On Being Immobile and Semi-Helpless


English: Using underarm crutches. Español: Cam...

I went back to work on Monday, which was a very good thing, because I had started to get bored.  There’s only so much you can do from your couch, and well, my house is not exactly conducive to working right now.  But going back to work presented some interesting problems, some of which I’d already encountered at home, but a few more that I hadn’t necessarily thought about showed up as well.

I work in an old building.  Part of it is on the National Historic Register.  So it’s not entirely ADA compliant, though improvements have been added over time.  There are only a couple of entry points into the building that don’t have stairs, but they’re fairly far from where I need to ultimately end up.  Speaking of which, everything felt far away on crutches.  It was exhausting.  I kept my travels to a minimum, but still.  My classroom is a little off the beaten path in the basement, and we have an elevator that goes there but the elevator comes out at the end of our storage area.  In theory the elevator is mainly used for moving things from storage to classrooms as needed.  Thanks to my assistant and to our maintenance crew, they cleared a nice path to my classroom.  Obstacle 2 cleared!

I can’t carry anything while using crutches.  So I went to class without a computer.  I went to meetings without materials, etc. I carried a water bottle and snacks in a small bag, but that was not perfect.  The second day, I brought a small one-shoulder day pack that I’ve traveled with, and that let me carry a few small things around.

Eating is a challenge.  Again, I can’t carry anything, so “grabbing lunch” does not exist.  I brought my lunch for two days. One day I ate in my office.  The next day I ate in the faculty lounge and my colleagues helped me get set up to eat.  Today, a colleague brought me lunch from the dining room and we met in my office while we ate.  At home, Mr. Geeky and the kids bring me food.

Doing everything is harder and takes more time.  I shower sitting down and I have to be careful getting in and out.  Moving around is difficult and takes time, and sleep does not always come easily (though I lucked out last night and slept for at least 8 hours!).

The Internet is a godsend.  I’ve read blogs by other people who have been through a broken foot or leg and they have great advice.  Wear leggings under dresses! Carry around a flask for coffee or water.  Use a cooler as a seat in the shower. Use a computer chair to wheel around your house (I did this in Italy, actually and it was great!).  Order stuff you need online.

One of my colleagues broke his leg a couple of years ago, and used one of those scooter things to get around.  I finally broke down and took him up on his offer to lend it to me.  It was wonderful.  Some of the things that have annoyed me will go away. Long hallways? No problem! Carrying things? Can do.

So I’m making the best out of a crappy situation.  My colleague told me that being injured really makes you focus on the important stuff and ignore the stupid stuff. It’s true. I’m grateful to be alive, grateful the injury wasn’t worse. And it’s made me slow down a little and say no to some things, which I am really bad at.  I’ve started thinking about what I want to spend my time doing and what I should permanently let go.

I do hate being semi-helpless and depending on others to do simple things for me.  I’m not good at asking for help or receiving help, though I am so, so grateful for the assistance always.  I hope to pay it all forward someday soon.

3 Replies to “On Being Immobile and Semi-Helpless”

  1. Oh I am so sorry to her of your accident and your crutches. A year ago I had foot surgery and I think I can relate to what you are going through. I asked around and someone loaned me a knee scooter and it was a godsend. Granted, it didn’t help with ADA non compliant buildings but it did allow me to get my stuff from one place to another without ripping me or my armpits to shreds. Here is what it looks like: http://www.amazon.com/Roscoe-Scooter-Basket-Burgundy-ROS-KSBG/dp/B00MECBY20

    I also borrowed from a friend a cast cover for my foot so I could take showers and not worry about getting bandages wet. Yes they look like giant condoms but who cares: http://www.amazon.com/Self-wear-Reusable-Travel-friendly-Bandage-Waterproof/dp/B00LM3BNMS/ref=sr_1_11?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1449096642&sr=1-11&keywords=waterproof+cast+cover

    I wish you patience, elevation, beer and netflix! Pro Tip: a six pack fits in the scooter basket!

    Sending hugs!

  2. Thanks, Barbara. The scooter I have is one of those knee things–so awesome! Right now I’m in a boot, which I can take off to shower. After the surgery, that may change, but I’ll take what I can get.

  3. Wow, Laura, what an ordeal, and it looks like it’s just starting! 🙁 I hope it won’t be too complicated to navigate the system once there’s a definite plan for treatment. It looks like you have really good support from family and co-workers. I have enjoyed reading your comments about how this situation is giving you a new perspective. Once in a while I walk past the handicapped parking spots next to the building where I work at the university and have this stupid fantasy about breaking a foot some day and having a handicapped permit — do you have that? Reading about your experience and thinking of my extreme disgust with anything medical, I hope with all my heart that I never have to experience something like that. But who know, maybe someday I will.

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