Alexandra Mack

Norridge • Illinois

Story

Hi, my name is Alexandra Mack (Alex for short) and I have been dancing for 12 years. I am currently 15 years old. For the longest time, maybe up until I was about 10 or 11, dance was just one of the many after-school activities I did as a young child. Now don't get me wrong, I really liked it, it just wasn't really one of those things I thought I would really pursue. But when I was in about 5th grade, something kind of just "clicked." I started to really enjoy going to the studio every day and taking a lot more classes. I'm not exactly sure what caused this change in me, but it was a good change. I absolutely love dance and it is the thing that I look forward to most each day. One of my favorite things I've done in dance is be in a major ballet company in my area's children's cast in their production of The Nutcracker. 

As a freshman last year, I made my high school dance team and was so excited to be apart of a team and compete. I was unused to the style of dance they did, but I wanted to expand my horizons, and I believed being apart of that program would really help me improve as a dancer. It was about a week before the first competition. I was in class at my studio on Thursday night as usual, just going across the floor doing basic jazz pirouettes on the left side. The left side is my bad side for turns, but either way it was almost second nature, as I've been doing them forever. I was on my last turn, and decided to push for one more turn, because what I can do is never enough for me. Bad decision. 

I don't even know what exactly happened, my mom said it was just a freak accident. I might have slipped, or started to just fall backwards, but no. I still tried to keep myself up for one more rotation. Before I knew it, I was on the floor. Because I'm a klutz, and because the pain didn't kick in yet, I tried to stand up because I was embarrassed more than anything. But when I tried to stand up, I went right back down. That's when I knew that something was very wrong. I looked at my left ankle and it was swollen and purple. I thought I would cry, but no tears would come out. I felt nauseous and light headed, and I could barely breathe. My teacher ran over to me and was saying she was going to go and get my mom (good thing she's always watching outside the window), but I remember everything very vaguely. They helped my hobble and hop out of the room on my right foot and sat me down in the lobby. My teacher told my mom she thinks she should take me to the emergency room. I was very unprepared for that, since I hadn't been in the emergency room since I was 4 because of a high fever. I had never had any serious injuries. I had never broken a bone. I was nervous and in a state of panic. 

We waited in the hospital emergency room lobby for what seemed like an eternity and then I was finally let into a room. They did their basic things that they do at doctor's offices and hospitals and then had to hook me up to an IV with morphine, as well as have the hospital social worker come bring me a stress ball and talk to me because my blood pressure was so high. I took X-rays, and was dreading the results. The nurses were very sweet and always made me feel better, even when I was getting my closed reduction surgery, which is basically just moving my foot around back to a normal state so he can put a splint on my ankle. Then it was time. Time to get back the results from the X-rays. The man who was going to be my orthopedic surgeon came back with some photos from my X-ray, and confirmed that my ankle was indeed broken. I was devastated. I was hoping it has just been a twist or a sprain. Instead, it was a tri-plane fracture, and would require surgery. 

I was panicking again. What was I going to do? Would my coach or teammates be mad? What I ever be able to compete this year? Would I be in my recital? I had all these questions that could not be answered for sure. Whenever people asked me about it, all I could ever say was "maybe" or "I don't know." And I hated that feeling. All I desperately wanted was to dance again. I felt like I was going through the seven stages of grief, only with my ankle instead of a human being. It was the absolute worst feeling ever, not being able to do what I love to do.

The day of my surgery, they injected a nerve blocker into my left leg that would make my leg numb for the next 24-72 hours. This kind of freaked me out, but it really helped with the pain after the surgery. That stay at the hospital was actually kind of fun. I had a dog come visit me in my room and lay at the foot of my bed to keep me company. I got to cut the ribbon to a new "teen lounge" at the hospital and even be in the local newspaper! The whole two days I spent there sort of took my mind off of the surgery. I ended up getting three screws in my ankle, that would never come out unless needed to. I felt cool, knowing that I would be walking (or crutching, rather) around with metal in my leg like some kind of cyborg. I wondered if I would set off the alarm going through airport security and if my leg would stick the refrigerator like a magnet. I had a splint for 2 weeks, a hard fiberglass cast for 2 weeks, and then was crutching around in a boot for 2 weeks, then had to walk in the boot for 4 weeks. The boot was nice because I could take it off and do my physical therapy exercises. I had some gnarly "battle wounds" all around my ankle from the incisions and I felt tough. Well, at least that was until I had to get the stitches pulled out and I cried like a little baby. 

I didn't understand why this happened to me. I wasn't a bad person. I was nice to everyone. I included everyone. I couldn't figure out what I had done to deserve this. Every day for about two months, I cried. Every day, I sat in my room thinking to myself how this could have easily been prevented if I didn't push myself so hard.  Yet every day, I was there supporting my team at my practice. Every day, I was supporting my friends in all of my dance classes. I was there watching, recording video of the dances to mentally practice at home. I still had spots blocked in all of the routines, my spots were just waiting patiently for me to be able to walk again. And as soon as I got the clear to walk in my boot, you guessed it, I was up and dancing. I knew the dances by heart from having watched them so often. When I would come home after dance every day and take off my boot, my ankle would be swollen from being on my feet for so long. I iced and iced, and took my pain medication that had been subscribed to me, but it was all worth it because I was finally able to do what I loved again, even if I was just marking the routines. I told myself to stop pitying myself. There's a lot of people in the world who have it way worse than me, and that this is nothing compared to what some people have endured. I may not be able to walk for two months, but there are people who will never be able to walk for the rest of their lives. This is only a minor setback, and I had to think positively, and view the world from an optimistic perspective. 

The day I got my boot off was perhaps one of the best days of my life. I was finally free to walk without that big clunker on my foot, for the bone was completely healed now. I continued to dance more and more each week, and was doing physical therapy often. I auditioned for my school musical's dance ensemble while I was still in my boot, and I managed to still get into it. That was such a fun experience that I can't wait to audition for again next year. After that, auditions for dance team was right around the corner, a mere three weeks away, and I was running out of time. Before I knew it, it was time to audition and I still couldn't do all of the skills because my ankle was stubborn and getting the range of motion and strength back was a major struggle, since I was immobilized for two whole months. I stressed myself out so much over these auditions and dreaded receiving the results after the four days of tryouts. Most of the girls who were on JV with me the previous year were worried about not making varsity. I was worried about not making any team at all. Obviously varsity was the goal, it was for everyone. But I knew deep down that they would not pick me, especially since I marked almost all of the skills in the routine.

I breathed a sigh, uncertain if it was of relief or of disappointment when the results were posted and my name was under the JV column. But I was happy. I ended up getting chosen for JV captain, and I could not have been more excited. My recital is just two weeks away now, and I am going to be dancing in it. I could not ask for more. I may not have been able to do my pointe dance, but there's always next year. My teachers all say I have a long career ahead of me, and that this is just a tiny bump in the road on my path to becoming a professional dancer. I have a lot to look forward to this year, as well as all the years to come.