Learning How to Manage

Lets be honest. Sometimes life is tough. These past few months have been just that. I went 14 weeks without any weight bearing. After a few weeks into physical therapy, using crutches to walk, and putting some weight on my leg I can now stand and walk without assistance. Its already started snowing and ice raining here. I’m not excited to battle the snow nor ice. As I continue to go thru this process, there are many things I had to learn and continue learning. I had to figure out how to do everything from getting around, climbing steps, doing normal everyday chores, getting back and forth to work. Even the simplest tasks that a physically normal person typically does not think about such as getting dressed, showering, cooking, carrying things from one room to the next, sitting comfortably, etc… had to be done differently. Since this was my first time breaking anything I wasn’t even sure what to ask my Doctors about. Some issues and the solutions that worked for me:

  1. Using crutches. I was terrible at them. If you have ever spent time in Alaska you know that the sidewalks and streets in many places are uneven. I fell within the first 10 minutes of using them as I was trying to get off a curb to my car when leaving the Doctors office. Luckily I work at an amazing company, have amazing co-workers, and amazing friends who let me use their devices. My boss asked if I would want to borrow his knee scooter to get around. I instantly said yes. This was a life saver. The walker with a seat has also been a life saver. At one point in my apartment there were two scooters, three walkers (one with wheels, one without wheels, and one with a seat), a wheelchair, a plastic boot, a splint, and crutches. It seems excessive because it was. However, I wasn’t sure what would work best so I would test all of these out. I am very grateful that I have amazing people in my life that were willing and able to assist me with medical equipment. 
  2. The scooter my boss borrowed to me was to heavy for me to lift in and out of my car when I was only able to put weight on one leg. Which meant that if someone wasn’t around I couldn’t take the scooter with me. So I left the scooter at work. Since I was bad at crutches as well I oftentimes would use the walker without wheels and hoped around in my apartment or getting back and forth to my car. The four legs of a walker offered more stability than the two legs of the crutches. Eventually I purchased a smaller scooter that was about 20lbs and could fold up small enough to fit in the overhead bins of a plane so that I could get around easier, on my own, and lift it in and out of my car. I got it from KneeRover.com. It was their smallest and most lightweight scooter.IMG_1608
  3. How to get around. The first couple of weeks often times my co-workers, friends, and my Mom (who came up for my surgery) drove me around. It was easier. Occasionally I used uber. However, after I had the situation with the uber driver who wouldn’t pick me up due to my scooter, I was uncomfortable attempting that again. Once I got the light weight scooter I almost always drove myself back and forth to work. If I was going farther then 10 or 15 minutes from my apartment friends would drive.
  4. How to be comfortable at work. This one took quite a while to figure out. I was instructed to keep my leg elevated and iced for the first few weeks. At first I just used a chair to prop my leg up, then I used some couch pillows, then I used a combination. Eventually I ended up with a bed pillow on top of a wedge pillow which was on top of a plastic bin. I used bags of frozen peas / corn and would rotate them in and out of the freezer. 
  5. Sitting differently in my work chair was causing bed sores. I couldn’t sit still. Not only was my leg in pain, now my entire body was uncomfortable and in pain. A friend came up with the solution of a blow up donut pillow. It worked wonders. There are two different types that I used. Both are super inexpensive. The first one a friend bought and I used that one the longest. However, I blew it up too large one day and when I sat on it, the pillow got a rip in the seam and deflated. The second one (same type) ended up with a leak as well. The last one I had was made of more durable material and though I’m no longer using it, it is still useable and has no leaks. 
  6. Climbing up the steps into my apartment. My Doctors suggestion was to sit down and go up backwards and everywhere online I looked said the same thing. I would have to then wedge myself into a corner and crab walk backwards up the wall to get back into an upright position. Luckily had some very wide steps so eventually a friend gave me a metal folding chair that I could put on the step, I’d sit down, turn around, stand up, drag the chair up to the next step, and continue. This was so much easier. It also meant I could sit and take a moment or two when I was going from my car into my apartment with crutches or my walker.
  7. How to do laundry…get a super light weight folding hamper, once it is a quarter full drag it to the washing machine. Any fuller and I’d tip over.
  8. Cooking food. I didn’t do much of this the first month after having my leg injury. I didn’t have the strength nor the energy. It was friends bringing me food, ordering delivery, or making easy meals. Easy meals are salads, cold sandwiches, cottage cheese and fruit, or food you can throw into the oven that requires no seasoning, mixing, blending, cutting, peeling, etc… Once I had more energy, I’d pull  up a stool and sit on that while I cooked.
  9. Grocery shopping. Did you know that you can order groceries online and then delivered either to your apartment / house or delivered to your car. We currently don’t have a grocery store that delivers it to your home; however, if you go to the parking lot they will bring the groceries out and put them in your car. Of course I still needed someone to help haul my groceries into my place. There has only been one time where I was left hauling in groceries myself and lets just say I looked like a homeless bag lady. It took me an hour to haul them from my car to the inside of my apartment as the extra weight of the walker combined with the bags meant I couldn’t pull it up onto my stairs. I will not be doing that again.
  10. Carrying things when I don’t have two hands I can use. What saved me was a backpack, containers with lids, beverages in reusable bottles. A basket on a scooter would be good; however mine didn’t come with one and I didn’t want something so big. I wound up with a fanny pack that had cupholders in it that was designed to hook onto my scooter. It could carry other small items so I didn’t have to constantly take off my backpack when I needed my keys or wallet.
  11. Obstacles. Set up your living space to accommodate you and your new needs. This may mean moving everything out of the way. Or it may mean setting up your apartment to have everything where you need it to be. In my case it was setting up a corner just for me. A corner that had everything I needed from medication, extra bottles of water, my computer, chargers already plugged in, a sweatshirt, some snacks, blanket, pillow, garbage can, and fan.
  12. Purchase frozen peas and corn to use as an ice pack. Find a decent ice wrap such as a pillow case that you can put the frozen bag of veggies in and use an ace bandage wrap so you don’t have to wrap a towel around your leg. You don’t want the bag of frozen veggies directly on your splint as you aren’t supposed to get your splint wet. Some will use ice cubes or ice packs. However, I wanted something that was flexible enough to go around and not just sit awkwardly on my injury. I also bought multiple bags of peas / corn as I wanted to make sure I never had to wait for one to freeze as the other was being used.
  13. Cleaning is hard. I didn’t do much cleaning the last three months. I am now debating about hiring a cleaning service for a one time cleaning. To put it into perspective I cleaned out my refrigerator the other day including taking out the shelves. It took me two hours. Not because it was messy, I only had about 6 items in my fridge, but because I couldn’t stand on two legs.
  14. Taking a shower. Standing wasn’t an option, neither was sitting on the bottom of the tub. I struggled getting up from a seated position on the ground without having handicap rails. Combine that with a wet tub and not being able to get my splint wet meant I couldn’t pull myself into a standing position. Solution was a handicap seat that a friend brought to my house and put together. The hospital did give me a plastic wrap to put over my splint to make sure it didn’t get wet; however, with the pain I was in and the small size of the opening I couldn’t get my leg into the protected bag. So at first I would use three garbage bags and duct tape around my leg. Somehow the water would still get thru the first two bags. Eventually I figured out that I could just prop my leg on the side of the tub and cover it with the shower curtain to keep it away from the water. This worked way better. Did you know that some American Legions in the United States allow you to check out items to use for free as long as you return them? I didn’t know it at the time. However, it worked great when I headed back home for a visit. If you ever find yourself injured and needing crutches, a walker, a raised toilet seat, a shower seat, etc… give your local American Legion a call. They are a life saver.
  15. Brushing my teeth and putting on makeup. I brushed my teeth in the kitchen for a month. It was just easier. And I didn’t put on makeup for almost two months. It again was easier as it already took me two times longer to get ready in the morning. As my arms and legs got stronger I was able to stand one legged in my bathroom and get ready.
  16. Getting dressed. This one was a struggle. I couldn’t bend my leg and foot the way I needed to which meant putting on pants was near impossible. I had one pair of work pants that could fit over my splint. I had that pair on when I went to the doctors. They wound up taking off one splint and putting on a new one on. The new one was lighter weight; however, it was also larger. I couldn’t get my pants off that day. I had a friend over and she tried assisting me with my pants. We wound up cutting my pants off. I was laughing and crying at this. A friend and my Mom went out and purchased some larger legged pants, skirts, and shorts for me.
  17. Go to Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy is often times an option the Doctor suggests. Do yourself and your body a favor and go. Some people believe that they don’t need the therapy. However, a person can always learn something new. Before I started therapy I couldn’t bear weight, I couldn’t walk correctly, and I could hardly move my ankle. I still have a long ways to go; however, I’m lightyears from where I was a few weeks ago.
  18. Be patient. Being a doctor is basically being a practitioner of medicine…aka practice of medicine. They are learning as they go. I’m basically the exact opposite of what my Physical Therapists have seen. I’ve got a whole team working with me. We have discovered that what comes easy for me is hard for most and what’s hard for me is easy for others. They have done research and have come up empty handed. So we’ve had to get creative.
  19. Do your research, ask questions, make suggestions. Work as a team. Don’t expect them to have all the answers. It may be frustrating; however, life isn’t made to be easy.

Again, I’m not sure how I would have managed without the love and support of my friends, family, and co-workers. So many people went out of their way to help me. 6 months later and I’m still needing assistance with certain things. I don’t enjoy asking for help; however, I’m getting better at realizing that it’s okay to ask for help or accept the help people are willing to to give you. Suck up your pride. Someday you may be able to return the favor.

 

 

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