All For A Front Tuck
A front tuck is such a simple, basic skill. The gymnasts you see on television, the really good ones, they’ve probably been throwing front tucks on a trampoline since they were four.
That didn’t make it any less exciting when I got my front tuck.
Here’s how it happened. Here’s everything I remember.
It was my second gymnastics class of the week, and the first day we’d done much the same things—double mini, tumbling on the tumble trak and rod floor, and then the big tramp. On this second evening, there were only three of us. I was keeping up all right, through tumbling and then on the double mini, but I was definitely starting to get tired. I was relieved when we went to the tramp.
I did a bunch of flips. I only landed about half—the rest of the time I’d be on my ass. I cant seem to land two in a row, I told Tim.
Take more breaths in between, he said.
The way I remember it is that I nodded, took a breath and began jumping. I jumped, jumped, jumped and then let myself tuck forward, in a movement that felt natural by then. My knees bent, my head went to my chest, my arms flew forward, and then I shot my legs out so they would hit the tramp and I could hopefully stay up.
When I hit the tramp it was incredibly painful. I heard a snap. I remember thinking that this is what it feels like to break something. But then I was back in the room again—I think the intensity of the pain made me slip away for a second—and I think I said something obvious, like OUCH.
That’s what happens when you get greedy, Tim said, and he was over. I was collapsed on the tramp. Ice, I said.
He gave me ice for both ankles, since the right one—which I sprained ages ago—was also hurting, although not nearly as much. It was also in a brace.
The others went to do their strength. I sat on the tramp and iced my ankles. My right one was OK, I decided. I kept icing the left.
It was maybe 15 minutes between the time I fell and when I left. In that time, I sat on the tramp and iced. Tim made me laugh. I was trying to stay in good spirits. I was trying not to admit how much it hurt. I’ve broken a bone only once before, crashing off my bike when I was about ten and breaking my wrist, but I don’t remember what that felt like. I remember how much this hurt, though. I was wincing and gasping and trying to be brave.
Tim asked if he needed to get my shoe on and was happy to hear I’d worn my Crocs. He examined my ankle, touching it while I winced. He said he hadn’t heard a snap. I said I’d heard a pop, and he said its usually a big snap.
My ankle was swelling like crazy. When it was time to leave, I was a little scared, because it really.fucking.hurt. But I didn’t want to be a wimp.
Tim helped me down from the tramp. I think I put weight on my good foot and let Tim put his arm around me. I couldn’t bring myself to just hop on my right foot. Instead, I put weight on the left one and leaned on Tim. He helped me with my shoes and then he helped me out to the car. I remember stepping on a squishy mat, how incredibly painful that was, and stepping down the stairs was excruciating.
On the way home I called home. I asked Nicole to be waiting for me with the 800 mg ibuprofen I’d been prescribed for my cellulites (which never hurt that much, actually) and ice. The drive home was hard. It wasn’t, thankfully, my pedal foot, but it hurt like fuck anyway.
At home Nicole met me at the car and gave me my drugs. She helped me across the street. At that point I couldn’t walk up the stairs anymore. It just hurt too damn much. So I crawled up, instead. Crawled up the front steps, through the front door, up the stairs. Went to the bathroom, went to the bed. Nicole brought me ice and I had to ask her to lift my ankle to elevate it, because I couldn’t. it just hurt too much.
In the morning I went to CVS and bought assorted braces. I put one on my bad ankle and an air cast over that. Then I went to babysit. Carrying the baby (he was about 18 months) downstairs was not so easy.
I kept it going. At analysis I said I thought it was sprained. When I went to Holiday Craft Day at church the next day, I had fun—I did—but my lord it hurt. And then I taught RE and went to school. I kept the brace on most of the time. Bruises came up and they were amazing. I have never seen bruises like that. It was insane. They were dark and scary and spread all over my ankle.
I did not think it was broken.
Did it hurt to walk? Of course. When I got up to give my history presentation, it hurt like crazy. Going up and down stairs was nearly unbearable. But I had talked myself into thinking it was just a sprain.
I started thinking about my Tuesday gymn class. I tried doing a handstand but I take off with my left foot, and I couldn’t bring myself to get my hands down. I tried a cartwheel—I also take off for those with my left foot—and nearly collapsed on my head. I tried running but the most I could manage was a sort of pathetic little limping run.
The thing is, last fall I spent a few months thinking my father was going to die. I didn’t always think that, of course, but part of me really did think I might be on the cusp of losing him. And during that time, one of the things that kept me sane was my gymnastics classes. By Thursday, I could feel my body itching to run and jump and tumble. It became both a physical and an emotional need.
So I told myself it was just a sprain and I could go back…oh, maybe I’d be sensible and miss this week, but surely next week I’d be back.
When I went to Dr. Ryan’s office I honestly thought it would be quick. He’d look, say I needed to take a week off, tell me how to wrap it and send me on my merry way.
He did not.
I called to cancel my babysitting for that afternoon when it looked like I might be there for awhile. Mike took x-rays. I sat impatiently.
Dr. Ryan came in. So how’d you break your ankle? he asked cheerfully.
Oh, I don’t think its broken.
I don’t remember exactly what he said next. I was completely and totally stunned. He told me that yes, it was broken, and furthermore, I would need surgery. I was having trouble absorbing all of this. But….its just a sprain, I kept saying.
They put me in a wheelchair and showed me the x-rays. I could see the bone broken. I could see, sort of, that my ankle was in the wrong place.
Mike gave me crutches and a boot. No weight on it, Dr Ryan told me. I’ll try to get you in Friday.
I was stunned.
I texted Nicole: ankle broken. Need surgery.
She replied that if this was a joke, it was NOT FUNNY.
Eventually I drove home. And then I spent an anxious day and a half waiting for surgery. I hate surgery. I don’t like general anesthesia because its freaky, and given the fall I’d had quite enough of hospitals. But I went to Sibley anyway. I put on my gown and got in the stretcher. They started an IV. I asked about a thousand times for something for my anxiety, which they gave me happily enough. I quizzed the anesthesiologist about waking up, as I know someone who once did. We won’t give you a paralytic, he said.
So I could scream if I woke up.
My dad kissed me and they wheeled me down the hall to the OR. I remember music and then I remember nothing until I woke up in the recovery room. I think I said ow. Then apparently I took a long nap. Then I was awake. I remember consciously trying to shake off the drugs. They took me to a different room, after removing the IVs and monitors and such. I drank some juice and ate a lot of crackers—I was starving. And then I went home. NO WEIGHT, they said.
The next week was not so great. I was in bed, and sometimes I felt like I was losing my mind. I read a lot, watched a lot of tv, and was so glad to see my kids, my minister and my friend visit. And then Ashley came. And that was great.
The rest of the story is fairly boring. Not that its been nothing but excitement until now. My family, very kindly, brought me things in bed and were generally quite lovely. Thank heavens for Zoe, who stayed with me the entire time. Or most of it, anyway.
I got a cast. I couldn’t feel my toes. Mike cut the cast. I still couldn’t feel my toes. I got the cast off, after a week, and got the boot. I put full weight on my ankle occasionally but mostly I used my crutches. A couple weeks later I nearly started crying when Dr Ryan said I still needed them, although I could use just one. Then finally, about 10 days ago, he said no more crutches, no more boot. And now, it feels OK. My ankle rarely hurts. My foot hurts a fair amount, but I think that’s because I may have done a few unwise things, and they are: cartwheels, handstands, jumping in the pool. I really just didn’t think. I don’t land on my bad foot throwing cartwheels and I trained myself to and on my good foot coming down from a handstand, so I thought it was OK—until my foot started hurting where I take off. So when I went to PT last, the lovely Joseph did what he did the first time: massaged my calf. Except massage is not exactly accurate. Its more, I clench my teeth and try not to cry out in agony when he torments my calf and ankle.
And now no more swimming until I see Joseph on Tuesday.
So yes, its frustrating. Extremely so. I hate feeling weak. I hate being dependent on other people. I hate the feeling that my body betrayed me, that we were doing so well and then BAM it broke on me. Not okay, as far as I’m concerned. And I think it is interesting, and says something about me that I probably need to consider carefully, that I walked around on an ankle where the fibula was broken clean through and the entire ankle was out of its socket convinced it was a sprain. It’s the clearest example of thinking something until you believe it that I can imagine. And yea, its kind of badass. But maybe not in a good way.
What’s hard to believe is that all of this—surgery, metal plates, screws in my body, months of copays and PT and zillions of x-rays—came from just a few seconds. Just a simple, basic front tuck.
So that’s the whole story, as complete as I can make it, recorded for posterity.