My Life on Crutches
Allison Young posted an interesting look at her day in a wheelchair (November 5, 2010). I never got around to posting. Now I'm glad, because I get to post from an entirely different perspective.
When I was in PT school, we also had "A Day in the Life" exercises. My mobility device was a wheelchair. The most memorable aspect was when people spoke to my caregiver rather than to me. Even in the cafeteria food line, they asked the person standing with me what I wanted, rather than asking me what I'd like to eat. I suppose because I was in the wheelchair, they assumed I must be unable to carry on a conversation or make any decisions. The other memory that sticks out is the large number of people who offered to open the door for me; I appreciated that action as a kindness.
Flash forward 23 years. I'm on crutches, for real, for the first time ever. To add insult to injury, I'm non-weight bearing. These are my observations so far:
● No one is asking my caregiver questions. Everyone is addressing me. Even when I'm in a wheelchair (thank you Best Buy!), people have looked me in the eye and spoken directly to me. Refreshing.
● People are still holding doors open. I'm even more grateful now than I was then.
● If people are looking at me piteously, I'm too busy looking at the pavement - trying not to land on it again - to notice. If they are looking at me with pity, I don't blame them. I would pity me too. These crutches are hard!
● There are those who look at me as if I am someplace I don't belong, like they are being inconvenienced by my presence. I don't mind the pity looks, but I do mind the "What are you doing here?" looks. You can tell the difference.
● Most people are compassionate and accommodating, pausing to allow me to go first or mindful of my position and giving me a wide berth. However, there are those (adults and children) who cut me off or push ahead. I can't quite decide if it is out of rudeness or obliviousness.
● Non-weight bearing on crutches is far more of an inconvenience than an arm in a cast - even your dominant arm. I didn't realize how much I could do with a broken right arm, until I broke my right foot.
● Teaching crutches when you are completely able-bodied is nothing like using them when you have a weighted boot/cast on a leg that cannot bear weight.
● Time, especially 20 years of it, is not a friend to balance, coordination or strength. If my next 23-year flash-forward includes a broken hip, I'll want to do it with muscles that have been kept active. I'm not sure how I'll fit it in, but an exercise routine is no longer optional.