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Gabriel : Diary of a broken ankle while studying abroad
Diary entry posted Mon 8:50pm 6 June 2016

05/30/2016 Mo. Ė It was seemed like a normal day. It was Memorial Day and I was helping in the museum that I worked. It was a busy day, because of the special festivities. I left at 4pm, got back home and then went to the beach with a friend to ride the skateboard around the boardwalk on Mission Beach in San Diego, CA. I didnít do any of those cool/fancy tricks or jumps. I just liked cruising on the boardwalk.
Well by now I guess you know what happened. I fell from the skateboard and broke my ankle. I canít remember how it happened, it was really fast. I suspect I hit a rock, the wheel locked and I flew from the skateboard. When the process of falling was over, I didnít think it was serious; I was in pain, but I had way worse pain before, what made me do stuff that I am quite sure I shouldnít have done. I tried walking, and actually walked, moved my ankle aroundÖ Luckily I was with a friend who convinced of going to the urgent care. He helped walking, but soon I tried walking AGAIN. I actually feel kind of stupid when remembering that, and wonder how I managed to do it. Arriving there, I had to fill all the insurance paperwork, and in the meanwhile the swelling increased, and I was finally worried it was something serious. A nurse helped me and cleaned the bruises from the fall, and also took an X-Ray. There I could see the broken fibula. The doctor put a splint on my ankle, gave a pair of crutches and told I should go see an orthopedist for further evaluation, but he gave me the hint I would most likely need surgery. I went back home and called my parents to tell them the bad news. Thatís when things got tricky. I was an exchange student from Brazil in the US. I had recently moved to San Diego just for the summer, after studying two semesters on a college in Florida. I had a few flatmates, but I was basically living on my own. Needing surgery or not we knew I wasnít going to have a good recovery in that situation, and the best option was going back home earlier. That was really disappointing, but I didnít have much time to think about it. There was a bunch of paperwork that needed to be filled out for my sponsor, due to the early return. Also, I obviously needed to take care of my broken ankle, and find a way to adapt my life without the basically ability to stand up and walk. But it was already late and I was hungry, so I pulled some chairs to the kitchen and I managed to cook a dinner. After that I had one more challenge: going up the stairs to my bedroom. I wasnít confident enough to use the crutches so I just sat down on the first step and started dragging myself up, step by step. I was offered help, but I refused. I admit I never liked people doing stuff for me, which soon proved to be something that I would have to adapt to. The bathroom was very narrow, making things hard with the crutch. I again pushed a chair to the bathroom and sat down while I was brushing my teeth. It may be piggy, but I couldnít be bothered to shower that night. I was tired and stressed enough to figure it out how to shower. The doc from the urgent care prescribed me painkillers, which I asked a friend to go buy. All the nearby drugstores were closed earlier because of the holiday so I didnít have them. I was afraid it was going to hurt a lot, but oddly enough I didnít feel pain and made it through the night without the painkillers.

05/31/2016 Tue. Ė I woke early the next day after the injury because I knew that would be a lot of things to deal with. First thing was finding out about the health insurance. I knew I was insured because that was a requirement for my type of visa, and the sponsor payed for it. However, I had no idea how it worked; during 9 months in the US I never needed the doctor. After calling a bunch of places I figured out how it worked and I got an appointment with a doctor for the next day. I also started working with my sponsor and the museum I was working about my early departure. I basically spent the whole day doing paperwork and trying not to scare my family back in Brazil updating them with the news. Imagine receiving a phone call from your son who lives by himself in another country saying that he broke his ankle and now he canít walk or do basic stuff. I also took my first shower after the fracture. I wrapped some plastic bags around my feet and leg and hoped for the best. The result was a disaster. The first plastic bag filled up with water and my feet got wet. Luckily it was plastic splint held in place with waterproof tape, which ended up being not a big deal. I also found out that cleaning yourself properly was really hard in that situation. I need two stools, one to sit down and other to rest my injured leg on. Some parts become almost unreachable (you can guess which ones) and those tend to be the ones that need the most cleaning care.
I quickly found out that most simple activities become a good workout. After the shower I was sweating just to get dressed.
After the shower I was tired enough to do more stuff. I again cooked some dinner and just spent the rest of the night watching TV series and went to bed. Also, by this time I figured it out that putting my feet up would reduce the swelling.

06/01/2016 Wed. Ė June started and I certainly didnít have on my plans to be going to a doctor to see a broken ankle. I made plans and had almost everything figured out to know as much as possible of California and some nearby states. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, living there and being paid to, all flushed down the toilet. I felt frustrated, but I tried steering away those thoughts as much as possible. There wasnít anything I could do about it. But our brains arenít good about that (well at least mine). I was never a big fan of practicing sports during most of my 20 years of life. However, on the last months I was doing a lot of physical activities and actually enjoying, especially riding my bike and probably for the first time in my life I was actually feeling fit and wanted to do more sports on the next day. It was a really bad thinking that I would have to wait months before riding a bike and have to regain all the strength again.
I spared double time to get ready in the morning and almost didnít make it. At the hospital, the doctor examined my X-Ray and took a look at my ankle. I received the bad news I didnít want: surgery was needed. The bone needed screws and plates to be held in place, my feet was out the correct position and need to be realigned, and some ligaments were all messed up. I explained him my situation about not being home and asked if catching a place to do the surgery in Brazil would be fine. He said yes, but I should watch out for the swelling and make arrangements with the airline for extra space. They finally put my feet on a cast and cleaned the bruise I had on my feet from the fall.
I went back to the apartment and told my family the bad news. We had decided that going home was the best. There is no way I could recover that by myself or with little help. Also, on this situation, I wasnít able to do much. The museum I worked was a retired aircraft carrier and my job was restoring aircraft. I was up most of the day, walking around tiny spaces and going up stairs. I guess I wouldnít be fit to work like that. Then I started searching for flights, and I figured out it wouldnít be pleasant, even though I love aviation and travelling by plane (I am on college studying to be an airline pilot). There was no direct flight from San Diego to Sao Paulo (from Sao Paulo I needed an extra 3-hour car drive to my actual city). The option fitting in my budget involved three flights. San Diego to Houston (3 hours), Houston to Rio de Janeiro (10 hours), and Rio de Janeiro to S„o Paulo (1 hour). Not counting the 2 layovers which would last more than 4 hours. I knew it was going to be hell, but it had to be done. I waited for the next day to buy the ticket. I made a trip to groceries and a drugstore with a friend helping me to buy some food and find a cover for the cast. This one couldnít be wet. I found it and back home it proved to be effective, it made the job, even though it proved to be a challenge to put it on. I was already tired, and this time just ate some quick dinner and crashed to bed.

06/02/2016 Thu. Ė I couldnít find any other better deal and bought the long 3-flights journey for the upcoming Saturday. I called the airline and explained the whole situation. Good enough there no medical clearances required, and they put me in seats with better legroom. I knew it wouldnít be ideal, but again, it had to be done. I was already mentally exhausted from paperwork and bureaucracy from my sponsor, that I was glad enough I would be going home and my family would give me full support. Nothing much happened on this day other than finishing up more paperwork and staying with my feet up most of the day. I was really jealous of the people that could go out and enjoy all the beaches.

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 Mon 8:50pm 6 June 2016
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