As you all know, A couple of weeks ago, I had a bad fall and the two bones in my right leg just snapped like a twig. So I thought I’d talk about some of my personal experiences with this new… Lifestyle?
So a broken foot/leg almost always means a cast for six weeks and a leg that from the knee down, was practically unusable. And I mean, there are only so many things your leg actually does for you from the knee up, let’s be honest.
So, how has life been?
Before this accident, I hadn’t really thought about how life is for disabled people in our community. When you are healthy, things like walking and seeing and hearing are just trivial. They don’t even come up in your mind.
Sure, when you see someone in a wheelchair or with a cane, it might briefly flash through your head, but you can’t really understand unless you take part in it.
These last three weeks, I have had a little taste of what life is like when you are one leg down and have to move around in a wheelchair. I opted for the wheelchair because I was forbidden any kind of pressure on my bad leg, so falling with crutches would probably result in a small disaster and since I have a tightly fitted cast, having my leg down for long will result in swelling, tightness, and pain. And that being said, there is only so far you can go on crutches. And for me, that would be around 50 meters before my upper body muscles start tensing up and I sweat and pant like a dog.
So the biggest eye opener for me was probably this one: your muscles are not as strong as you think they are.
I mean, am not a sports freak or a health nut. But I do cook and eat relatively healthy food, I try to walk when I go somewhere instead of taking buses, and I am watching my weight.
But I would consider myself a pretty average person when it comes to health and strength. I mean, I always thought I was pretty strong since I definitely have some muscles on my body.
But with one limb out of the running ( hahaha, running) the whole balance of your body changes. You have to use different kinds of muscles in a different combination in a different way and it just sucks.
There are muscles in my butt which I hadn’t felt before now and I can tense up my boobs. I mean. Come on!
( Little update: I now have a very weird stinging pain on the muscles on the right side of my chest. Must be from my crutches or favouring my left side. But it is not pleasant…)
Life inside my house.
For the first two weeks, I stayed at my parents’ house, which is probably like most of your parents’ houses. Much bigger than you could ever effort now without having to pay off loans for 200 years. It has two floors and separate rooms for everything, which is a big difference from where I live. Now, I had the luck that our living room and kitchen are connected without doors and I could roll from and to the kitchen in my wheelchair. Now, I could hop this distance on my crutches, of course, but then I had no hands free.
And what do you do in a kitchen? You eat, of course.
So with my crutches, I couldn’t even open the fridge or take my own plate. I couldn’t help my parents with cooking or basically do anything else than hop.
That is what annoyed me most about crutches. You literally need your whole freaking body just to go somewhere. So I ditched those almost immediately and rolled around in my wheelchair and hopped around on one leg like a kid when I wanted to use my hands. Hence the flamingo.
Effective? Also yes!
But for two weeks, the second floor of my house was off limits. Not because I was forbidden to go there, no simply because I hadn’t figured out how to go up the stairs. In my first week, my cast was so heavy that there was no way I could slide up our wooden stairs without my leg damaging every step. After week two, I slowly figured out how to coordinate my butt and my arms so that I could get up and down. But it was such a hassle, I just avoided it.
Going to the bathroom? Now, that was interesting. If you have to pee, you just stand up, walk to the bathroom and do your business.
When you have only one working leg, it goes a little bit different.
When you realise you have to pee, you just die a little inside and mentally go: NOOOOOO. Then you just sit a moment in pure and utter defeat contemplating on exactly how urgently you have to use the loo. So when you realise that waiting won’t make it better, you have to prepare yourself to make a whole journey to the toilet. You have to jump up, I had to find my crutches or wheelchair and roll towards door number 1. Opening it was just plain awkward and if I hadn’t had enough of that, I had to open door number 2 to the bathroom itself. Then you have to do weird hops and turns and kinda hope the toilet won’t break overtime you plop down on that seat since with one leg, you just kinda fall down.
And if you thought it was over, it is not. Try wiping your butt when you only have one leg to lean on. Maybe it is no issue for you, but I had a freaking hard time figuring out how to balance myself so I wouldn’t slip off the seat.
And this is all for your own bathroom. Imagine going out and having to use someone else’s bathroom? What if there are stairs? What if you can’t reach it with your crutches? What if you can’t reach the toilet paper?
Going out meant checking my bladder and carefully thinking out where and when I would have to use a toilet. I mean, after all, there is no way to QUICKLY use the toilet.
After two weeks, I decided to move back to my own place.
Luckily my house is very small. ( Because life is freaking expensive.) But with only one leg, this was actually a blessing in disguise. It meant I could hop around on one leg and reach everything at the usual speed without any real problems or delays. It was awesome.
And in my tiny house, I finally felt like this cast wasn’t hindering me.
But of course, being alone brought on different problems. I didn’t have to use a wheelchair to go to the bathroom anymore and I positioned my couch so that I could rest on it when doing my dishes, but as I conquered the inside, the outside became harder.
If I wanted to go outside, it meant I had to go alone because I didn’t have anyone of my family to help or assist. It meant getting a freaking heavy wheelchair out the door and down a couple of steps while being balanced on one foot.
And I am a person that is off balance when I am standing on both my legs. Yes, I fall and trip a lot even with two working limbs. Which is probably why I have a broken foot now.
So although it is possible, it is a hassle. You don’t go anywhere fast. You can’t just pop to the story for a quick errand. Everything you do has to be calculated and planned. And you need to set at least thrice as much time apart for it as before. And that is just with one working limb down. I can’t even imagine how life would be when you are wheelchair bound or have another kind of disadvantage.
Also, while you are in the outside world, you will notice that it takes longer than before to get somewhere because rolling with your arms is exhausting. And what is up with all those wobbly sidewalks? Do they want me to slip into traffic?
You have to get used to the stares because people WILL look at you and ask you what happened, so be prepared for some additional socialising.
Bending down or reaching up in a grocery store requires a balance check and a safety net. A crutch really close by, a wheelchair you can fall into, a bar you can grab, …
So far, I think that if I hadn’t had a store 50m from my house, doing groceries would be a day trip. And that is not even a joke. Just getting to the store would be so time consuming.
So we had some practical things. What about going out for fun?
Well, for now, partying is out of the question. I mean, I can’t dance, so there is no use in that. Plus all the drunk people around my broken foot would just be asking for trouble.
I can really only move around in a radius of 1km around my house because asking my friends to push me farther makes me feel embarrassed. Especially since I can only roll myself for about a couple of 100 meters.
So living in a city really does help since everything is closer in proximity. But still.
Public transportation would be a real struggle on my own. But neither I nor my friends have dared to get on a bus or tram because we just aren’t comfortable enough with this lumpy piece of metal they call a wheelchair.
And if you think hopping around on crutches is already difficult, try it on a moving vehicle. No thanks.
There are practically no restaurants, bars, stores, movie theaters, … that have broad isles or lifts or are wheelchair proof. Most of them are cramped, have steps everywhere and are just impossible for me to visit.
So if I didn’t have such good friends that don’t mind tethering to my needs, I would probably just end up decomposing on my couch since there are only so many places you can go.
That being said, there are some positive things to this broken leg.
1. I am training all sorts of muscles that I usually wouldn’t.
2. There are more helpful and friendly people out there than you would think. Everyone is always willing to lend a hand or move a table or get an extra chair.
3. I get a glimpse into a life I couldn’t have possibly understood before this experience. I can only imagine how life would be if you have no working legs. It already changes so much with one leg down, but I can still stand up and jump over a step or get down stairs on my bum. And in three weeks, I will be back to having two feet. But if you are confined to a wheelchair the whole time? Our society isn’t build for that. At all.
And it is a shame because when you are in a wheelchair a little step could literally be Mount Everest. Either way, you are not getting over it. You aren’t going out that much because there are so many places you can’t reach. And with that, I mean restrooms. The dread of not being able to pee whenever you want is enough to keep you home.
So I now have a newfound respect for stores that include lifts and make broad isles and have handicapped toilets, because those really are a game changer. Even a simple ramp can make all the difference.
While I can not change how this society works, I will carry this experience with me and maybe one day, when I can influence something of importance, I will try to keep in mind that our planet is filled with all sorts of people that need all sorts of things. And I sincerely hope that you will too.
Oh, and to end this all, I have something funny for you. To the ironic bastard who called my wheelchair “delight”? I hope you burn in hell.