Saturday, October 03, 2009

Who knew badminton could be dangerous?

K and I used to play a lot of tennis together. We had both just started playing when we met so we made perfect practice partners for each other for years. We'd play for three-hour stretches a couple times a week.

But we aged and tennis can be hard on a body. In 2006, K gave up tennis, succumbing to increasingly bad knee and back problems. That left us with nothing that we like to do together for exercise. K suggested ping pong, so we tried that for a few weeks, but that was enough ping pong for me. (He's since gotten serious about it.) Then he suggested badminton. I liked badminton in gym in high school, so I was willing to give it a try.

So August 2008, on a hot Friday night, K and I went to a community center to play badminton. There were two nets up when we arrived and the people playing doubles on them were seriously good. We couldn't possibly slip into a rotation with them. But one of them was nice enough to say hello to us and offered to get another net out. Play came to a stop and people hauled posts and nets out and got a court set up for us. So we'd attracted a lot of attention and been quite a nuisance even before the incident, all to accommodate our pathetic beginner badminton game that didn't belong in the same room with what was going on at the other nets.

The birdie's path is difficult to judge when you haven't seen one fly in 25 years. And I'm not an athlete; physical coordination is not my strong suit. After maybe a half hour of playing, I was chasing the birdie, misjudged its path, tried to change directions midstep and rolled my ankle. I heard a bone crack and collapsed on the floor in pain. The sensation I had was that my shin bone near my ankle was broken, that I'd snapped my foot and lower shin off from the rest of my shin. It felt major. I yelped and clutched my leg, told K I broke something, and then passed out.

Fainting from pain is caused by stimulation of the vegus nerve which slows the heart. Blood vessels dilate which causes a dramatic drop in blood pressure which causes you to faint. That may have been what happened to me. But I've fainted several times in my life and in all other instances the fainting was a very pleasant, warm, peaceful sensation, and I've maintained a sense of self, sort of like a dream state, and I slipped into it gradually. This episode was nothing like that. It's very hard to describe. This was just completely, utterly terrifying. It wasn't gradual; I was just out instantly. I had no sense of self. It was just a sensation of complete abject terror. There was no dream-like picture of being in a place; there was just the condition of horribleness. K describes that I wasn't still, that I was shaking my head and moving my arms around. It's possible this was a pain-induced seizure, though I'll never know for sure.

When I came to, paramedics had been called and were on their way. Of course, play in the room had stopped and everyone was standing around me. They took down one of their nets so that paramedics could get through with a stretcher. Embarrassing. But the craziest thing was that when the paramedics arrived and started poking around on my ankle, it didn't hurt at all. They had me stand on it, and it felt fine. It felt like I was in the Twilight Zone because I KNEW something was broken because I'd heard it break and I knew I'd felt excruciating pain but it seemed perfectly fine. The paramedics canceled the ambulance which was en route. I actually drove us home.

A couple hours later it was hurting and swelling and bruising. In the morning, I went to urgent care and indeed I had a broken bone and I'd sprained all ligament groups in my ankle. I suppose there was some sort of adrenaline rush caused by the injury and passing out/seizure that had masked all pain.

The broken bone was not my shin bone, but just a chip fracture in the navicular bone in my foot. Took forever to heal but wasn't a big deal otherwise.

This epidsode was just one of six, count them six, brushes with emergency services (if you count urgent medical care) in a 12 month period for us, from December 2007 to December 2008.

1) Dec 2007: Karma broke her leg at the dog park. (I think I blogged about this, though I'm not finding it.) Emergency vet hospital.
2) Feb 2008: Karma lacerated her foot/ankle on some ice at the dog park, requiring stitches. Emergency vet hospital. [Update: no, this wasn't Feb. 2008. It was December 2008, right after the pond incident.]
3) March 2008: I broke my finger at the dog park. Got it twisted in a dog's collar as I was trying to help an incompetent dog walker keep her six dogs out of the street. Urgent care.
4) July 2008: The duplex that K owns had a big fire. Kids were playing with matches in the basement. Minneapolis fire dept. (No one was hurt, but one side of the duplex needed complete gutting and renovation.)
5) Aug 2008: The badminton incident. Minneapolis fire dept paramedics.
6) Sept 2008: The fainting incident. Minneapolis fire dept paramedics and ER visit.

Also in December 2008, Karma injured her tongue by licking something metal and frosty. And then, also in December 2008, we had the life-threatening falling in the pond incident. No emergency services for either of these, though.

It was really quite a year.

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