Crippled, handicapped, lame, mobility impaired… All of these labels, politically correct or not, describe me sufficiently over the past 4-1/2 weeks. In fact, I might add: stifled, restricted, imprisoned, exasperated, and frustrated beyond belief! On October 5th, I had surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in my ankle. Having had foot surgery in 1999 that turned out to be a piece of cake, I had great aspirations that this time would be just as easy. NOT! My recovery will be ten weeks plus and I’m not even halfway there.
The first few weeks were the worst since these were the days of the “non-weight bearing” part of the process. Think about that for just a few minutes. Did you play hopscotch as a child? Imagine 3 weeks of hopscotch where you’re allowed to sit and hold onto things, but not allowed to put your foot down on the ground the entire time. Blah! Not to be overly graphic, but have you ever tried to go the bathroom with only one foot on the ground? The hardest part is balancing long enough to unbutton, unzip, and pull your pants (and underwear) down! And if you do hop around too much, the throbbing of the injured foot starts… like someone just took a hammer to your instep. To add insult to injury, you get a bruised behind for sure when you try to sit (no PLOP is a better word) slowly and gingerly from a one-legged stance.
Two days before my surgery, I went to my pre-op appointment and part of that was meeting with a physical therapist to learn how to properly walk on crutches and a walker so that I could choose between the two which I thought would work best for me. I chose crutches because I thought they would be easier to use in tight areas and would also give me the flexibility to go up and down steps if I needed to. The therapist laughed at me when I commented as I demonstrated what I’d learned: “I’m pretty good at this, huh?” His response: “Yeah, you’re pretty good at this when you’re not recovering from surgery, not in pain or heavily medicated, and not lugging the extra weight of a cast!” Rude? No… reality. I’m so thankful for my good friend Nell Garrett who had a wheelchair and walker handy, because after two falls adding additional injuries to my already marred body, I couldn’t take it anymore. And you know how they say “the bigger they are, the harder they fall?” Something tells me this surgery would have been much easier if I’d lost 50 pounds before proceeding. I’m sure my age doesn’t help, either. I was twelve years younger for that first surgery in 1999.
So, after we got the new equipment from Nell, things got easier (at least for long distances). If I was going to the doctor or to dinner or whatever, my husband, A.J., could help me get from the house to the car with the walker and then once we got where we were going, if (and only if) the place where we were going complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), I could get wheeled around like the queen I’d like to think I am.
Interestingly enough, we found that most facilities do the bare minimum to squeak by the act’s standards. For example, while visiting one office, we quickly learned that there were no handicapped parking spots, so we parked in a regular spot as close to the building as we could. Once I was in the wheelchair, it took us a while to figure out where there was a wide enough opening between the cars that were parked facing the building so that we could get to the door. Unfortunately, when we did find one, we realized it did not allow us access to the ramp (which was blocked by two cars parked very closely together). So A.J. had to tilt the wheelchair back to get the front wheels up on the path and then lift from behind (at which time I’m sure he was wishing, too, that I’d have lost those 50 pounds prior to surgery). Going in the building door… same problem. There was a ledge. It was only about an inch high, but it was enough that we couldn’t just wheel over it. The elevator was another challenge. Wheeling straight in didn’t allow room for the doors to close, but the opening was so narrow we couldn’t seem to turn on the right angle to fit sideways. Lift and turn. Poor A.J. working those biceps.
Since getting my hard cast removed and replaced with a fracture boot (which is removable at night and when I want to take a bath – hallelujah), I am a little more mobile, but I still have to limit the weight I put on my foot and use crutches to compensate. Again, crutches allow for a little more freedom, but have you ever tried them? Add to that… have you ever tried using crutches to walk while carrying a purse on your shoulder? Or a purse on one shoulder and a laptop bag on the other? I find myself relying on others for things I didn’t give a second thought to before. For example, when I went back to work this week, I discovered that I could prepare my own coffee, but I couldn’t carry it back to my work area while on crutches, so I found myself asking for help for the simplest things.
And I thank God for A.J., I really do. He’s been amazing. I have introduced him to everyone as my “personal assistant” for the past month. If anyone gets it, A.J. does after observing firsthand the struggles I have had (and he has shared) for the past weeks. But even he has difficulty sometimes understanding the depth of my frustrations. For example, he forgets sometimes that I can’t just hop up and switch off the bedroom light that he left on when he came in to say goodnight. It’s not intentional. He is in the same situation as me… learning to live with a disability that wasn’t there originally. I’m looking so forward to five weeks from now when (if all goes as planned) I can walk without a cast of any kind. Tinkling will be so much easier!
But seriously! How do people who are handicapped for life (sorry… can’t think of a better way to say that) deal with the limits imposed on them? How many of them have a “personal assistant” to help them get through the day? How does a person with a wheelchair open a door on their own? Or get over that ledge at the entrance to a building? Or turn their wheelchair in the elevator so that it fits right and the doors can close?
My 11th wish is for EVERYONE to be compassionate and accommodating to those who suffer from disabilities. Having empathy is to share another person’s feelings. I can tell you today that I truly have empathy for anyone who is stuck in a wheelchair, limping along for one reason or another, or is suffering from any type of physical impairment. The challenges are great and human beings are not always kind. You’d be surprised at how many people walked past us and kept going as A.J. tried to hold the door open and lift my wheelchair at the same time. To the few who stopped to help, I pray a special blessing on them. To my family, friends, and coworkers who have done everything they can to make my period of impairment more tolerable and manageable, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I encourage you all to help my wish come true.
If you would like to read about my other wishes, please select “20 Wishes” from the categories list at the right. Happy reading!