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May 24th, 2010

Broken Ankle Teaches Smartmom a Lesson

It was a rainy Monday morning, and Smartmom and Diaper Diva were moving some of Smartmom’s things into Manhattan Granny’s basement storage room (a little house cleaning). Wearing rubber rain boots, Smartmom walked on a wet rubber ramp, when — splat — she violently twisted her ankle and it was as if her foot folded beneath her. Smartmom found herself on her back screaming: “I think I broke something. I think I broke something.”

“Did she break something valuable?” Manhattan Granny apparently said to Diaper Diva (they were in the storage room).

“No, I think she means she broke herself,” her twin sister said.

The pain was excruciating, but somehow Smartmom was able to go upstairs to her mother’s apartment. Within a half hour, her foot had swollen to the size of a Nerf football, and Smartmom and Manhattan Granny went crosstown to have it X-rayed.

“It’s not fractured,” the radiologist told her. “You can go now.”

“But what do I do?” Smartmom asked plaintively.

“We can’t help you. You’ll have to call your primary care physician.”

Smartmom was smarting. She wanted to cry. Buddha knows, she was relieved that it wasn’t broken or fractured, but clearly there was something wrong with it and she was in need of some advice.

Standing on the corner of 84th Street and Lexington Avenue in the cold rain with a throbbing foot, Smartmom called her doctor, who told her to “go home.”

“If you can’t walk tomorrow, call an orthopedic doctor,” she added.

That seemed exceedingly unhelpful at that moment. Actually, it was exasperating. Finally, the doctor gave Smartmom the number of a nearby orthopedic practice — “The only one who will take your insurance,” she grumbled. Manhattan Granny and Smartmom went into a restaurant, ordered some pizza and dialed the number.

“We can’t see you until later in the week,” the receptionist told Smartmom.

“What should I do in the meantime?” she said tearfully, her foot still radiating pain.

“I can’t tell you anything until the doctor examines you,” the receptionist said coldly.

Tears filled her eyes. She tried not to sob into her pizza. But she felt helpless. Her foot was becoming black and blue …

“Excuse me,” a beautiful Indian woman walked over to their table holding a small, white business card.

“I’m sorry to eavesdrop, but it was awful what you just went through on the phone,” she said.

The woman’s kindness made Smartmom weep with gratitude.

“Why don’t you go around the corner to see the doctor I work for? He’s a physiatrist, and he’s wonderful. Tell them Samantha sent you.”

Smartmom did just as good fairy Samantha told her to do. She and her mother walked around the corner and Dr. Loren Fishman, an elfish man in a red bow tie and round glasses, was able to see her almost immediately.

Immediately. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

When Smartmom told Dr. Fishman what happened he measured the good ankle and the sprained ankle and concluded that, indeed, Smartmom’s ankle was very, very swollen.

Fishman, the author of “Yoga for Osteoporosis,” and many other books and papers, told her to keep her foot elevated and iced. He said the best thing she could do was lie on her back and put her leg up against the wall.

Smartmom and Manhattan Granny were both enchanted by Dr. Fishman. They spent close to an hour with the good doctor (Manhattan Granny told him about all of her foot problems). He told Smartmom to come back in a few days for physical therapy “to preserve your range of motion.” And he gave her prescriptions for an anti-inflammatory and an air cast.

Back in Brooklyn, Smartmom managed to hobble up the three flights of stairs to her apartment. With Hepcat in California, she was on her own until her children came home. They were clearly flummoxed when they found her lying on the floor with her left leg up on the wall.

“Did you break it?” she asked.

“No, I sprained it,” Smartmom said.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m elevating it,”


“Never mind …”

They were even more startled when she started to cry in pain and frustration. Nothing like tears to get your kids to really notice. After the waterworks, they were really helpful bringing her ice packs, Advil, books, and food. At dinnertime, the Oh So Feisty One ordered Moo Shoo Pork from Szechuan Delight and even went downstairs to get it from the deliveryman.

Smartmom should sprain her ankle more often.

In the days that followed, Smartmom learned to slow down, to delegate, to not move around at the pace she is accustomed to.

The Buddhists would say she was being mindful, taking things slow and paying attention.

In her effort to heal, Smartmom was learning to ask others for help and to take things one step at a time.

Not a bad thing, all things considered.

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