! By this time I was an expert with hobbling up and down long flights of stairs, even figuring out escalators and taxis on my own.
Everyday, I would note down the progress the foot made with exercises and stretches. I would note down the little improvements in motion. I read extensively on the anatomy of feet. I penned my thoughts and feelings down, speaking more of gratitude than my troubles. Every day brought a new challenge and more progress.
I was still aided by mom for showers and to have my meals, but I was able to change my clothing and place a chair at the kitchen counter to boil myself a cup of tea to enjoy. I would drag furniture around with me that I needed like a rolling table, pouf for my foot and a dining chair for kitchen tasks. I could even walk backwards with the crutches hahaha.
In case you’re wondering where Su figured in all this, well we actually broke up after getting back to Singapore. I was exhausted emotionally and we needed the break. But we were still very good friends.
Of course now you know how that story went on from there, years later 😉
I remember the look on mom’s face when I opened the bathroom door facing her, standing on my two feet and I toddled over to her. I think watching me walk was the one of the happiest moments of her life.
I developed restless leg syndrome which can be very damaging to sleep, because of the nerves that were still recovering. My Achilles’ tendon grew back to 50% and that is why my right foot is a size shorter than my left.
I would stay up at nights, caressing my foot and soothing myself to sleep with good thoughts.
No, the story doesn’t end there.
So many complications arose because of the injury and I am still in physical pain everyday but I survived it, I got myself walking and that is my miracle.
I went on to injure my left foot badly, which was purely accidental and that brought me onto another humbling series of personal revelations. I call the second injury Karma 😉
How do I feel about my legs?
I feel proud of them. They have never failed to surprise me, they have made me a better person. They are beautiful in their flaws. They can function and that in it itself is a blessing.
My feet keep me humble.
I will always be grateful for the lessons that I have learnt through the two mishaps. Although the injuries are irreversible, they remind me of how having faith in yourself is really a mind over matter concept.
Gosh I know this has been a hell of a soliloquy! But I am glad to have finally written this down.
Chat soon loveys,
xxxo Aarti Olivia