You Can’t Predict (or Control) EverythingWhen I left my apartment, I was calming my pre-work trip jitters by saying “Christine, it’s only 4 days! Don’t worry about it!” As it turns out, it’s more like 2 months that I’ll be away. I am usually very anxious before traveling and like to have everything clean and orderly, laundry done, dishes washed, and trash removed. Not sure if I did that or not. Not that any of this actually matters in the midst of an emergency, but it just goes to show that you never know what will happen moment to moment in life. All of my plans changed in an instant, with no advance warning. In fact, I recall being angry at myself as I sat on the wet ground waiting for the ambulance, thinking “How could you do this!? And on the last day of the trip!? What about the presentation!?” The truth is—you can’t control everything. Sometimes you need to just surrender to the circumstances. Not “give up,” but realize that sometimes the things life throws at you are there for a reason, and you have to go with the flow.
But Advance Preparation Doesn’t HurtWhen I was hurt on the job, I admit I had no idea what the terms of my health and welfare benefits are at work. I know the day to day healthcare plan costs, but when it comes to disability, leave, worker’s comp, and the like, I was clueless. I thought I was actually pretty well informed, though, more so than I was. I knew I had short term disability, but not what that actually meant. I knew my insurance covered hospitalization, but not what that meant either. It’s a learning curve, but one that is easier to navigate when well. When you are in the midst of the chaos of an accident and subsequent treatment, you aren’t thinking rationally, and the concerns you have are first with getting well, not with paperwork.
I also learned that this is the kind of thing those financial gurus tell you to have a rainy day fund for. It made me feel immeasurably better knowing I could go without a paycheck for awhile and still be OK. That’s not to say I don’t want to get paid sooner rather than later, but when you have a stressful event that takes you away from work, you don’t need to also worry about whether you can pay your bills. Not everyone can sock away money, but for people who can, they should. I should save more.
No Man Is an IslandI remember distinctly as I was sprawled out on the ER bed the moment when the doctor came in and said “Well, you broke your ankle pretty badly,” followed by “You’re likely to have to be out of work for 2 to 3 weeks and can’t live alone.” I was in disbelief. This CAN’T be! I have things to do! Well, an event like this teaches you who and what matters in your life. There are few people in the world who are so indispensible in their jobs and other activities that those things can’t be put on hold. And, no one is truly independent. I consider myself a pretty independent woman, but there are times in life that you need a little help from your friends (or family). I had a lot of help, which was humbling and educational. My brother flew out to bring me to my parents’ house. My parents leapt to action, too, and my mom’s workplace lent her things for me to use, like a walker. I was helped by some good Samaritans, and a slew of wonderful nurses and other medical professionals who treated me gently, helped me with hygiene, and kept me comfortable. Friends helped me with things that needed to be taken care of at home. People at work took over my projects. You get a rare glimpse of who are the rocks of your community and who for all intents and purposes disappear when the going gets tough.
The World Isn’t Made for the Differently-Abled
Until you have lost use of a limb or faculty, it’s not possible to completely understand the challenges faced in a “normal” environment without it. There are obstacles. Aisles are too tight for wheelchairs. Ramps are uneven. And, in general, people are pretty ignorant. Not everyone, obviously, but you’d be amazed. I’ve only been out in a wheelchair once, and people act like you’re in the way. Oh, I’m sorry, am I making you walk a few extra steps with your perfectly good legs? Oh, and the restroom! Once I was actually able to get out of my bed (I’ll spare you the whole “go to the bathroom in the bed” story), I appreciated the handles and seats and design of my hospital room bathroom. I appreciated it even more once I left that secure environment. The airport was fun. Not. I had not yet mastered crutches (still haven’t really), and just getting to the handicapped stall was difficult enough. On my first venture to a restroom, I had my brother wheel me into the “family” bathroom so there was less walking required. Not so lucky on the second. The wheelchair attendant at the Pittsburgh airport wheeled me to the regular restroom while my brother retrieved my bag. I teetered the whole way to the stall, which felt like it was about 10,000 feet away. And when I got home, it was another set of challenges. How do I shower? How do I get into the bathroom? I figured all this out, but it takes a lot of changing up of routines and physical space. It has opened my eyes to the struggles experienced every day by those with physical challenges.
Daytime TV, Fun Every Once in a While, is Actually Quite Bad
That’s self explanatory. J And while we’re at it, most TV is bad.
Pilates is Fantastic
Those attending to me in the hospital were astounded by how readily, even with my foot hanging on by a thread and in pain, I could transfer myself from ground to stretcher to bed to gurney to bed, etc. Pilates! My pilates classes really strengthened my core, allowing me to elevate my legs and upper body and isolate movements. I am trying to continue doing what I can while in bed. After all, Joseph Pilates started his “contrology” exercises to rehabilitate patients in World War II.
I am Lucky
I am fortunate first and foremost to not have done something worse to myself. I’m lucky to have been born with fully functioning limbs. We all focus so much on what we don’t like with our bodies. How about it gets us around every day? I’m also lucky to have a supportive family and wonderful, giving friends. I’m lucky to have healthcare insurance and a job. I’m lucky to have been brought to the hospital where I was treated by a great orthopedic surgeon and great nurses and aides and therapists. I am thankful that there are people like the Marines on the base I was at in California when this all happened who are facing war in my place; while I writhed in pain from the broken ankle, I knew there were comrades of the guys near me who were suffering worse. I’m lucky.
I am sure I’ll come up with other insights to share…as well as hopefully other fun posts. I’m not doing a heck of a lot, but I still hope to have some experiences to share on the blog!