The good thing about being at a low point in your life is that there’s nowhere to go but up.
Fracturing my right fibula in mid-June last summer was inconvenient, requiring crutches for only a couple weeks. The biggest annoyance was that I couldn’t drive and had to use Uber to get to and from my doctor’s appointments. The bigger challenge came shortly thereafter when I dislocated and fractured my left ankle in two places. That required surgery, a week in the hospital, and follow-on rehabilitation. Losing Romeo only added to my despair. It was one of the lowest periods of my life—only two or three things have left me more devastated.
That was 13 months ago. One year ago I made the trek down 4 flights of stairs to visit the orthopedic surgeon for follow up. That may not sound like much, but it was. Partly because that trip also required coming back up the steps, by myself.
Living alone is hard when you’re physically incapacitated. There’s no one to help you with anything.
That first week was incredibly tough. Moving was hard. Finding something to eat was hard. Going to the bathroom was hard. Doing laundry was nearly impossible. Taking a shower was impossible. At least waking up and getting dressed was doable, if I had my clothes near my bed.
The in-home physical therapy supervisor wanted to start the day after I came home from the hospital, but she allowed me the time to take care of and mourn my Romeo. After that, though, the work began. She mapped out a program that would enable me to descend the 36 steps from my front door to the street so that I could make my follow-up doctor’s visits. Which of course included the even more challenging act of climbing back up the stairs once I returned.
I learned it’s okay to “pivot.” We had to reschedule the doctor’s appointment by one week because I simply was strong enough to conquer the stairs after just one week of therapy. Nor, did I have to make it up all the stairs at a time. I could take a break (or two) to rest. She even added a chair to my fourth-floor landing. It remains there to this day,
[These photos aren’t really a before/after compare, but I had to try out this new (to me) photo gizmo in WordPress.]
After three weeks, the cast came off and I was given another fracture boot. I had to wear it all the time (e.g., while sleeping) and still wasn’t allowed to put weight on the foot. But I could at least take a shower. Of course, that required work with the occupational therapist to practice maneuvering into and out of the shower. But hey, at least I could wash my own hair—sitting in the shower chair I’d had to buy and assemble after my accident.
Around week #4, after getting the dirty clothes to the washing machine (while using a walker) and then trying to load them while standing on one foot, I thought about how difficult everything was. When I complained to Mia, my delightful physical therapist, she said, “No, it’s not hard, it just takes longer.” I replied, “No, it’s hard!” But sure enough, the following week, my complaint wasn’t that it was hard, it just took longer.
After 6 weeks, I could put weight on my foot. I still wore the fracture boot, but at least I could drive. (My car had been in the hospital parking lot for nearly two months.) And thus began out-patient physical therapy. My primary therapist was an adorable 25-year-old sock fanatic named Sam (Samantha). What amazed me was how much she knew, even as young as she was. Then again, every physical therapist I had, both in-home and out-patient, was terrific.
Every week got better and better. My spirits were so high, I couldn’t stop buying Christmas presents. So my family and closest friends had a pretty great Christmas from me—including me!
I’m not as euphoric as I had been, but I’m still thankful for my mobility, even when the ankle is stiff and achy (which is not all the time). Every night when I close up the living room, I’m grateful for the ease of going to the bedroom. There was a time when I had to use my crutches to get to the “stairs” (sunken living room, 3 steps to the upper level), then hop up the steps with the crutches, transfer to the walker, hobble to the right to turn on the hall light switch, then hobble back to the left to turn off the living room light, then back-track hobble to the right again to get to the bedroom. Now I do the same routine in seconds.
So, life is more or less back to normal. Well, as normal as life can be when dealing with a fucking pandemic! But, like most people, I’ve learned to pivot. I’m a hermit by nature, so I’m not suffering terribly. But more social creatures who live alone, like my neighbor and one of my nephews, are having a more difficult time coping. Hopefully a vaccine is on the way. Probably not in 2020, but I have faith something will be available in 2021, preferably earlier rather than later. So I remain optimistic, and that’s a good thing.