On Tuesday I decided to take the day off. Monday’s walk dragged on due to another blister on the sole of my right foot and some discomfort and pain on the top part of that same foot. I’d been having the foot pain for about a week and had been ‘handling it’, but the swelling made me stop and think.
I had been put up at the amazing Cloughjordan Ecovillage by Joe the baker, (Riot Rye), from a last minute ‘bed’ tweet request, and I felt right at home there. What a cool place!
The next morning I got a lift from one of the villagers into Nenagh, around 10 miles. There was a carload of us (they’re very good at liftshare) and it was good craic on the way in. We went to a cafe as we all had a bit of time to kill and chatted about village life, selling vacuum cleaners and building your own house.
My lovely cousin Susan, from Nenagh (who I had never met before) had booked me in with the physio. She was called Eimear and we had a great chat and a laugh about what I was doing. She said that every now and again she gets “weirdos, people like you” in, which made a change from the usual footballers and hurlers. I even laughed as the treatment got really painful (which was useful) and she advised me afterwards to go for an x-ray. I definitely had strained tendons on two toes. I thought it was a good idea to go to the hospital, to at least rule out something more serious. She DONATED the treatment to Walk for Aoife and told me I had to call her after the x-ray, regardless of the result.
The waiting time at Nenagh hospital was super short and I was in the x-ray dept within 20 minutes. X-ray done I went back to talk to the nurse and review the scan. From the side view it looked like small stress fracture to her. It was hard to accept. We looked at it on another machine. I was still being doubtful. We studied it and compared it to other lines on the bone and talked about it for about 20 minutes She wasn’t 100% certain either (she mentioned that stress fractures don’t always appear on x-rays) and so we went for a doctor’s second opinion. He confirmed it so it was 2 against 1 and I had to accept it. Was this ‘game over’?
I began asking questions then as I felt right then that even this wouldn’t be enough to stop me. Somewhere inside I thought “I can do this anyway”.
Will there be long term damage if I don’t rest it now?
Will it get any worse if I walk on it now?
How can I best look after it on the road?
Can I finish my journey?
The nurse could see what I wanted to do and reckoned all that would probably happen would be a delay in the healing process and it shouldn’t get any worse as I walk. The advice is usually to rest it for 4-6 weeks. But that’s not crutches or anything. Normal activity is fine, but what I’m doing is a bit extreme. So I should just try it at least and see how I got on. I wrangled a copy of the X-ray scan and I also got 40 euros from Trish the nurse and the A&E lady for the Walk for Aoife pot and off I went!
So I left the hospital feeling like I got the OK (whether that’s true or not I’m not sure), I phoned Eimear and she said I should get a comfy insole, use my poles and a couple more things so I felt good about it again! At least I now knew what was wrong and how best to look after it. I had been really worried the previous day that it might be a stress fracture and when it was confirmed I didn’t feel so worried! Great!
What I realised was that despite the medical people’s advice, if really pushed there was a level beyond the ‘doctor’s orders’ approach which I previously would not have brushed up against. They could see I was determined to go on, and instead of laying down the law they made the choice to help in the way I wanted. Interesting!
I got my foot cushion thing in the chemist (another donation from the guy who worked there whose name I’ve forgotten) and hobbled back to my cousin Susan’s, picking up another 5 euro donation on the way.
This was about 3.15 and normally I might be finished my day’s walk by this time. I was getting itchy feet however and mentioned it to Susan. She offered to take me back to Cloughjordan so I could walk the 10 miles to Nenagh, back to her house. By 4pm I was in Cloughjordan and I got back to hers for 7.45.
The foot felt good. And still feels good after another 15 miles. I am now in Birdhill, and heading for Limerick this morning.
On reflection I think the strain and the fracture probably happened in the kayak. There was a definite pushing myself, but not necessarily in a very controlled fashion, kind of thing in that kayak. Fatigue and the need to find the resources to battle through could have easily led to those injuries. I had to push a LOT to keep going.
The photo is a close up of my foot! If you’re interested (I was fascinated!) the stress fracture is pretty much in the centre of the image. You can see where the joints run at around a 30 degree angle toward the bottom right – well, third toe in from the right, there’s faint white line in the centre of the bone just north of the joint ‘crack’, going at roughly the same angle as the ‘crack’. That’s it, supposedly! Or part of it. I can see it clearly because I spent so much time staring at it in disbelief. Can you see it?