Clumsy me. I managed to fall down a flight of stairs while leaving the office in April 2009, breaking both ankles. I'm not sure what happened. I was upright, and then I was not. The irony is that I always took the stairs instead of the elevator to be "heart healthy". There was only a minor fracture of the left ankle, but the right one needed a metal plate and nine screws. The injury obviously could have been much worse, and I'm grateful that I only broke my ankles. Recovery was stifled somewhat by two bouts of pancreatitis and gall bladder removal. While I despised the set back, I'm also grateful for it. My gratitude extends deeper than that. I'm also grateful for three months spent in a wheelchair. I learned a lot about myself, my family, and my friends. I don't recommend throwing yourself down a flight of stairs, but the experience did teach me a few things.
This is what I learned:
1. I'm not a very humble person. It took every ounce of energy within me to let others help me. Using a portable commode and depending on family members to empty and clean it was the most humiliating experience of my life. It was a humbling experience. It was also humbling to let others help bathe me. I became pretty adept at getting around in a wheelchair, and found it difficult when someone wanted to push me. It was humbling to realize that sometimes even when I can do something for myself it is wise to accept help from others.
2. Being a hermit is not for me -- actually, I always thought I would be happy as a hermit; now I know differently. To say that I had cabin fever is the understatement of the century. I've always been pretty happy to stay home, but I always had options until the accident. I need options.
3. My friends truly care about my needs. I was floored at the generosity of my friends. It wasn't just a get well card, or a flower arrangement (although there were those also). My friends really analyzed my needs and what they could do to help. One good friend came to visit and brought me one of those things with claws on it so that I could reach things for myself. I no longer had to ask a family member to jump up and bring me a pillow if it was within reaching distance of my little claw. I learned to use my little tool to clamp onto the arm of the wheelchair and pull it toward me from across the room. I was able to pick up things that I dropped without asking for help. Another friend loaned me her laptop computer -- which saved my sanity -- and probably my marriage. I was connected to the world, even if I couldn't leave my home. Another friend built a wheelchair ramp for me so that I was no longer a hermit. Another friend came over every couple of weeks and sat with me for several hours and just let me talk -- and oh, how I needed that release!
4. I learned that I can survive a rough period without being too much of a whiner. I had my whiney days, of course, but I learned that I was able to keep them to a minimum by keeping myself busy with the laptop computer and word game books.
5. My kids love me, even if they don't realize it. When push came to shove, they all found themselves in my court. Mom often has to be the bad guy, and my husband and I usually end up playing "Good Cop/Bad Cop" -- and guess which one is me? In the end, I learned that even the Bad Cop is loved. That was nice to learn.
6. My sweet "Good Cop" husband can be an angry black bear coming out of hybernation if he thinks someone isn't taking good care of me. I saw him stand up for me in the hospital when stupidity was running amuck -- and suddenly the head of the department was doing my gall bladder surgery.
7. I'm stronger than I thought. I've always been accused of being hard as nails, but most of it is a show so I don't get hurt. I learned that when I need real inner strength, I do have it in me.
8. Prayers are answered. I always knew this, but this was reiterated to me many times during my recovery. My Heavenly Father and my Saviour are there for me always.
Yes, I'm grateful for three months in a wheelchair. While I'm not looking forward to my old age, I now know that I will survive it.