Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Toe Be or Not Toe Be

This past Monday, I was talking to my mom about getting ready for my sister’s birthday in the family room when I thought I heard someone coming (i.e. my sister) and swung around really fast, banging my foot hard into the door. Mom heard the collision and asked me if I was okay. All I could say was “Ow, ow, ow!” and limped away to the kitchen to finish preparing for dinner.

My foot did not look too badly that night, even though it hurt a lot, but the next day, the little toe was swollen and darkly bruised. My mom had already left for the hospital by the time I was up, so I got dressed, gingerly put on my ballet flats and went to work.

Thus began the worst day. I was in so much pain and, worse than that, I felt incredibly lame for even being in pain. I’ve always considered myself to have a high pain tolerance. I also run into stationary objects on a fairly regular basis (not on purpose, more absent-mindedly), so I didn't immediately think much of the run-in, but this was different. This one wasn’t getting better. This one wouldn’t be walked off. When I told my dad it felt like the pain was increasing, he half-jokingly told me to "Stop whining, take a thousand ibuprofen, whack your foot against a wall and get back to work."

(And this is another reason why children need female mothers. Most males, God bless their little X and Y chromosomes, are as maternal as rocks.)

I saw Mom around 7 p.m., when she and I arrived home within minutes of each other. I called her over, where she inspected my swollen and darkly bruised toe-of-another-color. She said it would have to be x-rayed to see if it was broken, but it looked broken, and all the hospital would do is put it in a splint. She then volunteered to do so, and she did, making a splint out of toothpicks, medical tape and gauze. Have I ever told y’all how amazing my mother is? Today my toe feels 250 percent better!

And, of course, lessons have been learned. Firstly, I need to avoid physical contact with doors and door frames. They always win.

Secondly, I heartily ashamed of my injury; I can’t think of a more pathetic one. I don’t like telling people that I ran into a door. I wish I had hurt my toe by playing soccer without shoes/ falling out of a tree/ playing hide and seek/ not being accident-prone. The physical embodiment of my klutziness is now found in my little two-toe splint. I’ve never broken anything (IF this baby toe is even broken) and I think it is grossly unfair to have my first break (again, “if” is a big word in this sentiment) be my little toe.

Thirdly, I appreciate my little toe more. It’s humbling to be in so much pain from such a small digit. I looked it up on Wikipedia though, and apparently the little toe is a big deal. Check it out:

The fifth toe (sometime little toe, baby toe or pinky toe) is the smallest toe of the foot.

It is considered to be the most important toe for strength of balance, whereas the first toe, or hallux, is the most important toe for strength in walking.

It is associated with many medical conditions, largely due to the use of shoes.

It consists of the fifth metatarsal bone and its associated phalanges.

The muscles that serve the fifth toe are:
• Abductor digiti minimi muscle (foot)
• Flexor digiti minimi brevis muscle (foot)

Some parallels can be drawn with these muscles and those of the hypothenar eminence serving the little finger.

So I will not be cutting off my little toe (more medical advice from Dad) and continue to rejoice in the little things, like walking without limping (that was yesterday) and toothpicks used for wee splints.


  1. Oh my gosh I can totally empathize! This weekend I was jumping up onto a ledge in what I thought was a spritely manner--ended up slipping off mid-jump because of my flip flop. What a bruise! It's gotta be a square foot in area, but it's in the shape of a rooster. And it's a totally lame story. If I had done it skateboarding, I'd be proud.

    What is it about the backstory that makes our pain seem more legitimate? Logically, pain is pain.

  2. I too have never broken a bone and I now exactly where you are coming from. If you are gonna break something for a first break, it shouldn't be a little toe. That's just lame. But I often run into the same problem every time my body decides without my conscious awareness that it wants to see if it can take on the wall only for me to hobble away in pain. Why does the wall always have to win? Not fair! The trouble here in France, more than avoiding absent minded injuries like these, is avoiding stepping in dog poop. The pooper-scooper isn't really mandatory here and so the thousands of people who walk their dogs never take the time to pick it up and you have to constantly be on your guard not to step in dog poop. It's a constant battle just walking down the street in the morning. It's part of the reason I have decided to drink my cup of coffee before I get to school because if I am not awake, terror will strike, and I don't mean Al Quaida!