by Sean P. O’Driscoll, Guest Contributor
“So…not to worry you but I have a soft tissue injury to my right ankle. I’m OK.”
It was our 13th wedding anniversary, and my wife was TAD in Jericho, Vermont, participating in the second half of Mountain Medicine Training. Successful completion would result in her receiving the Diploma in Mountain Medicine (DIMM) and we expected this training to be a repeat of her first TAD: exciting for her but otherwise uneventful.
But this one turned out to be different, for both of us.
Suspecting that she was downplaying her injury, I asked “How’d you do it?”
“I kinda slid 30 feet down steep terrain and got stopped by a tree.”
I knew at that point that she was definitely downplaying her injury. We have been married long enough that I know how she works when she is ill or injured.
The rest of the day my mind was occupied with “How she is doing? What is the actual extent of this injury?”
I knew that she was in good hands so that was comforting and that they wouldn’t let her injure herself anymore than she already was. The not knowing how bad her injury was was the hard part. But she got an X-ray and remained in Vermont.
The next day I texted her asking how her ankle was. “It’s OK with some Motrin,” she replied and that she was sidelined for the day to let her ankle rest. The next morning I asked how her ankle was and said that I was concerned about it and her.
That was when she sent me a picture of her ankle.
I cannot type the words that came out of my mouth when I saw that photo. My concerns were confirmed. What I was looking at was NOT a soft tissue injury. There had to be some sort of fracture and/or torn ligaments and tendons. The last time I saw bruising like that was in a trauma unit at work when someone blew out their knee. It wasn’t pretty by any means.
I was at work that day so all we could do was a quick FaceTime call and we talked about it and that I knew that it was worse than expected. She asked me why I was upset. It’s not that I was upset.
It was that I had never been put in this type of situation before.
She hasn’t deployed yet either so in a way, I am glad that this is happening now while she is stateside and coming home in a week.
“This is training for both of us” was my response.
After a couple more texts, I began to calm down and regain my composure. Now that I knew what the true extent of her injury was, what she was doing about it and what the plan was, I returned back to my normal thought process and it didn’t bother me for the remainder of her training.
She returned home safely and we went from the airport to the hospital to get a full exam. Turns out she had fractured her Lateral Talar Transverse Process bone. It’s a small bone on the end of the tibia and it is most commonly known as “the snowboarder’s fracture.”
So after walking on it for a week, it actually did some good by rounding all the fragments down so that healing can start. No operation needed! She was put in a cast for 2 weeks and was issued a scooter.
During the time between seeing the photo of her ankle and the time I picked her up from the airport, I thought about what if something like this happens while she is deployed?
How do I want to receive potentially bad news? Who do I want to hear it from? Who do I trust and whom do I not trust when it comes to such information?
I asked the guys of Macho Spouse if they have anything in place for if something like this was to happen and if they did have anything like this happen to them. Doug Nordman of The Military Guide, said that when it came to news like that from his wife they agreed on “tell me all the bad news now so that I can start dealing with it.”
Another male military spouse said that they have agreed to “play down the issue” until they are back together. Then they spill it all to each other.
“By that time, bones have healed, feelings have died down, and it’s more a matter of facing the fact of how much we have kept from each other because we were idiots. And then we do it again the next deployment wondering why the hell we never seem to learn.”
Another male military spouse had a much different experience. The communication between his wife’s command and medical was horrid and they actually lost her for some time because she was grounded halfway through transport. When they gave her a phone card, it only called the United States and they were stationed in Korea. So, she had to call her mother and then her mother had to call her husband and then he relayed that information to her company. His suggestion was to soak in the SOPs so that when things go south, you know whom to contact.
My wife recently had her 2-week check-up and the cast was removed and placed in a walking boot and we have added a set of crutches to her repertoire.
She also returned to work. You would think that with an injury like that one would be sidelined for 2 weeks right?! Nope. Not my wife!
Sean P. O’Driscoll is an Emergency Medical Technician and has been a military spouse for 6 years. His experiences in military spouse groups lead to his decision to start writing as a military spouse. More of his writings can be seen at militaryspouse.com.