Many friends ask where I am after a crippling accident I was involved in some 8 months ago.
As soon as I came home from rehab I swapped morphine patches for panadol. I spend part of my day exercising, one hour on a pedal machine, carry weights on my ankle, tackle twice weekly Pilates, walk around the block, do my best to strengthen my withered thigh and leg. But no matter how hard I aim to get back to ‘normal’, this accident has left its indelible mark. Just like going through chemotherapy, I developed bald patches, teeth cracked, fillings fell out, fingernails split, and my leg is so scarred and ugly, it must always be covered from a stranger’s gaze. I tire quickly and my leg feels as if I was given a stranger’s limb in lieu of my own and must learn to love it.
More positively, I find I can write, give talks in schools and clubs as an author, cook, climb stairs, shop, manage some gentle housekeeping and walk several kilometers using a zimmer-frame or a walking stick, even if it takes me twice as long to get there.
I have also learnt what life must be like for the permanently disabled. Showering and dressing takes far longer, as does preparing a simple meal. Shop counters and cafe counters are far too high for anyone in a wheelchair. Try being in a wheelchair, being handed a hot coffee and then carrying it to an empty table on the other side of the room. Sometimes chairs are packed so closely together, it is impossible to wend one’s way through them without disturbing other tables. Too many restaurants and other venues only have upstairs toilets. Doorways are often too narrow to roll or push through. People will shout if they see you in a wheelchair, assuming you must either be simple or deaf. Older trams, the ones closest to where I live, have steps too high to mount. Buses take a long time to lower their platforms. Roads are a menace because young drivers appear to be blind to wheelchairs and frames. I could go on and on. To sum it all up, for our disabled, every action takes careful thought, so much more so than for someone with four usable limbs.
If I am nowhere back to what I was before this accident, I suspect that I never will be. Perhaps if I had been fifty years younger, I would have recuperated completely. I doubt that this can happen at my age, though my young physio swears he will have me walking freely by Christmas. But when I mentioned touring Japan next March, he looked doubtful. ‘Lots of walking. Might be painful.’
My present hope is that those that have been injured will take heart from my experience, and realize that there is some kind of personal redemption even after the most appalling event that can leave you shattered and torn. Above all, to never give up hope of some kind of recovery.