Dealing with the unexpected

Things can certainly change pretty fast, especially when you fall down the stairs.

At around 1.45am on August 15th I was bouncing backwards down the steep staircase in my house. By the time I’d stopped moving and was lying in a heap at the bottom I’d torn my right shoulder ligaments and ruptured my left Achilles tendon, plus bruising and friction burns. The past week has been a blur of tests and visits to hospital and now I have a large boot, very like a long ski boot, wrapped tightly round my left calf, ankle and foot, where it will stay for several weeks.

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I cannot imagine how someone without health insurance in a less enlightened society would access the expertise and care that has been so quickly been available to me at no cost, through the NHS.

The shoulder is improving, but using the keyboard can be painful and the physio recommends only 30 minutes maximum without a rest.  And mobility will be an issue for 6-8 weeks while the big boot remains in place.

Being partially immobilised is – at its most objective – an interesting experience. Every movement has to be considered and planned cognitively, to find the most efficient and painless way of getting from A to B while protecting the damaged bits of your body. The processing as much as the physical constraints slow you down. Nothing can be taken for granted and done fast or automatically.

Clothes are an issue: getting trousers over the big boot is almost impossible, I hardly ever wear skirts or dresses, and the top half garments have to be donned without too much pressure on the shoulder. Even underwear takes time and care. And the key criterion is that all these necessary daily functions must be done without help. I have lived alone for most of the past 35 years and value being able to do so.

I know that many people have far harder challenges this to deal with all the time. My accident has brought temporary inconvenience and I understand how fortunate I am by comparison. Much of the necessary adjustment is in my head, to stay practical and positive and not sit around feeling helpless and old. And I’ll have to learn to ask for help when I need it, at least for the next few weeks, and not to demand too much of myself. I have no doubt I will make a full recovery. Being retired I have no work considerations or responsibilities to worry about.

Things happen. Unexpected events make you think, and jolt you out of assumptions and habits. In that sense dealing with the unexpected is probably a useful part of our human existence, as long as it’s not unbearably painful.

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