One thing I have learned over the years is to not take anything for granted. Not my friends, not my made family, not my health, not my career. The first time I realized I was taking my dancing for granted was in university. A month out from a near and dear to my heart performance, I slipped on a patch of ice at 630 a.m. I felt my foot twist in an unnatural way and heard a large crack before my feet were in the air. I landed hard on my shoulder in the snow. Once I realized what happened, I tried to assure myself that I was wrong. Maybe my shoe made the big crack. Maybe my joint made the sound.
As I lay on my side, I decided to assess the damage to my leg if any and I hoped the latter was true. I put my hand on my ankle and moved my foot up and down. As I did so, I felt my bones swish past each other. In my brain’s state of shock, I figured maybe this was normal since I had never done this assessment before. I decided to check my other ankle. I put my hand on it and moved that foot up and down. Nope. That ankle’s bones certainly did not swish past each other. SHOOT! Through all this, I was having a conversation with myself that this was all my imagination. That I could probably get up and walk just fine to the building I was laying beside in the snow. After feeling the difference of swish between the two sides, I decided maybe it was best that I asked for help.
A young woman had seen me go down and came over to assess the damage as well. She told me it was likely not fractured, but to stay put and she would get some people to help get me into the building. While waiting, I kept testing the swish factor to see if it would go away. It did not. She came back with two big boys who carried me into the building and plopped me on a bench. They peeled my pant leg back to reveal an ankle the size of a grapefruit.
I was taken to the hospital and the damage was assessed via x-ray. I had fractured my tibia and fibula. They tried to reduce the fracture, but the one bone would not realign as hoped. Surgery was required and I tried to argue with them about it. I was not going to have surgery. I was too terrified to give up that control and let someone else operate on me while I couldn’t be a participant. In my state of shock, there was no way anyone was going to convince me. Hours later, they got through to me that I wouldn’t walk if I didn’t get the surgery to realign the bones properly. I felt strong armed into doing it, but their logic eventually seemed sound.
The first person I called was the partner that I was supposed to be performing with the next month. I sobbed as I tried to explain to him that I had messed up so badly. I was so sorry that I had broken my ankle and failed him. I was sorry that they were going to have to do surgery and that the bones wouldn’t line back up the way that they should and that I wouldn’t be able to walk properly on it let alone dance if they didn’t do the surgery. I was just sick that I had let this boy down in such an unthinkable way all because I didn’t see the ice on the side walk. I felt so responsible and so scared that my life would change. That my ability to dance might be affected.
It took a long time to recover to be able to fully walk again. The first week I was allowed to put pressure on it with the cast off, I was desperate to get to normal faster than they had predicted. In pushing the rehabilitation guidelines, I ended up tearing the scar tissue and ended up with an ankle like a grapefruit again. Originally, I thought it was infection, they figured it out when they enquired how hard I was pushing it to be normal. So I was set back another couple of weeks.
I can tell you that I always believed movement and dancing would be part of my life. I had never questioned it, been actively thankful for it, or guarded it with extra care. Not until that day when it looked like it could all disappear. It was the thing that made me feel most whole in my life and I had messed up and maybe taken it away from myself by not watching my footing. I vowed from that day forward, if I could dance again, I would be thankful for it everyday. I would be thankful for every partner who I got to work with. I would be thankful for every teacher who took me on. I still try to maintain this attitude. Even when days are tough, I am still thankful that I have dance in my life because it could disappear in a split second. If it did, I know that I have given it what I could in my life.