Crunch time

A couple of weeks ago, I broke my ankle.

Not just a little bit, either. To quote one of the doctors from the hospital, I broke it “really well”. Earlier that evening, I was indoor climbing (bouldering) with friends, as usual, and that particular day I was having a really great session. One second I was victorious at reaching the top of a climb that had been bothering me for a while (curse you, blue problem), and the next I was, well, falling. Four metres.

Then came the most horrifying crunch that will make me shudder for many years to come, as both of my ankles caved in beneath me. Cue a hurried trip to A&E, where I was wheeled into a doctor’s office and then the X-ray room, before my ankle was realigned into a cast (with the help of a hell of a lot of morphine) by four doctors. It was at this point when I saw that four doctors were necessary that I realised it was probably pretty bad. And it was. Somehow, I had managed to break my left ankle in three places, along with my fibula a little higher up my leg, and torn ligaments in the process. I’d also managed to damage ligaments in the other ankle. Ouch.

The next morning, I had my first ever operation to put my sad fractured ankle back together with the aid of some metal screws (ORIF surgery). I may have held the anaesthetist’s hand as the cannula for administrating general anaesthesia went into the back of mine. I really, really hate needles you know. I was a bit of a wreck when I came out of the surgery, and although I was very glad my friends and supervisor came to visit, I probably didn’t make a lot of sense. By then, I was a total mess of sleep, food and water deprivation, with an excess of shock and drugs. Lots of drugs.

I was released the next day, after a humiliating exercise practising stairs on crutches with two physiotherapists. It honestly wouldn’t have been humiliating if not for the fact I was totally naked wearing a hospital gown made for an XXL man. One size fits all, but a 4’11” woman. Plus, I didn’t have any hands free to hold the back of the gown together. Thankfully I passed the stairs-on-crutches test and was brought home by two amazing friends, with strict instructions from doctors to bear no weight on my injured leg for 6 weeks.

Since then, I have been home the vast majority of the time, hopping from room to room to room again. But it’s not so bad. Every day I am presented with new challenges such as: How do I carry my food to another room? (Answer: Tupperware, and a backpack. Pro tip: Make sure Tupperware is sealed properly). I am also getting fantastically good at balancing on one leg. These benefits aside, I have learned that with just one leg, everything now takes twice as long. As an active person who is used to rushing about in life, this is a hard lesson for me, as every task must now be done slowly and deliberately. This for me, is about as painful as the healing of the ankle, but I am learning the art of true patience.

So, what about the PhD? I had many plans for this coming month, including lab work, visiting my old university and giving a seminar talk here. These plans will obviously now have to be pushed back a month or two. Sadly, the timing of the upcoming field season cannot be changed, and right now I have to face the real possibility of not doing my own field work. Gutting, but these things happen. I will at least be able to co-ordinate the field team and run my project with volunteers. I also still plan to film some field vlogs even if I can’t do all the work myself.

But ultimately, the priority for now is healing.

And sorting out my Mendeley library. That thing is a mess.


I would like to thank the countless nurses, doctors and porters that made my stay at Queen Elizabeth University hospital as comfortable as it could be. It really is amazing that within 18 hours of arriving at A&E I was already undergoing surgery. This could not have happened without hospital staff working tirelessly throughout the night to provide the best possible care for patients. Thank you, NHS Scotland.

3 thoughts on “Crunch time”

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