|Just a few weeks after my 17th birthday I participated in the 1996 Katy ISD Junior Varsity district track meet. I was not very fast, but that only partially mattered; I was a pole vaulter. I wasn't a particularly great pole vaulter, but as it happens nobody else was either. The two leaders in the district were me and a guy named Jim Davidson. Incidentally, he went on to marry Vance's (in the photo) high school girlfriend. I like to think I was favored to win.
Vance Kotrla and me taking a buddy picture just a few weeks before I landed on the ankle. This photo would have been in early March 1996.
I always warmed up in my heavy sketcher boots - the iconic 90s leather boots with steel in the toes. It was certainly unconventional, but my logic was that if I could get my feet moving in those, the feather-weight track shoes with spikes would let me fly. It's unclear if that decision affected what happened next, but my coach certainly thought so.
After just as handful of warmups, I took to the vaulting runway again. My speed was good, the pole hit the vault box right on the mark, and I launched a good eleven feet into the air. It was almost perfect. Unfortunately instead of landing on my back, I came down straight onto my right ankle. The weight of my body from that height essentially bent my ankle 90 degrees inward. I laid on the pad screaming in excruciating pain. I was eventually carted away to the trainer on the school's golf cart. My dad drove me to the hospital shortly thereafter.
The hospital told us that I had a very bad sprain, but no broken bones. I wore a soft ankle brace for the next two months; Jim Davidson won the meet.
Fast forward 17 years.
Apparently after almost two decades of recurring injuries from football, soccer, tennis, baseball and running, my ankle said 'go fuck yourself'. I literally just stretched my ankle at my desk and it never recovered from that stretch. I was immediately in pain. I assumed I had just contorted it strangely and it would be fine in the morning. Not so much.
It turns out that there are three bone fragments (apparently referred to as loose bodies) floating around in my tissue. Over the years, the ligaments have been pulling away from the ankle bone forcing these loose bodies into uncomfortable positions. It's not clear exactly what I did, but the end result is that two of my ligaments are torn and at least one of the pieces of bone has turned itself inward causing all of the pain. This was confirmed with an ultrasound.
Adding to my month of international traveling, home rebuilding, moving, and job transitions, I will now be doing all of this from a boot and having surgery before long; the bone fragments really need to be removed. Since I've apparently been exercising on the ankle of a 65-year-old for the past 17 years, I'm very curious to see what my ankle feels like in a few months. Thankfully my sister has graciously agreed to care for me!