Accident: an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap
She had a productive day. It was Sunday and she had made the radical decision that instead of doing the house work she would indulge in her new hobby. The housework would wait for another day, why not leave it! Feeling a little like a girl skipping school she lost herself in absolute contentment. She redesigned her blossoming web page and blog, took some photos and dabbled in her new photo editing software.
She was so engrossed in creativity she didn’t realise a storm was building outside…and she had dry washing on the clothes line. Without hesitating she raced outside, down the five stairs and across her backyard towards the clothes line as the stormy winds started to thrash her clean clothes like dancing puppets.
She didn’t make it to the puppets on the line.
Her life came to a stop.
Her foot found a small divet in the yard, she lost her balance and the cracking sound echoed in her ears as she tumbled to the ground.
“No, no, no!” she screamed as people came to her aid and whisked her to hospital emergency. The pain was debilitating, the realization of what she had done dawning on her as she waited to be see a doctor and xray. She didn’t have time for this accident. Her ankle cannot be broken.
Self reliant: Relying on one’s own powers and resources rather than those of others
She was powerless. While others may have embraced crutches she couldn’t, it was not natural. Everything required careful planning and time, so much time. A simple shower took nearly an hour, moving from bedroom to lounge took minutes rather than seconds.
She had to learn to rely on others for bathing, food, even a simple requests for a glass of water. This was hard for her to do. “The problem is you are so self-reliant” a close friend sympathised. She had never viewed this as a problem before.
She left the house only for medical appointments, even these were tiring and filled her with dread.
There were tears. Confidence turned to fear.
Who was this woman she saw in the mirror? Dark clouds descended into her thoughts
Perspective: A particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; True understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion
Stairs became a barrier, distance a calculation. She developed a new perspective on the ease or difficulty of what before that day had seemed normal tasks.
Her orthopedic surgeon had a ramp to his consulting rooms – it was about 500m long. It took her 3 rest stops on her crutches to get to the door. The door was heavy to open. She had to knock and wait for someone to open for her.
Her own doctors rooms required a step up, about a 400m hop to the door. Another long walk to his room at the end of a long hall…and back again.
The chemist had an automatic door, but the service desk was at the back of the shop – another long distance to someone who was tired, uncertain, feeble.
Before the accident none of these places were considered difficult places to attend. Her perspective on ‘disabled access’ changed. These places ticked the requirements of the law, but are they really accessible?
She did not attempt anywhere else. Her mind could not work with her, her body was too tired to try.
Even her own work location – single floor, a ramp…she could go to work?
The ramp at the back door is too steep for crutches. The toilet door too heavy to open with crutches. The hall too long to negotiate up to ten times a day. She would not be able to make a simple cup of coffee herself. No, work is not ‘disability friendly’.
She set up a home office and could still function and do her work. Her team was busy, they had lots to do. At first this was a sense of achievement but as the days became weeks her anger grew –
“Cant you just let me be miserable in peace? I am tired of looking like I’m managing ok, of the pressure of work. I’m tired of everything” she cried into her pillow one morning, another day ahead of trying hard, of coping, of relying on others for help.
Thankful: Expressing gratitude and relief
Despite these dark thoughts she knew she was lucky. She fought the dark clouds with expressions of thankfulness to try to get through this unexpected halt to life.
Thankful this occurred in Australia where the health system could treat her quickly and provide her with high quality care.
Thankful she lived in a small country town. It was hard enough to negotiate places, the city would have worse with parking, longer walks, busy streets.
Thankful that her aging mother supported, cared, did anything and everything despite her own body failing her.
Thankful her daughter came home from travels at the top end of Australia to be a carer, supporter, chauffeur, shopper, cook, companion, nurse. Thankful to her other daughters who helped when they journeyed home for short weekends – the housework she left THAT day was finally done weeks later.
Thankful to work colleagues who were ever so patient, genuinely caring and sympathetic.
Thankful to wonderful friends who offered to help, cook, clean, bring her news about whats happening in the world beyond her home.
Thankful this situation was for just a short time. Others have injuries, pain and disabilities that are permanent and life long.
Healing: The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again; mending
As the autumn leaves fell from branches, as the days became shorter and the winter cold settled across the land her body healed.
As the countryside painted green, fresh after cleansing welcome rain her resolve brightened.
Her bones mended, her crutches stayed in the corner, her muscles started to recover.
She fought the anxiety that washed over her as she left her home which had been her comfort and safe haven for 6 weeks.
She had to find the strength and courage to enter the world again.
It took time, a few false starts, small tentative outings to gain back confidence and independence.
Last Sunday she sent a message to a friend “Just did my first Downward Dog in nearly 3 months, you would not believe how good that feels”
She was healing, inside and out.
Fight Song: Rachael Platten
Ten weeks, 70 days.
Life stopped. She survived.
One could find lots of words of wisdom as to why this happened, learnings, words from another world, inspirations…but for now every morning she simply plays a song that reminds her the healing continues, and get on with what you were doing before the ‘accident’. She has a trip to Tonga in six weeks and she isn’t missing that.
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Thank you Rachael Platten. Thank you family, friends, medical teams, work colleagues.