Posted: April 5, 2007; updated: April 9, 2007


By Celia Cohen
Grapevine Political Writer

U.S. Sen. Thomas R. Carper did not bite on a bullet when he had surgery on his broken foot.

Even someone who ran a half marathon on a fractured right metatarsal needed enough painkiller to put him in a medical "twilight zone" last Friday, while a doctor at the First State Surgery Center near Newark was inserting a titanium screw.

Carper, who turned 60 in January, is not taking any time off, though, no way. While the Congress is on its spring break this week, he is making his customary rounds in Delaware on crutches. Never mind that it could leave people wondering whether he should have had his head examined, not just his foot.

Carper, a Democrat who has been a treasurer, congressman, governor and senator, holds the Delaware record for 12 statewide victories and clearly loves his reputation as a political iron man. Plus one part titanium, of course.

In one of those wonderful ironies no one could make up, Carper was scheduled before he broke his foot for a visit on Thursday at Roll-A-Bout, a business in Frederica. The company makes four-wheeled walkers as alternatives to crutches and wheel chairs for people with lower leg injuries.

"I'm told you make something that I might be interested in," Carper quipped.

Roll-A-Bout was started 14 years ago as a sideline by Rod Accetta, who was in the construction business at the time and dreamed up his invention to help out a friend with a ruptured Achilles tendon and a job that demanded he be there.

These days Roll-A-Bout makes nine different models, fitting everyone from tiny three-year-olds to beefy professional football and basketball players, and sells about 3,000 of them a year. Rentals are available, too. Walter Cronkite, the longtime CBS anchor, has used one. So has Ken Griffey Jr., the baseball player.

A Roll-A-Bout rider bends the bad leg, nestles the part below the knee on a short platform fitted with a couple of cushions and uses the good leg to push off. Accetta fitted Carper with one.

"This is fun. As a kid, we had a scooter, and this reminds me of that," Carper said as he buzzed across the warehouse floor. "See you guys in Dover!"

After Carper initially decided not to get a Roll-A-Bout, he reconsidered. He rented one for the going rate of $30 a week and expected to be zipping around Capitol Hill when the Congress goes back into session the week of April 9.

Carper broke his foot nearly a month ago and needed the surgery Friday because it was not healing properly. He believes the foot went on him about a mile into the Caesar Rodney Half Marathon, a 13.1-mile race mostly through Wilmington, but he finished the course, anyway.

Carper thinks he may have injured the foot a day earlier, when he was playing on the Democrats' team against the Republicans in a charity volleyball tournament staged by Easter Seals at the University of Delaware in Newark.

The Republicans won. After a run of bad elections, the Republicans were so grateful to beat the Democrats at anything that state Rep. Gregory F. Lavelle, the Republicans' team captain from Brandywine Hundred, carried the trophy to Legislative Hall in Dover to display on the speaker's podium for a day in the state House of Representatives.

Somehow Lavelle restrained himself from having the trophy engraved in bloodthirsty triumph, "Bring me the foot of a United States senator."