Achilles Tendon Rupture: Downfall and Aftermath

A popping sound, a scream, a stumble, and then a tumble face forward on the stairs!  So began our ordeal—and I mean “our” ordeal—with my husband’s ruptured Achilles tendon.

He had ruptured the biggest tendon in the human body, tendo achilleus, named after the tragic Greek hero of the Trojan War, Achilles.  When Achilles was a baby, his mother the goddess Thetis learned that he would die in battle.  So she took the baby to the River Styx where she attempted to make her son immortal by dangling him into the magical water, holding him by the left ankle.  Alas, the water did not wash over the area of his heel covered by her thumb and forefinger and thus her son remained vulnerable in that one small area.  Thetis’s infant son, who grew to be the mightiest of Greek heroes, was brought down one day, mortally wounded when Paris, aided by the god Apollo, shot a poisoned arrow, piercing the small, vulnerable spot on Achilles’ heel.

In our time, the expression ‘Achilles heel’ has come to stand for a deadly weakness that can lead to a downfall.  My tall husband had often worried that his small, narrow feet might make him vulnerable to foot problems later in life.  It is precisely eleven weeks ago to the day that I drove him to the emergency ward of the hospital after his injury, where his now useless left foot was put in a temporary cast.  Three days later, he met with his orthopedic surgeon who advised against surgery.  We left, my husband manoeuvering precariously with his crutches and wearing a cast that had his foot pointing down at a ridiculous 30˚ angle.  We were faced now with the dilemma of coping with a major mobility issue in a two-level townhouse, for who knew how long.

The first month was the toughest.  With all our bedrooms and our major bathroom on the second floor—and thankfully, also his den—that was where my husband spent most of his time.  I would take breakfast and lunch trays up to him. Mid-afternoon, he would descend the fourteen narrow stairs to the main floor on his backside.  At nine o’clock, up the stairs he would go, again on his butt, with me following behind, his crutches in tow.  After a month of this regimen, he began to feel like some ‘crazy’ relative kept hidden away in the attic.

Showers were a particular challenge.   He had been warned not to put any weight on his injured foot, which meant getting into a deep soaker tub on one foot—just try it some time—and that after tying two green garbage bags around his left leg in order to keep the cast dry.  My shoulder served quite well for the missing foot.

After one month, the cast came off and on went an air boot with three levels of heel lifts inside.  No more bum-walking up and down the stairs!  Although my husband didn’t think the tendon was much thicker than dental floss, the orthopedic surgeon was satisfied.  There were new challenges with the air boot, however.  My husband found that the bed sheets and blankets on the bed in the guest room stuck to the boot, so much so that he opted to lie on top of duvet, covered only with an afghan, the knitted kind.  He got to take his air boot off for thirty minutes once a day, a time for foot-washing by his now very humble wife.  Two weeks later, he got to take one of the heel lifts out of his boot.

Just four days ago, he had yet another appointment with the orthopod where one more hard-as-rock heel lift was removed, with one remaining.  He was told that he could now wear ordinary street shoes in the house, reserving the air boot exclusively for outside, and sleep barefoot at night. He was advised to get into a swimming pool and do some cautious walking about.  What does the next stage in his recovery look like?  We don’t know yet. The journey is far from over.  And when that journey of recovery is over, will he walk with a carefree step the way he once did, or will he always feel vulnerable?  We wonder.


Selecting World Heritage Sites in a State of Denial

In his bid last September to win formal recognition by the UN of a Palestinian state, PLO chairman and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, in his address to the UN General Assembly, referred to the Holy Land as “the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)….” There was no mention of the 4000-year Jewish presence in the Holy Land.  Jews worldwide were justifiably offended.  Abbas’ denial of a Jewish connection to the Holy Land disturbed many Christians as well, myself included, who perceived Abbas’ refusal to acknowledge Jewish history in the region not only as a gross injustice to the Jews, but also as an assault on the Jewish Jesus.

After a failed attempt to be recognized by the UN Security Council, Abbas petitioned the UN cultural agency UNESCO for membership. On 13 December 2011, UNESCO admitted “Palestine” as a full member of the organization in breach of UNESCO’s own Constitution, after the Palestinians garnered only 107 votes, not the requisite 129.

One of UNESCO’s activities is the selection and maintenance of sites of particular historical and cultural value around the world, or World Heritage Sites, as they are called.  Now a full-fledged member of UNESCO, albeit illegally, the Palestinians are calling for the city ofBethlehem, including the Church of the Holy Nativity, located on the spot said to be the birthplace of Jesus, to be officially recognized as the first Palestinian World Heritage Site. The Palestinian application will be considered at the upcoming June UNESCO meeting inSt. Petersburg,Russia.

The prospect of having the Church of the Holy Nativity recognized as a Palestinian World Heritage Site is a troubling one, for if Abbas can erase four millennia of Jewish history without any qualms, what is to prevent him and his fellow Palestinians from historical revisionism when it comes to the Child born in Bethlehem—Jesus, a Jewish baby born to observant Jewish parents in Bethlehem, the city of David; a Jewish child hailed as the long-awaited ‘son of David’ whose coming was prophesied by Jewish prophets over the centuries; a Jew recognized as the Messiah by the Jewish writers of the New Testament.  Abbas’ behaviour at the UN does not inspire confidence.

Nor do the past actions of the Palestinians.  As part of Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) occupied Bethlehem in an attempt to capture Palestinian militants.  About 200 Palestinian militants took refuge in the Church of the Holy Nativity for 39 days, from April 11 to May 10. Ignoring the religious significance of the location, the militants took forty Christian clergy and nuns hostage, stole prayer books, crucifixes, candelabras—anything that looked like gold.

It is instructive as well to see how UNESCO has handled, or more accurately, mishandled Jewish religious sites in the region.  Responding to Muslim clerics who claim that Rachel’s Tomb was a Muslim site  thousands of years ago, UNESCO has declared Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs near Jerusalem are not exclusively Jewish sites but belong to Christians and Muslims as well.

Understandably, the three Christian denominations whose job it has been to take care of the church since 1852 oppose recognition of the church as a Palestinian World Heritage Site as well, at least for the present time.   Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, speaking for the Catholic Church and claiming support from the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchates, fears that the church might be used for political purposes. (Indeed!)  Moreover, UNESCO recognition, according to Father Pizzaballa, would make it difficult for the current custodians to run the site, since the church, once designated a World Heritage Site, would fall under the jurisdiction of UNESCO and the church’s custodians would have to follow UN rules.

Given Abbas’ blatant disregard for the historical realities of the region, the illegality of Palestinian membership in UNESCO, past Palestinian attitude to the holy sites in the region, plus the objection of the church’s present custodians, the UNESCO committee which meets this coming June to select World Heritage Sites must wisely say “no” to the Palestinian request.