Subject: Fractured Fibulas R Us

August 6, 1998

I went to Maine for the masters nationals last weekend hoping to get some good marks and photos. I brought home three more pictures than I bargained for: X-rays of my severely sprained (and mildly fractured) left ankle.

I flew in Thursday, going from Lindbergh to Salt Lake City to Boston to Portland, where I rented a blue Chevy Malibu. Then I drove 140 miles to Orono and the University of Maine, just north of Bangor. Stayed at Somerset Hall, a dorm that reminded me of Ellsworth Hall at Kansas. Small beds, shared bathroom, concrete walls (with a Metallica logo drawn on mine).

On Friday, I did the high jump, thrilled to clear 4-7, 4-9 and 4-11 on my first tries with NO PAIN from the tendinitis that plagued me in 1996-97. At 5-1, I barely missed on 3rd try. My step was OK, but this was only my third HJ competition of the season, and I just was weak in strength and execution. I was fourth out of four -- winning yellow ribbon, same as at Michigan State nationals in 1995, when I jumped 5-4 1/2. First was Jim Barrineau, who cleared nearly 6-5 despite his own injuries. Third place was 5-3.

On Saturday, I planned to run the 400m hurdles and the 200m dash. The hurdles went well at first. No chopping of step. No lost momentum. I was cruising in last place, waiting for the final sprint to catch a guy, when disaster struck. I was in Lane 4, only a step or two behind a Florida runner in Lane 3. Dr. Ray Blackwell (a heart surgeon) already had finished in a super time of about 55.4 when I set my sights on the last hurdle.

Lane 3 guy crashed his and stumbled. His hurdle rocked into my lane. I cleared my hurdle but (trying to avoid Florida's) landed on the side of my foot. I instantly felt pain and warmth. I yelped, fell down and immediately began struggling to get my shoe off -- before the swelling set in.

Medical folks were at my side in seconds, asking if I had heard a crack. Nope, just felt this big warmth. They helped me up, and got me to the tent near the finish line, where ice was applied and a car called for. (The offending hurdler never stopped by to see how I was; Chris wants to write him a nasty letter.)

Fallbrook friend Jim Selby fetched me my track bag, camera gear and hat. Tent lady Pam gave me crutches and drove me to Orono Medical Center, with me the only patient. Pam, in her 50s, described herself as a Mamma Bear to Maine athletes. In a half-hour I was being X-rayed. No broken bones -- just a bad sprain of the deltoid (muscle around the instep) and fracture of the distal fibula (thin bone near shin). I was given painkillers and a big black Velcro contraption that served as a boot/cast to protect my ankle and was driven back to the meet. I got ice wrapped around my foot and watched the rest of the meet.

On Sunday, I used crutches to return to the meet and take pictures -- my leg elevated and iced -- from a chair looking down the track. I was 20 yards from the finish line and used my 105mm lens all day. Later, I drove M35 American 1500 champion Scott King and M30 400/800 winner Curtis Wilson to the airport. (My roommate in the dorms, David Ortman, returned to Seattle with four medals, includng a first place in the 110m high hurdles, which he 5-stepped because of injuries. Amazing.) Then I returned to the track, met some e-mail friends and shot some more pictures. Pam filched a souvenir cap for me. Friends brought me cups of water. I was treated like royalty.

Sunday night, I drove 10 minutes to Bangor and had a two-lobster dinner with chowder and chocolate cake (called Chocolate Moosse) at Captain Nick's, a place recommended by the meet director. Squirted lobster juice all over me. Best crustacean I ever had, of course.

Monday morning, after breakfast, I packed my bags, had a lady dorm worker carry my luggage to the car, drove down to Portland (passing a dead moose in the Interstate 95 median greenbelt) and got a Delta skycap to check my bags through to San Diego. In Atlanta, the stopover, a guy pushed me in a wheelchair to the gate of my connecting flight. In San Diego, son Bobby pushed me in a wheelchair to the car, and Chris drove me home. Bobby described his first day of fourth grade. He loves his teacher, Mrs. Weston.

Today (Tuesday) Chris and I drove down to Kaiser Zion Hospital in San Diego and got an orthopedic nurse practitioner to examine the injury. She said it would heal. But first I had to have cast put on. It extends from base of toes to a few inches below the knee. I chose a light blue wrap for the cast. Nice color. I'm out of work for at least a week and perhaps two. No driving for two weeks. Leg elevated most of the time ("toes over nose" is the edict.) It's elevated now, in fact. My leg rests on a pillow on a corner section of my computer desk, left of the monitor. On August 19, I'll have cast taken off and ankle X-rayed again. Then I'll get a "walking cast" for four or 5 weeks, and permission to drive, I hope. Kaiser folks say I'll do therapy and be able to resume track running in February 1999. Nobody doubts that I'll be able to make a full comeback -- if I follow doctor's orders and don't do something stupid.

Chris is supporting me all the way. Bobby is cooperating (to a point.) I'm confident I'll be able to run in Orlando, the 1999 masters nationals. This time, I'll nail that Florida guy.

Sorry about the form letter. I'm going to limit my computer time to essentials and stay in bed for the next week as much as I can. Thanks for all your kind wishes.

I'll be back.

--Ken