Never take “I don’t know” for an answer

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never take i don\'t know

I knew it was bad the moment it happened…

Three months ago, I was running on a little trail in the woods nearby my apartment (yes, we DO have woods in NYC). I hit a muddy patch on the train with a steep downward slop, wiped out, rolled over my foot and heard a loud crunching sound, before being sent abruptly to the ground.

It hurt like hell, but I made my way back home.

By that evening, my foot had swollen up, it was extremely painful and I couldn’t even think about walking on it. The next day, I went to my doc, who took x-rays, said he didn’t see anything, gave me the standard advice and sent me home for a few weeks to see if it got better. It didn’t. Well, actually, it did, but not entirely.

So, I got a referral for a specialist, where I then had my second set of x-rays (fractures often do not show up on x-rays for a few weeks), which was, again, negative. Same advice, “dunno,” but this time I was told that these things can take time, so I should give it a month.

I did, it still hurt. So, I went back.

This time, I saw a third doctor who took a third set of x-rays, which were again negative. While reviewing my results, I reminded him that now months later, I was still in pain. He told me he wasn’t sure what was going on and shared “sometimes these things never got better.” “Some people,” he said, “just had to live with it for the rest of their lives.”

Are you friggin kidding me?

“Look,” I said, “I’m 42 years old, I’m pretty active and there’s no way I’m just going to suck it up for the rest of my life.” So, he said that after my persistent and three sets of x-rays, maybe it was time for an MRI. He wrote me a scrip for it, which my insurance company promptly rejected, because, apparently “we don’t know what’s wrong, just live in pain” was an okay result for them.

My doc called them up and convinced them to let me have the MRI. A week later, I emerged from the giant clanking machine and found myself back in the doctor’s office. Guess what, they finally had an answer. No more “I don’t know.”

I fractured a bone in my foot.

Duhhhh! I was in pain, but it never showed up on the x-rays. Now, I am in one of those big plastic, strap-on walking cast boot thingies and, within the first day, my foot felt better.

Finally, I have an answer.

Because I wasn’t willing to just suck it up for the rest of my life, because I forced people to keep elevating the problem rather than saying “we don’t know what’s wrong, just give it time,” because I wasn’t willing to settle for “I don’t know,” I now have an answer…and I am finally on the mend. What’s my takeaway?

Do not settle for “I don’t know!”

Sometimes, in life, the answers come quickly. They are easy, right there in front of you. Other times, they come through time, persistence and hard work. Challenge is, all too often, we give up way to early when the answers do not come quickly. We abandon the quest for a complete, satisfactory result, because it means more time, more work, more effort.

Had I done this, I would have likely been in pain for months, years, maybe even my life. I would have missed doing so many things I loved. I would’ve limited my life in many profound ways, because I didn’t have the will to force others to provide the answer I needed.

You CAN handle the truth!

It may not be the answer you want, in the end, but knowledge is always a better results than ambiguity. Because it allows you to take action. And, action is the necessary ingredient for resolution.

But, now I’m left with an bigger problem that I need your help with.

No, I don’t need you to help pay my medical bills (just send chocolate). Put your creative hat on, because I need your juicy, story-telling abilities on overdrive.

My boot/cast is a great conversation-starter, but I need a cooler story…

Everywhere I go now, everyone asks what I did to my leg. I started with the real story, got bored of that, then moved on to something about a covert-op gone bad. I am having so much fun with it, I wanted to let guys in on the fun. I need more great stories to tell, something adventurous, funny, edgy. Anything good.

So, put on your creative hats and share your fables in the comments below.

Oh, and feel free to share your thoughts on the rest of this post, too!

Happy Monday, people!

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22 responses

22 responses to “Never take “I don’t know” for an answer”

  1. Jonathan:

    That was an excellent, riveting story. Good for you that you didn’t stop there – most people probably would have resigned themselves to a painful foot because, after all 3 doctors said the same thing, “Dunno.” I felt the frustration in my stomach while reading this story. Bravo!

    You want a story? It’s too long to post in a comment but I’ll do my best to keep it short.

    Two stories actually:

    1. Born profoundly deaf, I was told by well-meaning people that I’d never be able to fly airplanes. The dream burned brightly for years but it wasn’t until after I quit a lucrative Wall Street career that I revisited it. Became a pilot in 2001 then got a commercial license in 2003. And finally I made history in 2006 by doing the “impossible” and becoming the world’s first deaf instrument rated pilot. That means I can fly in inclement weather where radio use is actually required. I once had a flight instructor shove the book of regulations in my face telling me I’d never be instrument rated. Who has the last laugh now? I didn’t give up when that happened. In fact, it made me even more determined.

    I better stop now – but you get the idea.

    Thanks for letting me share.

  2. “He wrote me a scrip for it, which my insurance company promptly rejected, because, apparently “we don’t know what’s wrong, just live in pain” was an okay result for them.”

    Wow; that’s hysterical.

    Just, with a knowing glint in your eye, tell people that surfing the internet is hard work.

  3. val says:

    two words: pole dancing.


  4. Karen Kay says:

    Orthopods seem to think that a lot of people are comfortable living in pain. When I have skeletal problems, I go to a physiatrist or a sports medicine guy. These people are trained to make humans be functional again in a way that normal doctors seem not to be.

  5. Have just started following your blog– love it! My contribution to your cast story– tell them it’s your prototype for your Iron Man costume!

  6. On the reverse side, whenever I catch myself saying “I don’t know” to someone, I add: “but I will find out and get back to you as soon as I can.”

    After all, if don’t want to hear it or accept it from others, then let’s not be hypocrites.

  7. […] Go to the author’s original blog: Never take “I don’t know” for an answer […]

  8. Natasha says:

    Think up your own lies to tell people. I don’t lie. And I don’t do the work for liars. LIAR!

  9. Shama Hyder says:

    Jonathan-so sorry about your foot. This is so true in the medical field. My mom had suffered many symptoms and no one knew what was causing it. Finally, an MRI revealed a rare Chiari Malformation.

    Don’t stop till you get the answers.

  10. esther says:

    extreme yoga?

  11. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ everyone – Hey guys, love the fun stories, especially pole dancing and the prototype for my Iron Man outfit…very believable! I’ll have save those only for high-level business meetings, though. Hehehe! 😉

    And, thanks for all the well-wishes, you guys rock!

  12. Dave Navarro says:

    Just goes to show you – most people stop just one “no” short of getting what they want.

    Glad to see you kept kicking a$$, even with a broken foot.

  13. Interesting chain of events. I had a similar experience….took the doctors three days of injecting, detecting, neglecting, and inspecting to find that I had two ribs out of place.

    The kickers is they put them back in by slamming my body into an ER table (no drugs)…I screamed for 30 secs and then it felt sooooo much better. (then I was sore for 3 months but who’s counting!)

    To your other note….stories…

    * got bitten by a lake shark while trying to save a little girl (yes, I know, there are no lake sharks…thats the fun part)

    * broke it while using your trapeze (you can figure out why you had a trapeze)

    * you got shot in the ankle while trying to foil a robbery

    * nothing is wrong with your foot, you use the cast to hide money

    * your pant leg got sucked into an escalator which tore your foot off….you had to have it surgically reattached.

    * your daughter ran over your foot with the car (she is driving at a VERY young age..

    if more come to me, I will let you know
    Cheers and be well,

  14. GirlPie says:

    You’ve attracted some very smart/funny story ideas and comments (except from Natasha, who doesn’t get it, unless that’s a running ‘joke’ on this blog).

    Maybe the idea that the cast is your choice of weapon to use on people who offer only “I dunno.”

  15. Vicky H says:


    I love your spirit and willingness to not settle.

    Vicky H

  16. Tell them you injured your foot giving Natasha a virtual kick.

  17. Between the pole dancing and Ken’s answers, I think you have that part covered. 😉 I certainly can not come up with anything better….wit is not my forte and hubby is sleeping. He is the one I always ask if I want to say something clever.

    But I had to comment on the gist of the post. SO true and also not unusual. I can not tell you how many times that I have not taken ” I don’t know” for an answer. Nobody is going to be more invested in curing your pain than you are, so it is well worth searching out every resource until it is solved.

    I was a nurse once and can appreciate medical doctors, but I have also found alternative practitioners sometimes solving things which medical doctors ( or dentists) have sworn could not be fixed. Sometimes it is not even logical.

    I crushed my knee running in the woods some years ago ( I also broke my femur in the same fall, so you know it was a hard one as it usually takes a car wreck to break that bone like I did). I fell in such a way that my knee bent the opposite way that knees bend. I had years of pain, wheel chairs, crutches and surgeries ( including one by the famous doc who did Joe Montana and Jerry Rice’s injured joints).

    The thing that helped me most was some energetic healing. How energetic healing can help a structural problem is certainly a mystery to me, but I was desperate and it worked.

    I think the moral of the story is if one can not get the answer from thorough investigation from the top medical people, then start searching out the top and highly recommended alternative physicians. Keep going until an impossible answer is found.

    Today, I am walking all over Europe and grateful to have those painful years behind me.

    Glad you did the right thing! Heal quickly!

  18. Dan says:


    Great story. It cracked a smile on my face because it helped me relive a similar success I had with a failed medical system.

    Back many years ago, through high school and college, (much before the internet), I had a somewhat rare condition called hyperhidrosis which causes people to uncontrollably sweat. In my case, my palms literally dripped with sweat 24 hours a day. It was truly a miserable joke for someone like me who is outgoing and rarely nervous.

    So besides getting a lot of what you experienced from many well-compensated doctors and specialists such as “I don’t know what’s wrong with you”, I also got a lot of memorable advice like “try imagining people you’re talking with are naked, then maybe you won’t be so nervous”.

    Long story short, my undying search for an explanation let to my awareness that the condition actually exists within certain populations…and that there is a surgical cure.

    I found a qualified surgeon, convinced my insurance company to cover the cost, and within minutes of waking up from the procedure, realized that my life had turned an amazingly positive corner that I knew, I knew had to exist.

    Don’t give up. A little healthy cynicism and an unwillingness to accept “I don’t know” often leads to some of the greatest rewards.

  19. Stephanie says:

    And never say yes to complacency. Thanks for kicking Eeyore’s “why bother” attitude in the… I needed it.

    As for a story, tell them a homeless person rode over your foot with their shopping cart. (Uh oh, I hope Natasha didn’t read that.)

  20. Jonathan Fields says:

    Man, so many similar stories, especially revolving around healthcare.

    I remember hearing the old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” when I was younger and thinking it was silly, but life tends to step up show you why some saying become enduring advice.

    And, thanks for all the fun stories, I don’t know where to begin. Every time I see a new comment notice in my e-mail, I keep jumping over to see what kooky fables you guys have cooked up and cracking up re-reading them all.

    I think I am going to have to rotate them all and see what gets the biggest dropped jaws and belly-laughs!

  21. Ginni says:

    I love the pole dancing and the internet surfing ideas. My own story: I fell stepping up into my SUV on Jan 25th and wore an external fixator device that was attached to my arm with 4 pins for 9 weeks. Saying “I fell” just was too lame for the looks of this device even though I basically ‘powdered’ the bone inside my wrist. I started telling people “I tried to change the TV channel during the Superbowl” while gesturing with my head towards my boyfriend.

  22. Lisa Benner says:

    I once sprained my ankle falling off the sidewalk. For obvious reasons, when people asked me what happened, I responded with, “Do you want the real story or the good story?” They always chose the good story, and I told them I was skating on a 16-foot half pipe, tried to do a disaster, got hung up on my back truck and slammed. Every single person responded with, “Oh my god, I didn’t know you were a skateboarder!” Which I definitely am not, as much as that would be awesome.

    You are welcome to borrow.