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Dr. Dad’s Not Always Right, But He Usually Gets Close

David Perry
David Perry

The hallmark of a truly great newspaper column is the ability to weave the important national and international issues of our day into the day-to-day lives of one’s readers, in order to present things in a manner that Mr. and Mrs. America can understand. So when my wife fell down the basement stairs about two weeks ago, I knew it was my journalistic duty to present this experience to folks here in the Roanoke Valley in the context of the current debate on health care reform.

Now, I say she “fell down the stairs,” but in truth that’s just me exercising a little creative license to build suspense and create sympathy for the protagonist. What really happened is that she thought she had two stairs left to get to the bottom, when in reality she had at least three. Swinging her foot into space to turn the corner at the landing, she caught nothing but air and collapsed in a heap along with the assorted toys and piles of laundry in various states of completion that occupy our basement.

I was in the kitchen when I heard the screams and assumed she was yelling at the cats, so I did what any good husband would do and ignored her. When the screams didn’t stop, I got up from my leftover pizza and went down to comfort the cats. My wife was lying in the floor holding her foot, a few tears in her eyes. “I think I broke something,” she said.

“Nonsense,” said I, veteran of numerous sprained ankles, kicked shins, knees to the groin and other man injuries over my years. “You need to walk it off.” “Ooooohhhhh…I can’t.”

After several minutes of this unproductive chatter, during which time any little league manager worth his salt would have ordered the body carted off the field, we managed to get her to the bathroom for a potty break and then to the living room into our large, padded easy chair.

“Do you think it’s broken?” she would ask.

“I don’t think so,” I would say with the full authority of someone that had once learned Boy Scout first aid. “If it were broken, you’d be in a lot more pain, and there’d be swelling and bruising and stuff. It’s going to hurt for a while. Just stay off of it.”

This went on a for a week, during which time I sacrificed an entire day and a half sitting in an air-conditioned office to be home and play Mr. Mom. My wife regained some use of the damaged appendage, and she decided to tough it out until she went for her annual physical the following Monday, girded by my many assurances that it was just a bruise.

“Your foot is broken,” said the physician’s assistant as she called the folks down in x-ray. “You’ve been walking around on this for ten days? You may need a pin in the bone.”

By that afternoon, my wife had acquired crutches, a supportive “boot” for the now obviously mangled foot, and an appointment with the orthopedist. The good news was that the orthopedist said the bone in question, the fifth metatarsal, didn’t require surgery or crutches, just some rest and relaxation. We were down a whole day at the doctor, a few copays, and an as-yet-to-be-received bill from Carilion for whatever Anthem refuses to pay, all for what, we weren’t sure.

So, the morals of this story are: one, even when the husband is wrong, he may be sorta right in the end. Two, we have pretty good health care here in America, if you can afford it. And three, the old baseball mantra “just walk it off” isn’t bad advice. Just don’t wait a week and a half to have the trainer check it out.

By David Perry
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