Tuesday was a red letter day for me.
After seven weeks of being “non-weight bearing” on my right foot, I finally got permission from my doctor to go to “partial weight bearing.”
He said that I was healing well, following my January surgery for a broken distal fibula. He’d put in a plate, a pin, and seven screws in order to put my ankle back together. I had good range of motion in my foot (at least when it came to pointing and flexing) and he prescribed physical therapy for me.
After the doctor’s appointment, I went back to the office on crutches, finally free from the walker, scooter and wheelchair I’d been using to get around.
I was so happy the rest of the day, I found it hard to work. Co-workers were glad to see me upright. I was really a bit surprised at the jubilation I felt. After all, I had tolerated my injury and subsequent disability in pretty good humor.
But for a person like me, who has poor balance and coordination, being able to put my right foot on the ground makes a tremendous difference.
I had been a good patient, following doctor’s orders very closely, for nearly two months. Of course, I had put some weight, sometimes quite a bit, on my right foot the 10 or so times I fell during my non-weight bearing period. But I iced, elevated and sat in my recliner a lot as I was recuperating.
You’d expect that the biggest area of personal growth over the past several months would be the development of new insights into what it’s like to be disabled…that I’d come away with a personal understanding of why “curb cuts” and handicapped accessible bathrooms are important.
Certainly, I learned a lot about how difficult it is to get around when you can’t stand on both feet. But that was not my most important lesson.
Here is what was:
I learned to be vulnerable and dependent on other people. I learned to graciously accept and even ask for assistance. I learned that people are eager to help. I learned how many people care about me. It has been both heartwarming and difficult for my fiercely independent self to experience people bringing me food, cleaning out my cats’ litter boxes, rolling my garbage cart out to the curb, doing grocery and other shopping for me, putting sheets on my bed, checking my mail and much more.
I was loaned a wheelchair, walker, scooter and a bath chair, as well as other pieces of adaptive equipment. I’ve been chauffeured to the hospital, doctor’s office, stores and work. I was allowed to work from home as necessary, and co-workers went to meetings and did other work on my behalf. Friends, co-workers and neighbors have been amazing!
On my own for 40 years, I’m used to taking care of myself. Sometimes, feeling responsible for everything weighs heavily on me. About the only thing I abdicate responsibility for is my car. I leave that to mechanics, AAA, the kindness of strangers and a measure of good luck. I choose to remain helpless when it comes to changing tires – I’ve never learned how and have no intention of doing so. Everything else, I try to figure out. But deep inside there is the desire to be taken care of. Having had this gratifying experience with my broken ankle, maybe I’ll feel more comfortable about asking for help in the next 20-30 years.
Fran Parker is a health promotion specialist at the Mesa County Health Department.