If the recent viral Milk Crate Challenge has you cringing, I get it.
Eight or nine years ago, I broke my ankle while stepping down from a single upturned crate. Somehow, I turned my ankle just the wrong way. The next thing I knew, there was a sick little pop and I was on the floor.
My sister Bethany drove me to the hospital and, despite having a fully logical brain, for some reason that escapes us both now, decided to piggyback me into the emergency room rather than use a wheelchair.
When we pulled into the hospital parking lot, my insides were boiling.
What if there was a long wait? What if I needed surgery? Worst of all, what if my ankle actually wasn’t broken, but I still wound up being late for work?
Instead of turning into the covered drop-off lane, Bethany pulled her truck into a nearby parking space, perhaps reasoning that it would be more efficient to get us both inside in one go rather than take me in and have to come back out and move her truck. Not that we discussed any of this. Bethany’s reasoning is always perfectly rational to her and opaque to me, and I’ve given up trying to understand it in the moment.
Besides which, I had other problems.
Instead of going inside to fetch a wheelchair, Bethany hopped out of the truck, jogged around to the passenger side, popped open the door, and crouched slightly at the knees. She planted her feet and braced herself to take my weight.
“Go ahead,” she said. “Hop on.”
“One sec.” I stopped to pull on a hoodie. I’d spent enough time in hospitals to know that the thermostat would most likely be set on Polar Blast.
Bethany slapped her thighs and used the side of her tongue to make a loud clicking sound.
I tilted my hips and attempted to turn sideways without bonking my injured ankle. “Stop calling me like I’m a horse. You know I hate that.”
She shot a squinty-eyed look over her shoulder. “Are you getting on or not?”
“Okay, here I come.” I lurched forward onto her back and immediately began slipping sideways. In an effort to lock myself into place, I brought my left leg up and hooked it around her hip. Afraid to move my right leg, I left it sticking straight out.
Bethany hitched me up gently and began her trek to the ER.
My foot jiggled with every move.
“Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch,” I chanted in sync with each step.
“Almost there.” Bethany hitched me higher against her back.
The glass doors to the emergency room loomed in front of us.
“Be careful,” I fretted, clutching her shoulders with my talon hands. “Don’t bonk my foot against the doorframe.” My leg was still sticking out at more or less a right angle.
“The doors are like thirty feet wide. I think we’ll be fine.”
They slid open in automatic welcome, and a whoosh of frigid air hit us in the face. A blissful relief from the oppressive Florida heat.
Bethany pivoted slightly back and forth, scanning the waiting room. “Okay,” she said. “I’m going to put you down now.”
“Okay.” I braced myself with a wobbly breath.
Slowly, Bethany bent down and to the side. She seemed to be doing her best to leverage me so that my weight would come down gently on my left leg, which would have been fine if my left leg hadn’t betrayed me. It bore my weight for two shaky seconds before inexplicably buckling.
Acting without my consent, my brain reflexively sent my right leg to help. This proved a fatal error.
I dropped like an anchor, dragging Bethany down on top of me.
As her full weight landed on my injured ankle, I experienced my first boom of real pain.
I opened my eyes.
Bethany now stood over me, staring down, eyebrows meeting in a sharp angle.
What had just happened?
I was sprawled on the floor, face misted with sweat and tears, not sure if I was laughing or crying. Whatever sound I was making, it wasn’t natural.
At the commotion, a hospital worker darted around the corner.
She asked no questions, and I don’t remember trying to explain.
That alone should be a clue as to my mental state.
“Let me get you a wheelchair,” she said, and once I was tucked safely inside, right leg propped out and supported by the leg rest, she wheeled me down the hall for my X-rays.
No more piggybacks required.
This post came about because Bethany recently saw me react to the Milk Create Challenge by lamenting that I broke my ankle stepping down from one (1!) solitary crate.
“There’s a lot more to that story.”
This scene is one example of what she’s talking about.
A few years after I broke my ankle for real, I took the experience, tilted it sideways, and wrapped a fiction book around it.
The result? My debut novel Collapsible: A Novel of Friendship, Broken Bones, Coffee, Shenanigans, and the Occasional Murder.