Hurry Up and Wait
Everything comes to him who waits, especially old age. Never were there truer words than these, as is evidenced by the fact that after waiting patiently from March 2nd, until June 1st, 91 days by my fragile reckoning, I was seen by a podiatrist recommended by the VA.
Through the Veterans Choice Program, which attempts to allow veterans to seek medical care within their own communities, I was directed to present myself at the office of Dr. Douglas Lister, who is located in Ft. Bragg. The notification had been mailed on May 3rd, and I got it May 27th. Go figure.
Ft. Bragg is not my idea of my own community, but neither is Rosa, so I wasn’t arguing. I was curious. If that sounds odd for a guy with a toe that was diagnosed as being fractured, it is only because after fifteen months, the suspense was no longer killing me.
As I explained to Dr. Lister, who listened to every word I said, the problem was not chronic. As much as 80% of the time, I was good to go; it was that other 20% that I was trying to address.
I explained about the three months of working the pitchfork, back in the spring of 2016, the increasing level of discomfort and then finally of Dr. Mulligan’s assessment, in March of this year.
I explained about the sandals.
I had wondered-vaguely-how the good doctor would respond to my choice of footwear; would he be critical? In the back of my somewhat murky mind, I was bristling for criticism. How would a guy who spends all of his time in an office, understand where someone is coming from, who spends all of his time outdoors?
To begin, Dr. Lister had a ruddy complexion, blonde hair that was seriously tousled, and an open, engaging face. He offered his hand for me to shake as he strode purposefully into the room, and I was immediately at ease.
He had me slip off both sandals, so he could do some quick overall assessment, and he asked questions along the way. He would have had a hard time not seeing that my legs are inundated with scratches, bruises and what looked like a severe case of measles, from the results of weed-eating in shorts (and sandals).
Our dialogue was straightforward, with no mincing of words. He listened when I told him that after finding out there was actually something wrong, I adjusted my digging stance so as to employ my left foot, instead of the right one, in order to dig.
Subsequently, three months down the line, there was a marked improvement in terms of level of discomfort. Certain actions that used to create savage pain-such as digging in my toes when pushing a wheelbarrow uphill, now had abated to only two-thirds of the pain than earlier.
When he suggested that my simply “resting” the foot for an extended period of time would be optimum, I gave him the look.
“I work,” I said simply. “I’m a farmer and I’m on the go twelve-sixteen hours a day.”
“So I figured,” he said. “How about we try this tape?” and he tore off a half-inch wide by twelve inch long piece of white adhesive tape. “Here’s what I think is going on. I don’t think your toe is broken; I think the little plate above it is damaged.”
He went on to explain that there was a ligament on top of this plate and one below. When the plate gets damaged, then the ligaments can cause discomfort because they are attached to other parts of your foot. As you use the foot and toe, you inevitably hurt the injured plate.”
The tape, which was placed over the top of the toe, at the base, and criss-crossed and applied to the bottom of my foot, helped to stabilize the toe.
No X-rays? No hospital visit? No interminable waiting around for a return consultation? No muss, no fuss?
Sign me up and I’m on my way, which is how it came down.
“Where do I buy this magic tape?” I asked, feeling kind of dumb because it must be available at every “Drugs!” store that ever existed. He handed me the roll that he had just peeled off the tape from, and said, “Right here.”
I gotta tell you that the VA works in mysterious ways and takes her own sweet time, but once again I walked away (operative word, walk) contented. The irony is that by having to wait the three months to actually get the appointment, I aided my own cause by allowing the toe to start healing.
It brought back a quaint phrase that we heard a lot while in boot camp: Hurry up and wait.
Only in this case, it was worth the wait.