Life on Hold…

Imagine out of the blue you had to put your entire life on hold. Full stop. Not negotiable.

It’s something we all dread and know can happen at any time.

That’s where I am right now. Sixteen days ago I was hit by a car. My life as it was stopped.

Now, the simplest of of daily tasks are exhausting and time-consuming. I have been labeled “home-bound” by my insurance company. For someone who’s unofficial motto is “Home is a four-letter word,” that is a terribly hard thing to hear. Everything I love to do is now not an option. No hiking. No motorcycle. No yoga. I go days without leaving my loft. That’s right… me. Because it’s that hard.

I still don’t have any idea when I’ll regain the first shred of normalcy in my life. It’s taken me awhile to grasp the severity of this, mainly because I know the potential for how much worse I could have ended up. Trying to reconcile the difficulty of my current position with gratitude for it not being worse is a awkward dance.

What I’m up against…

Medically, I’ve suffered a major trauma. That included an vein-to-artery bypass on my femoral artery and two transfusions. A rod and screws now permanently resides along the entire length of my femur. The broken fibula looks to be healing without further intervention other than immobilization. I have a minor concussion that leaves my head spinning much of the day. My left leg is a macabre train track of nearly three-feet worth of incisions and staples. The feeling has largely returned to my foot but not totally. The extent of possible permanent nerve damage isn’t known yet and probably won’t be for some time.

And even though there doesn’t appear to be new damage to last year’s hand injury, it’s very sore, stiff, and weak after being bruised and battered in the crash. I do have a minor fracture in the tip of that same thumb so I get numbness there from time-to-time.

Watching what my body is going through to try to heal from all of this is astounding. There’s the “Wow, the human body is amazing!” aspect as well as the flip-side that really all I can do is rest because my body is using absolutely every resource it has in order to heal. And it’s getting there. I’m certainly surpassing my doctor’s expectations but, even so, there’s a certain amount of time this takes. I have four more weeks of non-weight-bearing on the leg and another six weeks beyond that of rehab and therapy in order to get to a point where I’ll be able to get back on the trails.

I’ve been debating how detailed to go with this but I want to put a real face on this experience so I have to be brutally honest about what these last two-and-a-half weeks have been like.

The ugly logistical tidbits…

I’ve struggled to organize this into a coherent narrative so instead I’ve compiled a snapshot of the things I face now:

val in real life
My odd little world where I have to wear two different shoes to accommodate my foot brace.

  • My daily life at home largely consists of moving from the bed to the living room. And back. Because that’s basically all I can manage from both an energy-level and pain standpoint. I was hoping I’d be a little further along by now but hobbling on crutches or a walker is not only exhausting, it aggravates my hand.
  • Showers are a nearly hour-long ordeal so I’m partaking sparingly. Again, an exhausting exercise of trying to manipulate once-simple tasks of undressing, bathing, re-bandaging wounds, etc. all without the benefit of being able to stand or even bend my swollen, misshapen leg.
  • Sleep is fitful and sporadic due to constant discomfort and the need to maintain leg elevation. Every muscle in my body is aching and tense from lop-sided maneuvering. There’s just no way to get comfortable. I can only sleep for 30-45 minutes at a time.
  • Because of the vascular surgery, I have to give myself an injection of blood thinners every day.
  • What limited energy I have is reserved for managing the detritus of this mess. Navigating the legal, financial, and medical implications is nearly all-consuming.
  • I’m only functioning at a very basic level. Thanks to an army of remarkable people, I’m managing to stay fed, somewhat bathed, and get to the multitude of doctor’s appointments that now run my life.
  • Obviously I can’t drive or run even the most basic of errands. It’s taking a team of people to get the boys to and from their classes and me to appointments.
  • Much of my day consists of deciding how badly I want things like that next cup of coffee or a bathroom break because the energy needed to do those things is daunting.
  • You’d think because I’m largely sedentary, I have a lot of free time to catch up on computer-based things. Not so. Aside from the constant phone calls and hassles of managing this situation, basic tasks take about four times as long, and even sitting up for any length of time is exhausting. My head is in a fog from sleep-deprivation and the concussion.

The emotional strain…

When every little detail of your life is a struggle, it takes it’s toll. Throw in the uncertainty of the financial implications of this and the inability to work and it quickly ramps up to a high-stress situation… which is exactly what your body doesn’t need to heal.

val in real life
A little dose of happiness visiting Marlo.

Two-and-a-half weeks doesn’t seem like a large chunk most of the time. This has been an eternity. And this is just the beginning. Even though I know I’ll get better, I don’t really know how whole I’ll be in the end.

It’s hard to keep the thoughts at bay… all the things I had planned for this year that are now cancelled or uncertain. Many trips for February and March simply had to be scrapped. Later spring trips are all dependent upon how well physical therapy proceeds. And looking further into the year, even summer and fall plan are in limbo as well as I watch and wait to see how this goes. From a work standpoint, I can’t pick up freelance gigs because I have no idea when I’ll be able to deliver. My best guess is that this is a six-month setback.

I’m trying not to dwell on that… what’s been taken from me. I have to accept where I am now, regroup, and rebuild. But waves of frustration are inevitable, especially when those plans are your work as well as your life. I’m wary of acceptance becoming resignation. It’s a slippery slope. Fortunately I have a lot of people on my team watching out for me and who I know will give me a kick in the ass if needed.

I started this recovery project with the mindset that I will be ok. And certainly everyone who knows me has no doubts. But that’s that danger of strength rearing it’s head again, because it’s not a foregone conclusion that I will get back to where I was. As you can probably guess, I have a lot of ups and downs… the times where I dig in and fight fiercely and the times where it’s all so overwhelming.

Why I hope you’ll take this to heart…

I detail all of this because I want to humanize this experience. I’m just me but I’m also a mom, a friend, a sister, a daughter… I hope you’ll see I represent what can happen to any of us or our loved ones at any time and how we conduct ourselves when we get behind the wheel counts. We have each other’s lives in our hands when we’re out in the world and it’s amazingly easy how quickly we can alter the course of each other’s lives.

And yes, I’m lucky to be alive. We’re all lucky to be alive. We all face the possibility of a tragic encounter every single day. Yes, I’m grateful to still be here. But I’m not going to apologize for being on a motorcycle even though so many people want to blame that. I took every precaution aside from bubble-wrapping my life. When it comes to auto vs. motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian, the car will always win, regardless of fault. But that doesn’t mean we should not walk or ride. It means we as drivers need to take more care and recognize cars do not own the road. It must be shared.

Where to go from here…

I’ve got a long road ahead of me and really my goal for the next several months is to not fade away or let this define my future. After two weeks of spinning out of control, I hope some normalcy returns and I continue to make gains in tackling basic survival. It’s one thing to be ill for a couple of days but when you’re sidelined for months, the task of maintaining your stamina for recovery requires patience and perseverance. I hope I have what it takes. I hope in a year this will be a footnote in my life.

Finding happiness…

Since I’m deprived of the things I do to be happy, I’ve had to discover new ways to keep myself motivated and positive.

val in real life
The Disapproving Beagle was entirely put out that I repurposed his tennis balls. And his antics were a much-needed laugh.

I love seeing pictures my friends out adventuring. The irreverent teasing of my friends reminds me I am loved. Even those silly cute animal videos on Facebook are a source of positive energy. And as cheesy as it is, reading the stories of people who have overcome far more than I face remind me this is a temporary and largely recoverable situation, even though in the midst of it, it often seems insurmountable.

The overwhelming support that has poured out from this reminds me I’m not alone. I don’t know where I would be without the emotional and logistical support I’ve received. In the end, that is the well-spring of happiness that will carry me through.

When I look at the difficulty I face being confined and dependent, I have to wonder if it’s harder for adventurous types to be completely down-for-the-count. I think it might be. Because for us, it’s not just losing a little part of your life, it’s losing nearly everything you love to do and everything you are as a person. Fortunately for me it’s temporary. But weathering the recovery is no small task.

Cheers, friends. Live large and adventure on.

And now for your moment of green…

val in real life
Like my millipede friend here, I feel like I’ve had to curl up in a little ball until the threat has passed… I feel ya, buddy.

14 thoughts on “Life on Hold…

  1. It all sucks, Val. I know exactly how you feel. I don’t want to take anything away from what you are having to deal with, I wasn’t hit by a car, but I’ve spent the better part of the last 18 months exactly like you are now. It is no fun. It is miserable. And the mental hardship can be worse than the physical injury. You’ll have your recovery and hopefully come back to as close to 100% as you can get. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I hope that your day-to-day pain level isn’t too bad. Fighting constant pain is a huge mental battle, and not one you always win.

    Get better. We’ll wait.

    D

    1. Yep. Not a fun time. Trying to manage my expectations and keep a steady recovery pace. It’s delicate balance.

      There are so many facets that are difficult. The frustration of having to re-plan and rework my whole year, personally and professionally, is what often gets to me.

      We’ll commiserate at OX, how’s that? I’ll try not to cry in my beer for not being able to ride there.

  2. I was thinking about you as I sat hooked up to an IV in the hospital last week. There are moments that I don’t want to remember, like these. Through these i come back stronger – more passionate, more driven and enjoy the next adventure so much more. I know you will too. So in the meantime, heal, be kind to yourself and take it slow. Best wishes, and thanks for writing through the fog. You struck a chord.

    1. Yes, I believe you are right about that, Holly. I’m more fired up than ever to get back to my life as it was even though I have to bide my time and navigate my recovery carefully.

      Thanks for your support. πŸ™‚

  3. Being knocked down allows for a deliberate rise to a original starting point. You are a resilient, fearless, & tough woman. Use your wit and cutting sarcasm to your advantage on those stressful encounters, most are empathetic so you will be met with silence, which is comical. Adventurous people survive, when shackled, by planning dateless future adventures. Vicariousness is vital to victory for Val.

  4. I’ve been there – and it is ROUGH. you’ve described it exactly – and not knowing what the future holds is a difficult thing to live with. my thoughts are with you! <3

    1. Yes, the uncertainty can eat at you. It takes diligence to keep that in check and focus on what you can do to improve your situation.

      Thank you, Jessie.

  5. It’s now 12:13 am here and cold. I am laying in bed unable to sleep in spite of the plethora of modern pain management chemistry I have swallowed. THE ALTERNATING THROBBING and burning a constant reminder of the broken fibula and shattered heel bone that occurred on January 2nd. I am a life long motorcyclist, racer,and instructor so injuries are nothing new to me. But your article portrays so well my current daily “life” as it were. And yes it’s a tough choice between brushing my teeth or shaving because of the limited energy and swelling that occurs. …almost comical in a way…..if it didn’t hurt so much.
    But the Dr. Says maybe 7 more weeks and I may be walking again so there’s hope for some normalcy. I take solace daily in my faith and the fact that I am only wearing out one shoe at a time right now…..and I have one good leg.
    So take care, stay positive and rest assured life will be waiting for us when we return. And I say BRING IT ON !! Better to burn out than to fade away….
    P.s. Beagles Rock.

    1. Thank you for sharing that. It’s a delicate balance between being grateful for what you still have and the difficulty of everyday life when this is your existence. A bit surreal.

      I like that… “Better to burn out than fade away.”

      Wishing you a successful recovery and return to riding.

      I’ll give the beagle your regards. πŸ˜‰

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