A visit to the Urgent Care clinic in Daleville confirms a broken foot and a doctor’s prognosis of, “You’re not going anywhere.”
This is not an easy post to write.
I have been struggling with increasingly significant foot pain and reduced function for the last few days and used my town stop in Daleville to visit the (excellent btw) Velocity Urgent Care Clinic to have it checked out.
Before I go on, some advice for future thrus, especially non-Americans, who I know read this blog: buy good health/travel insurance before the trip. Make an effort to get a policy with zero excess (co-pay) because then you don’t mind going to see a doctor. And you don’t mind if you need tests or scans. Because it’s all ‘free’. And make sure the company is easily contactable by an American-time-zone clinic, don’t save a few bucks by buying from some obscure online-only company with limited office hours.
Back to the story. I was registered and seen by a doctor even quicker and more smoothly, if possible, than back in Franklin NC. Dr Tim McKernan examined me and did various hands-on tests to my worse right foot while comparing the findings with my less-bad left foot. His specialist training is in critical care, so ER stuff.
I had at least 6 significant problems with the right foot alone. Chronic plantar fasciitis, ankle tendon sheath inflammation, Achilles tendinitis, a tender lump on a ligament on the sole near the instep he couldn’t explain, tendon sheath inflammation along the side of the heel – oh, and a fracture of the 5th metatarsal (the bone that connects up from the main body of the foot to the visible toe, in this case the little toe).
I’ll never know for sure but on the balance of probabilities the break happened 2-4 days before I got to Woods Hole and was told it was too painful to touch so I should see a doctor. That would mean I have hiked 120 miles on a broken foot. It was badly bruised then, I mentioned it at the time. Now it’s point sore at the metatarsal joint meaning you can touch a specific place and get a significant pain response.
Apparently – who knew? – overuse or stress fractures don’t usually show up on x-rays unless they are displacement fractures. Still, I have no excess (co-pay) on my health insurance so I pushed him a bit and we got it x-rayed anyway. There also might have been something else there that could be caught by the scan. We were on such a run that it seemed a shame to stop at just 6 problems. Dr McKernan didn’t mind organising the scan but it was “definitely a stress fracture” regardless.
As he had predicted there was no break visible on the X-Ray but he was anxious for me not to take that the wrong way. He emphasised to me that it would only get worse without rest and it would need 4-6 weeks to heal. He said it wasn’t his place to tell me what to do about the trail but his opinion so I was clear was, “You’re not going anywhere.”
I got it. I didn’t really need much persuasion. I had been feeling worse and worse over the last few days and it was actually a relief to find out why and a relief to not have to put up with it any longer. To not really have a decision to even make, at least not with 1400 miles still left to go. I was done.
Since I was already near the shopping centre in ‘this half’ of Daleville I crossed the road and went for a coffee, then did a little bit of shopping and got a haircut and bead trim from Betty in Supercuts who did a grand job. At least I looked better now.
That was the last significant action of the day, the rest of it just spent in my room resting and considering my options. I decided to stay a bit longer before flying home and tackle a further 6 miles to bring me up to 730, just over a third of the whole trail. I can just walk 6 out and then turn round and walk back again in a comfortable short day. At least then I’ll have that accomplishment.
So although I’m not quite done yet I’d like to both thank and apologise to everyone who invested the time to follow my journey, especially those that made comments here and emailed me offline. As I am trying now to tell myself, I hope you find the actual journey that was completed to be interesting and positive rather than just feeling you wasted your time altogether.
I’d also like to pay tribute to those that go on further without me and those that have completed the trail in the past. It is an incredible achievement, especially for older hikers, and I admire them greatly having walked a bit more than a mile in their shoes.
[Pick up my journey when I continue my AT hike in 2016 after ~700 zeros...]