By Mordechai Schmutter
For the past few weeks, I’ve been wearing a slipper on my foot. Not two slippers. Just one, on my right foot. And a shoe on my left. This is playing havoc with my OCD.
The reason I have a slipper is that I recently had toe surgery. I don’t want to go into the graphic details of why I needed toe surgery. Suffice it to say that I broke my toe way back in September, during parent-orientation night at my kids’ school. I was trying to get from one child’s orientation to another one in an entirely different building at the same time, and I slipped on some water and heard a crack.
This wasn’t anyone’s fault. The reason I slipped was that I had no traction because I was wearing worn-out Crocs. You might think it was weird that I was wearing Crocs at parent orientation, and it was. I actually wore Crocs all of last summer, including parts of my brother’s wedding, because I was having major back pains and couldn’t tie my shoes. At least they were black.
I’m wearing a slipper now because I was wearing two slippers back then. What goes around comes around.
So after I slipped, I was in pain, but I didn’t concentrate on that, because once you’ve had back pain, toe pain does not stop you from running across a parking lot and up two flights of stairs to the next orientation. But for months after that, the toe kept hurting. On and off.
“When does it hurt?” people would ask.
“Mostly when I run or do pushups,” I’d say.
And everyone’s like, “Wait. You’re athletic? How about you do what I do? Don’t run or do pushups!”
Wow. Why didn’t I think of that?
No. I work out at an official exercise class to keep my back from dying again. If I quit that, we’re back to square one, which is dragging myself around on the floor on my elbows, which is not great for weddings and orientations, but at least you don’t slip.
My doctor recommended open-toe surgery. And then I’d have to wear an open-toe slipper, which would protect my toe by not covering it at all so it bumps into everything. People keep going out of their way to step on this toe.
It was an outpatient surgery, which means that I went home that day, but also that they had to knock me out. Though actually, I don’t remember being knocked out. I was tired. I think I fell asleep before they had a chance.
“I didn’t knock him out yet.”
“You must have. He’s out.”
So I decided to document this time in my life–keep some kind of medical journal, if you will. This is what a medical journal is, right? I might be on painkillers.
- People keep asking what time my surgery is so they can say Tehillim. I feel weird having them do that. There are people having open-heart surgery so they can live. I’m having open-toe surgery so I can do pushups without using my knees.
- They just gave me a hospital gown and grippy, non-slip socks to change into. I wish I’d had these at orientation. I could have left my Crocs at home.
- They also told me to take everything off and put on this gown. I can’t wear glasses or a watch because they need to access my foot. But grippy socks I can wear.
- Well, at least they gave me a bag to put my clothes in that looks exactly like the bag they gave every other patient.
- Now I’m in a room waiting for surgery, and everyone who works for the hospital is coming over to me, one at a time, and asking me the same five questions.
- They keep asking if I’m allergic to any medications. They asked me this so many times that I’m starting to wonder if maybe I am allergic to medications. Maybe they’re trying to trip me up and catch me off guard. Eventually, I go from “No” to “Not that I know of, but I haven’t tried all of them.” This was hilarious on painkillers.
- Someone just made a big X on my foot so they know which one it is.
“I forgot which foot. Wake him up and ask him.”
“I didn’t even put him to sleep!”
- When I wake up, the doctors are gone, and I’m in a recovery room with a massive bandage over my foot. The surgery was a success, I’m told. I’m alive.
- They return me to my wife, who’d been keeping track of which bag was mine and saying Tehillim, and who seems reasonably happy that I’m alive. They also give me a slipper that fits over the bandage. It’s black, so it goes with my suit, in case I need to wear it to a vort or something, which I do. I specifically tried to schedule the surgery so it wouldn’t run into family simchas, and then my cousin had to go and have a vort. Could everyone just stop getting engaged for two seconds?
- I’m not supposed to walk on the foot today. I hope to be able to get out to shul for Shabbos tomorrow night. I don’t want to use a crutch, because I’m afraid I’m going to overuse it. And then it’s going to become a crutch.
- I’m also told that I can’t drive. We don’t want to leave the lives of my entire family in the hands of my foot. So I have to walk everywhere. How is that better?
- I’m also not allowed to get the foot wet. At all. This means that I can’t bring it in the shower with me. Where do I leave it?
- More good news–it’s supposed to rain this Shabbos. I might have to wear a grocery bag, like those people who walk around all Shabbos with bags on their heads. There’s no ShayneCoat that incorporates footsies.
- I hobble to the shower. I put my foot in my hospital-belongings bag and tape it shut.
- Oh, hey! So that’s where I left my other sock!
- My wife just came home with a raincoat thing that goes over my foot and keeps it dry. I can wear it to shul!
- Shabbos was fine. Thanks to my wife buying me a leg raincoat, it did not rain a single time that I had to go out.
- My bandage was mostly off when I woke up this morning. I decided I would take it off entirely and see if I could rewrap it. I unraveled it, saw what was going on under there, screamed, tried to wrap it up as best I could, and lay back as if nothing had happened, trying to forget what I saw. Then my wife came upstairs and asked, “What was that scream?” And I’m like, “Nothing .Â .Â . I took a picture.”
- My students are constantly asking questions about it. “Sit down and listen to the lesson,” I tell them, “or I’ll show you the picture again.”
- It’s time to go home from school, my ride is here, I have a follow-up appointment to get to, and now it’s raining. Because I don’t have my leg raincoat.
- The doctor changes my bandage and gives me a sock that is open at both ends and that will keep the bandage on.
- Turns out the bandage wasn’t what was massive, my foot was massive.
- My wife tells me to ask the doctor about exercising. The doctor says, “Yeah, I’m going to give you exercises.” This is great, because I haven’t worked out in weeks.
“What are the exercises?” I ask.
“Well, you’re going to bend your toe up and then down and then up and then down.”
“OK, you could have called them stretches.”
- Now that the stitches are out, the doctor says I can drive as soon as I can get a shoe on. I’m not sure I’m ready to switch out of the slipper. I like that it’s a visible indicator to people that I hurt my foot. Unlike the back, when people thought I was just walking weird and wearing Crocs to simchas for no reason.
- I’m definitely going to keep the slipper around for the next time I hurt my back.
- I don’t want to switch yet, because people treat me differently when I have a slipper. For example, as long as I have this slipper, no one asks me to do hagbahah.
- I try putting on a shoe anyway, but it’s still too tight. My right foot looks like a balloon that is for some reason not floating over my head. My wife decided that, in the meantime, she would order me Crocs. This is how it starts.
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of five books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.