Tumbleweed Smith
Tumbleweed Smith

The thing about having a temporary setback (like my broken foot) is when you start telling someone about your situation, many of them will start telling you their experiences with broken bones that make yours seem trivial.

I was in a wheel chair for about four months. During that time, some people totally ignored me. Wouldn’t even look at me. When we would see people we knew, they would go right to my wife Susan instead of me and ask, “What happened?” Sometimes she would reply, “Ask him.” Occasionally, someone would ask, “Did she kick you?” I can’t believe so many people asked that. Some asked, “Wanna play soccer?” “Wanna kick some field goals?” 

My wardrobe changed during that period. I found out about pressure socks. I also learned that there is no pair of pants made specifically for someone with a cast. We improvised with some pants that had zippers at the bottom of the legs. The shower was the hardest part. We bought a plastic sleeve that fit over my leg then secured it with tape. I felt so helpless, having to ask for little things. I had trouble reaching. Had to sleep on my back, something I thought I could not do. But I learned how to do it.

I am upright now and wearing shoes that match. I am out of the wheelchair, healing boot, cast and splint. It has been a heck of a ride since I broke my driving foot while climbing over rocks along the Llano River near Junction last October. The surgery was scheduled two weeks away so in the meantime we went to see some friends in Florida. I hobbled around on the beach.

We had to cancel our planned trip in December to the Canary Islands. The surgery took place on October 31st of last year. My wife Susan pushed me everywhere and drove on interview trips. I had a second surgery to have two screws removed.

While I was in the wheelchair, I had a chance to see some greatness of the human spirit and experience courtesies extended to us by generous and caring friends who offered a wheelchair and walker and called to check on us. At restaurants, customers would leave their tables to open the door for us.

After lunch, at a restaurant in Liberty, Susan was loading the wheelchair into the back of the car and wiping some mud off the wheels. It had recently rained and we had gone through a couple of puddles. Susan was using paper towels to get the mud off when a man in a pickup was starting to leave the restaurant. When he saw what Susan was doing, he turned off his engine, came over with a huge towel, and wiped off the wheels.

It is now 10 months after I broke my foot. It has nearly completely healed and I can walk naturally without a limp. Walking and getting out of a chair are two things we take for granted. We shouldn’t do that, walking is a glorious thing. I had no idea my foot had so much to do with getting out of a chair.
I was on the US Army’s European Track Team and ran a big distance race in Berlin. I am not accustomed to being without both feet or dealing with broken bones. This was a new experience for me and I prefer not to have to go through it again. But I did have some wonderful experiences.