Ever find yourself on a mountaintop, musing, “Now how the hell did I get up HERE?”
That would be me. I’m having a small surgical procedure in the morning, which apparently caused me to sit back, notice the mountain, and decide it’s not a bad place to be. Since it’s Morganica Mountain, of course, it’s a bit …odd.
Thank you, God of Adventure.
A year ago I was planning a 10-mile hike; today I own 5 wheelchairs, six walkers, about a million grab bars and three floor-to-ceiling poles that just scream to be danced on.
A year ago I was starting a renovation on my house that included a new deck, new roof, and replacement windows; now I’m renovating the upstairs for wheelchairs and one-legged people (not that I’m one-legged, most determinedly NOT). I’m moving the laundry upstairs and right now I’m living in a hospital bed in a closet because it’s the only place in the house NOT under construction.
On Friday night, Sept. 16, 2016, I fractured my left femur just above Elmo, my replacement knee. I lived in a wheelchair, facing hip-high amputation of my left leg, for about two years while I fought health care bureaucracy, cost-conscious HMOs, and myself to figure out a way to walk again. (Spoiler alert: Elmo won!)
I documented my adventures in remobilization in this blog. They’re awfully self-indulgent, occasionally icky, and probably only of interest to me, but on the off-chance that they help someone else with a catastrophic injury, I’m keeping them together here. If you don’t want to read them, that’s OK; I still love you. If you do, you might want to start from the beginning, on the archive page that lists all posts.
My house is wired for sound, monitored by eight cameras, and increasingly computerized; immobility turns out to be a great reason for home automation. It’s a lot easier to check the security cameras to see if the garage door is open than to laboriously clamber down two flights of stairs to view it in person. I talk to the lights to turn them on, query the room for opinions and weather reports, and opened the front door in Portland all the way from Redwood City, California. (THAT was a hoot)
I have a shed in the back that will eventually become a coldworking and sculpture studio; I’d thought about it for years but never really got the gumption to build one until the PT suggested the garage stop being a studio and start being a car-house. Somehow that evolved into 160 square feet of shed right where the (hated) lawn used to be.
At the moment the shed doesn’t hold coldworking or sculpture supplies; it holds Nathan and his dog Monty. Monty’s an elderly bichon frise; Nathan’s a carpenter, most decidedly NOT of the Jesus variety. He works for my contractor, Apple, and winds up doing most of the renovation on my house. He needed a place to stay just as the shed was roofing out, and I thought, well, since he was commuting here everyday anyway…
It’s working out. Nate likes his privacy as much as I like mine; so mostly we keep out of each others’ way. He may be the only human on the planet whose God of Adventure is even more mischievous than mine.
Weekday mornings around 5, the front door chimes softly, and Nathan comes quietly up the stairs (the shed has many things, but bathroom ain’t one of them). He feeds the cats, cleans the litter box (that alone pays his way) and plays with them awhile, then heads off to his meeting. He comes back around 8:00, when I’m getting up and ready for work. He makes me a cup of coffee to go, I schedule a ride to work from Lyft, and we start our respective days.
I rarely see him unless we’re talking tile choices or room dimensions, but he’ll obligingly come in if I need to reach something up high, or if Lola (memorably) catches a mouse that needs disposal. Sometimes he patiently drives me to the doc or picks up groceries. His is a world I’ll never know, and he’ll be gone when the house is finished, but right now he’s a bit of a godsend.
It strikes me that, of all the lessons I’ve learned this year, this is the really important one:You never know where your friends come from, or how many you have, until you need them more than they need you.
I work on the third floor of an office building; this week, the power died at 3:30 and reports said it wouldn’t come back on until 7:45 or later. My colleagues started to stream out of the office…then stopped.
“Cynthia,” said one, “How are you going to get home? The elevators aren’t working.”
I settled in glumly, expecting a loooooong, hot wait (it was over 100 degrees outside and the AC was dead, too), but my team decided otherwise.
“Come on! We’ll HELP you down the stairs. We’ll carry your wheelchair down for you.” And they did. In the end, I clambered down three flights of stairs on my bottom, surrounded by teammates who made sure I didn’t fall.
You find your friends in unexpected places…like in the backyard shed, or a stairwell at work. Or in your own family. Or online.
My life right now is very, very different from what I thought it would be, but deeper, richer, and more educational than I’d ever imagined. I’m still on the mountain, no idea where I go from here, but thanks to friends and family, I’m enjoying the view.