My life with a big black boot

Special to The Times

There I was, a relatively healthy old guy in a stall shower, preparing to celebrate a 34th wedding anniversary with my ever-loving spouse, Elsie. While reaching to turn off the spray, I slipped, lost my balance and fell forward, hitting my noggin on the shower seat, then bounced onto the tile with a thwack to my ankle -- an obvious detriment to a soccer tryout with the Galaxy.

Thanks to Elsie’s diligence and reluctance to be a widow, the next morning I was stretched out in a Santa Monica medical suite where a highly recommended podiatrist/surgeon checked out the X-rays of my swollen appendage and shook his head ruefully. No doubt about it, I’d suffered a fracture of the right ankle, which at that particular moment hurt like hell.

Rather than be a “chicken” candidate for foot surgery, I was introduced to a state-of-the art orthopedic device: a humongous knee-high black boot held firmly together with Velcro straps. Talk about maximum pain and discomfort: Whoever designed this shoe was obviously inspired by the Marquis de Sade.

Even more disheartening were the doctor’s orders: I was to wear this monstrosity to bed at night for two months, making sure that said foot was elevated on a padded cushion to relieve the stress on my ankle. One thing’s for sure -- it put a stress on my marital relationship.

And yet behind every cloud there’s an angel of mercy. Thanks to the doc’s recommendation, the Department of Motor Vehicles issued me a temporary handicapped person placard, which not only boosted my morale but also earned me a privileged parking space at the Gelson’s, Ralphs and the public library.

Being partially disabled has other perks too, such as when I recently entered (aided by Elsie) a jampacked local omelet parlor. The manager took one appalled look, and we were instantly seated and served -- all of which proves the adage that there’s no such thing as pain without gain.

Medical update: Recent X-rays revealed that my fractured bones were healing well enough to exchange the boot for a much more stylish ankle brace that can be comfortably worn to bed. The downside of recovery was that I was no longer eligible for that coveted DMV sticker. Win some, lose some.

Another downside is my required program of exercise drills such as the “windshield wiper” whereby I move my feet slowly back and forth on a hard wood floor for several dismal minutes. A pox on all windshield wipers.

Even more discouraging is the “foot-on-the-tennis-ball exercise.” Seated on a narrow bench, I press my foot firmly down on the ball, vigorously massaging it round and round while being aware that I could lose my balance and fall on my face. Another thing I hadn’t counted on: losing face.

Enough self-pity. Life has definitely improved. Thanks to the efforts of Liz, my determined physical therapist, plus Elsie’s equally determined home workout sessions, I’m well on the bumpy road to recovery. Obviously there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this: Senior citizen or not -- never take a shower alone!

Barry Blitzer is a semiretired TV writer/story editor residing in Pacific Palisades.