The Show Must Go On!
by Ryan Thomson
It was a typical fall weekend in New England, cool with patchy clouds and brightly colored
folliage, and many people were spending the time doing repairs around their homes, in
preparation for the coming winter. I was presently painting the trim on a second floor
window, and thinking about my gig for the evening, a Saturday night contra dance in
Jackson, New Hampshire. Jackson is about a two hour drive north into the White
Mountains, and I was supplying both the fiddling, and the sound system.
I reached over a little too far with the paint brush, and one leg of the ladder sunk into the
ground. Before I could compensate, down I went, ladder, paint, and all. The long fall left
me momentarily disoriented, and the first thing I attempted to do was check my hands and
arms, thinking about about music making ability. Everything seemed functional, and then I
heard a voice from my next door neighbor who had come outdoors and encountered me
sprawled on the ground. He inquired as to my well being, and feeling foolish, I quickly
responded in a macho way that "I was just fine thanks, had a little spill."
I struggled to my feet and almost went down again, as I experienced excruciating pain in
my left ankle. To take my mind from the pain, and to further prove I was OK, I began
sealing up the paint can, and hobbled around to the back yard with the ladder. There I
stopped to examine my ankle and found that there was nothing obviously broken. I
remembered reading that badly sprained ankles are often far more painful than broken
I calculated that I had approximately 20 minutes to get ready to leave for Jackson, and that
if I hurried, I could get on my way and still make the gig despite my injury. It was too late
anyway to find a replacement, and I was determined to play my fiddle. I limped painfully
into my house, gulped some aspirin, removed my clothing, and got into the shower to wash
away a full days work worth of grime. While in the shower I noticed that the ankle was
beginning to change color, and was swelling ominously. I realised that I had to hurry, or I
wouldn't be able to get my shoe on over the swelling!
I quickly dried off, got dressed, and was just barely able to get my shoe on over the rapidly
expanding ankle. It ached and throbbed, and I knew that it hadn't yet reached the peak of
discomfort, and so I was anxious to get in the car, and on the road. Because of the pain I
was hopping around on one leg. I managed to get my fiddle in the car, and I was on my way.
Fortunately I had previously loaded the sound system into the car.
After a half hour drive, the edge came off of the pain, and it settled down to a dull roar. I
arrived in Jackson on time, and was the customary one hour early for set up. I hopped into
the dance hall on one leg and noticed a couple of people already present. I explained that I
was the fiddler, and that I couldn't walk, but I was here to play! I was pretty much helpless
in setting up the sound system, but I had eager volunteers to assemble everything in the
proper way. Someone found me a chair to sit in while I fiddled, and also another chair to
prop my ankle up on.
The dance went well, and having to concentrate on playing fiddle helped distract me from
my ankle problem. At the end, I attemped to stand up and found it impossible to put any
weight on it at all. Now that the gig was over, I became more concerned about whether it
might be broken. Several people helped load me and all of my equipment back into the
car. I headed back down out of the mountains and recalled seeing a small hospital in
Conway on my trip north.
I drove to the hospital, and hopped into the emergency room where I was x-rayed and
examined. My ankle was soaked in ice, and test results pronounced it unbroken, but badly
sprained. By this time, it wouldn't fit back into my shoe, but was bandaged up, and I drove
home, happy, at least, that it wasn't broken, and that I had managed to complete my gig! I
couldn't walk on it for several days, but I got a lot of fiddling practice in!
For those of you interested, I subsequently learned that the proper treatment for sprained
ankles is immediate icing and compression. That is, put your foot into a bucket of ice with
water as soon as you possibly can after the injury, and then wrap it in such a way that it
can't swell. Talk to a medical person to get the details as how to best accomplish this.
These treatments greatly speed up recovery time and lessen pain.
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1996