Monday, May 25, 2015

Enjoy the Little Things...

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

When I read Robert Brault’s famous quote from 1985, I think of walking; such a simple daily activity I used to take for granted.

I haven’t written a column for Behind the Barr for nearly five months and I haven’t walked more than a hundred metres in nearly six months.

Way back in early December last year, I was carefree and having the time of my life, cycling along on 2014 Great Victorian Bike Ride. The third day of riding saw me peddling across the top of Victoria’s Great Dividing Range, 93km from Bright to the tiny township of Moyhu.

After relaxing with my fellow cyclists and enjoying the exceptional Moyhu hospitality, my cycling buddy Trish and I decided to ride the couple of kilometres to the local swimming hole on the Kiewa River.

Moyhu Swimming Hole
What a magnificent spot it was and the deliciously cool, clear water felt great on our tired legs. We relaxed, treading water and chatting with a couple of Melbourne blokes, Brett and Stuart.

While we talked, I looked across at a group of school kids making good use of a rope swing. Looking at that rope swing I was transported back to my teenage years; you know, that time in life when you know everything and nothing?

All I could see was fun, fun, fun.

STOP RIGHT NOW!!! (If only I could have shouted this to myself back on the 2nd December 2014.)

Completely disregarding my wise friend, Trish’s advice, I swam over and lined up for a turn. Like the boy in front of me, I climbed the old dead willow to get extra height, for what I envisaged would be an adrenaline fuelled flight, through the air and dropping neatly into the cool, deep water below…

I miscalculated my swing by about five centimetres.

As I swung down, I failed to lift my right leg quite high enough and slammed my heel into the bank before momentum flung me onwards to the water.

For a few moments, my leg felt completely numb from below the knee and I felt a sense of dread that I had done some kind of serious injury. Brett and Stuart swam over and towed me across the river to the glowering Trish.

“You’ve broken your bloody foot, haven’t you?” said an understandably, cranky, Trish.

“’Tis but a scratch.” I answered ruefully in my best impersonation of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

After about ten or fifteen minutes, I felt as though I had a reasonable range of movement in my ankle and if I could just make it to my bike, I would be ok. A short and painful hobble and I was on my bike and peddled carefully back to the evening campsite, where I spent a couple of hours sitting on a plastic chair outside the first aid room with a bag of ice on my swollen and bruised ankle.

The next morning after breakfast, I hobbled back to the first aid room and had my ankle firmly strapped to enable me to continue riding. As luck would have it, cycling is a non-weight bearing activity and I was relatively pain-free peddling my bike… which was just as well as I still had more than 350km to ride.

Smiling post x-ray, thinking it was just a sprained ankle
The following day was our official “rest day” in Mansfield where I soaked up some fine dining experiences at The Deck on High and the Mansfield Coffee Merchant… as well as some electromagnetic radiation from Mansfield Hospital’s Radiography Department. The lovely Dr Laura declared the x-ray of my ankle clear but advised me to follow up with an MRI if I wasn’t walking properly in three weeks time.

Three weeks later it was Christmas and the festive season was in full swing – who has time to think of MRIs?

Weeks went by and I hobbled along in a state best described by my eldest son, Max, as mindless optimism.

Eight days after the rope swing...
Finally on the 12th January, I had an MRI taken of my right ankle. The subsequent diagnosis and prognosis was bleak: osteochondritis dissecans (OCD) in the form of a 14mm lesion to the lateral talar dome on my talus (ankle joint) bone; a significant injury to the cartilage and bone underneath with a less than ideal outlook for healing.

A CT scan at Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre (OPSMC) in Melbourne on 9th February showed the injured underlying bone had broken down leaving a hole in my talus bone. A medical miracle was now looking like my preferred option.

Under the guidance of OPSMC Director, Dr Andrew Jowett, more than eight weeks of non-weight bearing followed. I scoured the internet to find a device that would enable me to keep working as a remedial massage therapist; as a self-employed single parent of three, not working wasn’t an appealing option. 

Fortunately my “Googling” paid off and I discovered the iWalk 2.0; a clever hands free crutch that kept my ankle clear of the ground and looked like a pirate’s wooden leg. While not aesthetically pleasing, it did an excellent job of keeping my ankle completely non-weight bearing.

In the last few months I’ve learnt a lot about the talus bone and I’ve shed many hot, angry tears over the frustrations of not being able to walk. I feel as though my wings have been well and truly clipped, excellent epic adventures have been shelved for an indefinite period of time and my daily early morning walk has become a distant memory.

On the plus side, I’ve been able to continue my work as a remedial massage therapist five days per week, ride my trusty touring bike 15 – 20km each morning before work and swim 1 – 2km a week.

My recovery plan includes taking supplements of calcium, vitamin D, glucosamine, chondroitin, msm and fish oil; getting regular massages on my legs; rubbing comfrey ointment onto my ankle; using a circulation booster (an electrical pulse machine you put your feet on); wearing heavy duty compression stockings to minimise the swelling in the ankle; praying and inviting my friends to pray for me; I’ve also included healing energy therapy in the form of reiki sessions and an EFT tapping session. Who knows if any of this works but I’m willing to try anything. So if you're reading this and have additional healing advice, please feel free to share it in the comments section.

Although I still can’t walk more than 100 metres and my doctor has cautioned me that I have a long way to go, my latest CT scan in April showed “progressive healing”! The bone appears to be growing back where the hole in my talus is.

Some days I find it a huge challenge to stay positive and believe in my body’s ability to heal itself. (Manifesting medical miracles can be exhausting work.) I constantly have to remind myself to focus on all the things I can do, instead of grieving over all the things I can’t. Instead of excellent epic adventures, I’m now focussed on planning excellent microadventures and enjoying the little things… stay tuned!
Can't walk but can do wedding photography!

Annie Barr


  1. Positive energy n patience to you Annie
    Kimbo xx

  2. Oh Annie. I hate, hate, hate knowing that this has happened to you. Rather, that you did this awful thing to yourself! I love, love, love, however that you are up for planning excellent misadventures ... now, that's the Annie we know and love. Arnica ... that's my contribution.
    Love from Cappy

    1. Thank you Cappy, for your comments and contributions. I used arnica when I got home from the ride to take away the bruising but haven't used it since. I'm planning excellent MICROadventures... hopefully not too many MISadventures ;)