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:
- 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 its 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.
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.
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.
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.