Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Complacent "Break"

First, I want to make sure everyone is aware... I'm OK.

The short story is that I have a broken leg. The slightly longer story is that I have a tib-fib fracture near my right ankle, and it resulted in my needing to have surgery to repair it. So am I really going to tell a testing story out of my accident? Absolutely :).

So how did this all happen? It happened while I was riding my skateboard from work to the CalTrain station. the stretch of roads from Folsom street to Townsend street in the south of market area is mostly flat. I decided that it would be kind of fun to break up the walk by skating to an  from work. Of course, when a person skates on  a sidewalk there are the cracks, and the separation points, and  other irregularities that we try to navigate around or go over. To better allow for the transitions, I invested in bigger and softer skateboard wheels, and for the most part, they were doing fabulous.

Yesterday, as I was skating down the street, my board hit something. It may have been a crack, it may have been a pebble, but whatever it was, it stopped my board cold. My board stopped, but I didn't. As I found myself off balance, my natural reaction was to try to stand up and walk it out, a move I've done hundreds of times before. Well, this time, I came down at roughly a 45 degree angle onto my ankle, and the resulting velocity and pressure broke the tibia near my ankle and then broke the fibula higher up about half way between my ankle and knee.

As I tried to stand I saw the position of my leg, the tell tale angle... it's a break all right. With that, I just scooted myself back to the curb, sat down on my board, put my broken leg in the least painful position I could, and started chatting with the person who stopped to see if I was OK and who dialed 911 on my behalf. As we talked, the said that I looked remarkably calm. Was I in shock? Was I not absorbing the situation? I smiled and said "well, I'm a Scoutmaster, and as a Scoutmaster, I've taught my boys over the years how to deal with these situations. Rule #1 is remain calm. Rule number 2 is assess the damage, and do a little movement as possible so that "the professionals" can deal with the situation. In this case, the professionals were the emergency response team from a fire station South of Market. They evaluated the situation, made a quick splint to help deal with the blunt force trauma to my leg, and then away we went to the hospital.

As radiology looked at the situation, I marveled at the different techniques and methods they used. Because I couldn't keep my leg still, they had to find various ways to immobilize my foot while maneuvering the machine to get a shot (I was on a gurney and I was not moving if they had anything to say about it). The radiologist took it in stride and exemplified some of the best exploratory testing techniques I have ever seen. His charter, get the shot of my leg without me erupting into painful spasms. Radiology team for the win :).

I was brought back to the emergency waiting area, where the orthopedic surgeon had a look at my X-rays... and then told me the real severity. I'll admit it, my heart sank. they were going to have to operate and insert a plate and pins/screws. this meant general anesthetic, which outside of wisdom teeth when I was 24, I'd never dealt with before. I didn't remember much from this time as i came into the room, they introduced the anesthesia and the next thing I knew I was awake with what looked like a beach ball wrapped around my foot.

So right now, I'm dealing with the aftermath of all of this, and I'm in a thoughtful mood, so I couldn't help but explore this situation from the viewpoint of a software tester. In so many ways, this situation resembles my real work life step for step. How so? It it common to be hyper focused when it comes to the big things. Were I to be skating a bowl or a vert ramp, the odds of my getting a  break like this is actually a lot less. The reason? Hyper focus keeps us safe. It keeps us conditioned and tuned up. Even though we may miss a hit or we may fall, we are primed for that fall, and so the damage is not as bad, if there is any. No, the real catastrophic situations, where the walls come tumbling down, are often from a piece of neglect, or from not paying attention, from complacency. Additionally, we tend to take the easy stuff for granted. Thus we let down our guards. We don't give those areas much though, and sure enough, they are the ones that can come back and bite you.

So in my testing world, I'm taking a closer look at the areas that I've less laser focus; the common, pedestrian areas that I feel I know so well. How well do I know them, really? Is there a piece of concrete waiting to break loose (metaphorically speaking)? Will I recognize it if I see it, or will i have to "hit" it to become aware?

I had a talk with my sister from the hospital room... this is the sister that's the professional dancer and television/movie stunt-person. As I talked about the different reactions from people (even split from "oh, what a bummer to "dude, why are you riding a skateboard at your age?!"), she said something that helped put it into perspective... this is the price we pay for an active lifestyle. We could remain perfectly safe, but then we would miss out on many of the really cool things that life has to offer. As in testing, we could also play it safe, and follow the script, and look that the features in the scripted manner that is expected and that many are accustomed to. It's safe, but it's a bit boring. Exploration and taking risks is fun, and we often learn way more in that process. While I'm certainly smarting from this recent situation, and will be for some time to come. I'd like to believe my skateboarding days are not over. They are as far as a commute option, that's for sure, but  the joy of riding and getting a good velocity, carving turns on the street or a black top well away from cars and pavement cracks, there's a place that I can open up, be focused, and feel the love again. One day at at time, though, of course :).


Chris Chartier said...

Wow...glad you're OK, Michael.

Simon P. Schrijver said...

Painful experience. Good to hear that you´re okay. Take some time, so the ankle can heal, but knowing you, the blogosphere will be swamped with some good stuff ;o)

Philk said...

Ouch - good look for your recovery.

And only TESTHEAD could not only be thinking of how this could relate to testing but is writing a great blog post about it just after the accident. Awesome

Shmuel Gershon said...

Hey, you ride a skateboard to work?? So cool, I do that too!
I ride a casterboard and have done it to work only a few times; am trying to make it a commuting habit but riding on steep sidewalks is showing to be a hard challenge.

Just hope I don't break a leg like you, Michael :). Do you wear protective gear? What protection do you use? When I ride I use the whole knees/elbows/wrists pads set - but no helmet (which is important, but too bulky to carry).

Krishna said...

Wish you a speedy recovery. Get well soon!

Lisa said...

There are way too many bones breaking this summer! Hopefully all the worst part is behind you. Take care and I wish you a speedy recovery! Can you use a knee scooter or will you be on crutches?

At least you were doing something cool and fun when it happened! People can understand how you could break your leg that way! (I get a lot of blank looks when I say I broke my ankle going down a slide). I love that you just go out and do what you enjoy, and have the courage to take a few risks.

How wonderful that you can draw such a good lesson out of it. I will try to take advantage of your insight, without injuring myself!

Rick Baucom said...

Wishing you a speedy recovery Michael.

Michael Larsen said...

Thanks for the well wishes everyone. @Shmuel, I wear protective gear when I do "skate park" type stuff (knee pads, elbow pads and a helmet) but I will admit I don't use that gear when I'm commuting (fatal flaw in my system? I'm not so sure, none of the gear I normally wer would have protected me from this break. they don't make ger for this purpose; it would be too cumbersome to ride well.

The biggest challenge so far has been dealing with a much smaller and local world in the physical sense, but thank heaven for the Internet an VPN so that I can still explore with my brain and hands :). Oh, yes, expect a blog post on that topic right soon!

Shmuel Gershon said...

Glad to hear you are well.

And I agree protective gear doesn't protect you from *everything*. It has specific types of accidents it is designed for. And there's another idea for a blog post, by the way :).