Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Injury Post #1: Don't Stand So Close to Me

[caption id="attachment_648" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Sitting on my walker seat, waiting for a bus in my cam walker (i.e., the boot). Sitting on my walker seat, waiting for a bus in my cam walker (i.e., the boot).[/caption]
On May 9, 2013, a month ago last Sunday, I fell off of a ladder and sustained a compound fracture to my right ankle.  The injury has been the most physically painful and gruesome  experiences of my life.  While I have been making steady progress in my recovery, I am still looking at two months of physical therapy and toddling around in a cam walker.  If I had been forced to comment, prior to my accident, on the look I would be sporting this summer, I probably wouldn’t have extolled the beauty of wounded dinosaur chic . . . because wounded dinosaurs are not cute nor are they chic.

I, dear readers, am a wounded dinosaur.

Sadly, styling a cam walker isn’t the biggest challenge I have been facing as of late.  Perhaps the biggest challenge I have had encountered as of late has been other people-- not in an existential sense (always a problem), but in a physical one.  Literally, people are super rude and careless around me and it’s a danger to my well-being.

Since getting fitted for my cam walker last week, I have been making small sojourns with my mom (and sometimes THE FOOSA) around my neighborhood.  These little journeys, while certainly not far, are vital to rebuilding my physical strength and are necessary in building my confidence.  While I’ve quickly taken to the cam walker and have become adept at using my four-wheeled walker to get around; I’ve noticed that my impaired mobility is less an issue for me than it is for other people.

When I toddle down the sidewalk or hobble down an aisle in a store I am keenly aware of the space I am taking up, so I try to keep to the right. I know my walker is clunky and I know that I hobble around at a sub-snail pace; I know all of these things.  So, I try to keep to the right and out of other people’s way as much as I can; I’m not oblivious to the needs or concerns of others, I am a (partially) functioning member of society.  This non-negotiable courtesy I extend to others, this essential component of the social contract, isn’t reciprocated.

[caption id="attachment_649" align="aligncenter" width="251"]The road warrior. The road warrior.[/caption]
Within the past week, I have been crashed into more times than the wall at Daytona.  For whatever reason, I am either invisible to other people or my compromised physical condition and gimpy-gait mean nothing to some folks.  If it weren’t for my tank-like walker and my mom spotting me, I probably would have taken a tumble on several occasions.

Before my accident, I can’t say that I was particularly cognizant of people with limited mobility myself.  When you don’t have any difficulty getting between points A and B, you think nothing of zipping around someone leaning on a walker or puttering about in a wheelchair, these individuals are nothing more than a physical obstacle to avoid when you’re on the hunt for discounter dryer sheets.  In “normal” day-to-day life, where you don’t have to be hyper aware of your movements and anxious about where other people are at any given moment, “slow” people are like debris on the metaphoric road of life.  You try to avoid hitting one of these “obstacles” so you don’t cause yourself damage or the insurance headache, but otherwise give them little to no thought.


The next time you are in Target, train your eye on an elderly person with a walker and pay attention the people walking around them; odds are, people will get really close to said-hypothetical-pensioner before cutting in front of them at the last moment-- like they would avoid a discarded muffler on the highway.

On behalf of all of the hypothetically discarded mufflers of the world, let me just say that it sucks to be treated like an inanimate object, worse yet an inanimate object without worth, feelings, or a sense of pain.  When I had my accident, I lost some blood but not my humanity; to have people I don’t even know try strip me of my human dignity-- to not even afford me the space I need to safely move in non-confined spaces and sneer at me when I say something about it-- is infuriating.  Worse yet, I am ashamed that I have been guilty of the same offense against others in the past.  Your pace and your personal worth aren’t correlated; having limited mobility doesn’t make you less of a person or make you disposable.  Just because I’m slow doesn’t mean you get to push me over to get a bag of cotton balls!

Do me a favor: the next time you’re out and about and you see someone with limited mobility-- be they elderly, disabled, or just injured like me-- please give that person some space.

And maybe a smile.



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