I broke my pinky toe four years ago in the most ridiculous, but also the most common manner. There was a special on the History Channel premiering that night on Nefertiti, a queen of Egypt famed for her beauty and controversy. I’d seen the promo trailers all week and was very excited to see the special. Five minutes past 9PM, I realized I was missing the show and made a mad dash up to stairs and into my bedroom and subsequently stubbed my toe against the door jamb. I hissed and ahhed over my toe. It had been the worst toe-stubbing afterpains I’d ever had, but it wasn’t until I looked at it that I knew it was broken.
Usually a broken toe is accompanied by swelling or bruising. Mine didn’t. However, it was turned outward and shaped like a backwards ‘c’. I just stared at it in shock for the longest time. It looked like a monkey paw. I was capable of moving it, but I was advised against that. My husband put a loose open-toed slipper on my foot, making sure my pinky toe didn’t touch the fabric or get constricted in any way. His father was a medic in the Army during the Vietnam war and so, to avoid the cost and wait of an emergency room, we went to his house at 9:30PM. The oh-so-clever plan was to liquor me up first, then have my father-in-law put it back in place. He’d done similar things many times. However, when he saw my “monkey paw” he advised that we go to a hospital. He said that if it wasn’t turned and bent the way it was, he’d do it, but it was too dangerous to try to place the toe back into position without an x-ray.
So…off we went. We reached a hospital in our neighborhood and waited in the ER waiting room. My foot was starting to feel numb and cold. It was winter and I was only wearing the slipper on my left foot. We arrived at 10:30PM. We waited…and waited…and then we waited some more. We were the only people in the waiting room when we arrived, but other patients who had came after us were admitted ahead of us. A few cases were understandable that they go in first, but plenty of injuries were much less severe than my broken pinky toe (that should tell you how trivial they were). An hour later, we were getting quite tired and anxious and decided we didn’t like the lack of care we were given at that hospital.
We went to another, which was further away, but more reputable. It took us a half hour to get there (after getting lost), bringing the time to 12:00AM. The wait was considerably less and by 12:30AM, I was getting x-rays. Most of my wait was spent waiting for my turn in radiology. At 12:45PM, the bed they insisted I lay on (for a broken toe, mind you) was wheeled into a cubicle consisting of gray curtains. My husband found me shortly after, and then the doctor. At last, someone was going to address and fix my problem! After all this waiting, I was about to snap that sucker back into place myself. The “real doctor” assisted a learning resident. She stabbed my pinky toe mercilessly with a needle filled with lidocaine, but couldn’t seem to hit the right spot. NOW my toe started to bruise and swell. Finally, the attending brushed the resident out of the way, seeing my 10-minute distress of botched injection attempts. He slid the needle in at the exact right place and my toe exploded with severe pain. The lidocaine, he said, was going to “burn a little”. That was an understatement. The lidocaine hurt more than actually breaking the toe. I don’t need to set my toe on fire now to know what it would feel like. Fortunately, the sensation died quickly and gave way to blissful numbness. I sensed them fumbling for the right placement of the toe and finally doing a ‘buddy splint’ on my pinky toe and the one next to that.
After patting themselves on the back that they had done a good job, they left the little area to do the paperwork and would be back “soon”. Well, that turned out to be 2AM. My husband and I were complaining amongst ourselves about what was taking so long and he finally went to seek out the doctor, who had been chatting at the ER desk and would have continued to go on longer had my husband not reminded him that we still needed our discharge papers. He looked sheepishly at us when he returned, apologizing and looking like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I was angry, but way too tired at this point to be hostile. The doctor prescribed me some Vicodin (which seemed overkill for a broken toe) and finally sent us on our way.
We arrived home at 2:30AM. My husband had to be up in less than 3 hours, but he made sure I was settled in bed with my foot elevated. Before I fell asleep he asked, “You taped that Nefertiti special, right?”
To this day, my husband still teases me about Nefertiti and how I broke my pinky toe.