Last Word: The Toe Incident

By all accounts, I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to injuries and medical issues.

I’ve only had two official-ish surgeries (anything removed by tweezers in the bathroom notwithstanding) and both of them were dental.

Oh sure, I’ve had my share of mishaps. A couple rounds of stitches when I was a kid, countless flights over my bike handlebars into the pavement, and a few Band-Aid-worthy hangnails.

One time, after doing yard work, I wheelbarrowed the debris into the woods, traipsing through a patch of shiny, three-leafed plants along the way.

This resulted in an industrial-grade case of poison ivy severe enough to require the widespread use of gauze, scare small children, and prompt a Code Red at the World Leprosy Organization.

But otherwise, no broken arms, splenectomies or anything noteworthy outside of the toe incident.

Most everyone has broken at least one, if not more, of their toes doing something uneventful like cutting it too close to the bed or grossly misjudging the distance between their foot and the doorjamb.

It’s a governing law of physics, much like the one that decrees that any time you’re experiencing a sweaty, gastrointestinal emergency, the closest toilet is 400 miles away or located in a public square.

And everyone has a Toe Tale to tell.

My husband once broke his toe after rolling my 100-pound suitcase over it on our way to the airport. A friend snapped her longer-than-average middle toe walking up cement steps in a pair of flip-flops.

Though technically not a fracture, my dad sheared off the nail on his big toe pulling the vacuum cleaner back from a forward pass with a little too much force. And one of my kids took out a toe going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

In the summer of 2004, we were selling our first house. In anticipation of strangers touring our home like a Disney park, we were feverishly cleaning out closets, cupboards and every other space to make it appear as though we lived like ordinary people instead of livestock.

It was while most everything we owned was haphazardly strewn on every inch of free real estate in the house that our very orderly neighbor called to let us know that he was stopping by.

Having easily gone two days without showering and wearing half clothes, half pajamas, I panicked and began running around in a futile attempt at damage control.

Directly between the kitchen and dining room is where my little toe caught on the edge of our sturdy microwave cabinet.

Sounding similar to a base hit at a Red Sox game, the pain was white hot and immediate.

Shrieking and writhing on the floor, my husband rushed in with a litany of “Oh my Gods” and immediately began preparing to go to the emergency room.

With our kids too young to stay home alone, I called my mom with a frantic SOS and begged her to come.

Mildly put out by my drama, she asked why I couldn’t just tape it.

Under most circumstances, a reasonable solution.

Unless I ever planned on wearing shoes again.

Which would require all my toes facing in the same general direction.

Instead, I’d somehow managed to break it in a way that left my little piggy sticking out the side of my foot like a backwards anvil. And without some kind of medical intervention, it was never going to cry wee-wee all the way home, again.


My mom came, reluctantly, and we left for the urgent care clinic.

Upon arriving, the check-in nurse smiled pleasantly and asked the reason for my visit.

Before I could answer, her eyes traveled downward, settling on my right foot.

“Ohhhhh,” she said. “Never mind.”

Once in a room, there were X-rays and a stream of medical personnel parading in and out, all gawking at my backwards side-toe.

A grim-faced nurse laid out that I was likely staring down the barrel of serious baby toe surgery if I ever hoped to use it again.

In the end, she just stuck a needle full of Novocain into my foot, and the doctor carefully picked up my toe, turned it right-side, then forward, before taping it to its big brother and sending me home with crutches.

A few weeks later our house sold and we moved. The microwave cabinet, however, stayed behind.

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