Field trip to Puerto Viejo with the second session of the Junior Lifeguard program
I broke my foot. It happened as I was playing the role of a Spanish conquistador chasing an Incan across the sands of Lima. Fuck. I’d do anything to travel back into time and change history. One moment and everything would have been different. One centimeter to the left and the Incans would have won the battle, or maybe one centimeter to the left and my foot wouldn’t have broken!
On the battle field. The war that did me in.
It was a very unglamorous way to break my foot, this is considering that there is a glamorous way to break a bone in your body. But what I mean by glamour is that it would have been a lot easier to explain that I broke my foot in a surfing or lifesaving accident, running into the ocean or riding the face of a gnarly wave. Instead, I have had to explain that I basically, no, that I did indeed, step on the heel of a chubby kid and broke the second metatarsal of my left foot. We were playing a game called Incas y Espanoles, and I was one of the Incan warriors, chasing a Spaniard across the sand. Running away, this Spaniard fell to the sand in front of me, and to avoid stepping on his head or back, I awkwardly stepped on the heel of his foot, which was planted toe first into the sand. It just so happened that all of my weight fell on the second metatarsal of my left foot, which was placed directly over his heel bone, and as it happened I heard a snap and thought “Shit. I think that I just broke my foot”.
Me, Chiroke, Anita, and Puca
I tried to shake it off, and my fellow Incans pressured me to stay on the battle field, but I knew that something was seriously wrong. My mother happened to be visiting me in Lima and was there on the sand, and in the natural instinct of an injured child, I hobbled over to my mother and sat down by her side. She took one good look at me and said “What the fuck did you just do to yourself?” I laughed and said “Momma-joe, I think that I just broke my foot”.
Hanging with my mom in the mountains. We love each other so much and she took wonderful care of me.
They lifeguards mentioned that they could take me to the hospital of the Peruvian National Police, which I considered would be a really cool experience, but I was advised not to because of long lines and poor service. Instead, I went to one of the most prestigious medical clinics in Lima, The British American Hospital.
Watermelon and a broken foot.
My treatment was quick. Within two hours I had an x-ray done and a cast on, but the quality of medical attention was barbaric. I was treated by Dr. Alfredo Chiappe, and I feel no shame in stating his name because the man really treated me poorly. My x-ray had already been taken and evaluated by the nurse practitioner, and I was sitting on the hospital bed in a waiting room, hanging with my mom and two Peruvian friends when Chiappe arrived. The man had cast materials in hand and immediately began to put the stuff on my foot, without even asking me my name, what had happened to me, of if I was in pain. Neither did he mention how long I would be in a cast, or anything about my injury in general. I will honestly say that I was most concerned with a waterproof cast, and wanted to make sure that I could get one p if it were an option. And if it weren’t for the fact that I literally put my hands over my leg to prevent him from placing the cast on my foot, I don’t think that I would have gotten a word out of the man.
Momma-Joe in the Andes
I protected my foot as I asked a bunch of questions about my injury, and Chiappe gave me fairly decent answers, although he seemed rushed and indifferent the entire time. But after he finished setting the cast, I realized that he hadn’t even covered the part of my foot that was broken. The fucking asshole had hardly looked at my x-ray to see that the broken section of my metatarsal was close to my toes, and he had left this exact part completely exposed. I told the man to fix this, and while he at first denied, he later agreed, and even apologized for his mistake. But instead of taking the cast off and putting the it on anew, he simply wrapped over the existing section, this time taking care to cover the broken bone, and I was left with this huge ball of a cast on my foot.
Me and my Junior Lifeguards
Whatever. This happened on Tuesday February 23rd, and I was back to my routine at the beach on Wednesday the 24th. The only thing that changed about my life in a cast, aside from having to walk with crutches, was that I couldn’t swim. I still went to the beach everyday to teach the junior lifeguard program, I simply had to hobble around the sand on crutches and ask the fellow instructors to set the buoys in the morning and work water safety as I watched from shore. I still ran around Lima to get things done, and I still stayed just as involved in life at lifeguard headquarters as I always had been. Looking back to my four weeks on crutches, I don’t remember it as a painfully incapacitated time. I was definitively handicapped, and it did kind of suck, but it was all part of the experience I was living.
Taking off my cast with my pocket knife and the help of a nice old lady.
The cast didn’t last all that long anyways. I took it off after 17 days. And when I say that I took it off, I literally mean that I sat there with my pocket knife and cut the cast off of my foot. They were supposed to do it for me at The British American Hospital, but Dr. Chiappe’s secretary wanted to charge me again for the service, a service that I had already paid for and even assured during my first visit, and my anger towards him was so great that I couldn’t possibly leave him with another sol, and so left. I went directly towards an orthopedic store, because I was really only replacing the cast for a plastic boot that I had to wear like a cast, but that I could take off to swim. When I arrived, the old women at the store could see that I was upset about something, and when I told her the whole story, she pulled out her knife and said “No te preocupes mi hijito, te sacamos este yeso en seguida”. Her knife was a little too dull to do the job, but the small saw on my pocketknife did the trick. It was a strange vision to see my foot after 17 days in hiding. It was swollen and had skin peeling off in all directions. Pobrecito. From there on out, a speedy recovery has taken place that includes physical therapy in the water.
This is what I have to say to the British American Hospital... "I'll take this damn cast off on my own!"
Traveling from Lima to Madrid on crutches, with layovers in Miami and London, and carrying a surfboard, two big suitcases full of lifesaving uniforms that Carlos had bought in Peru, and my carry-on backpack, is worth a blog entry of its own. The best image was of me getting pushed around in a wheelchair through the Miami airport by a bleached blond 50 year old Puerto Rican woman who had spent 20 years partying in Ibiza and who spit and smelt of cigarettes as she talked. I carried the surfboard and she pushed my wheelchair with one hand, and pushed a luggage cart with my other two suitcases and my carry-on with her other hand. She took me through immigration, where I got questioned about my Yemeni visas, and proceeded to drop me off at my next gate, talking incessantly about Ibiza and Spain.
El Rancho Es Sagrado. Atahualpa protecting his food.
Now, on March 30th, I’m walking around Madrid in shoes, with only a slight limp. My foot feels good, although it still hurts a bit, and I fear that it may never heal! This is crazy, because like Ari Goodman’s father Dean would always say “You have a strong body that knows how to heal itself”. And I believe this. I sometimes wish that I had never broken my foot, but similarly, is it even possible to think what Peru would be like if the Spaniards had never conquered the Incas?