As mentioned in Part 1 of 5, the first week after I broke my ankle, I was busy learning how to use crutches, and dealing with the discomfort associated with getting a cast on, and just trying to cope with the general issues associated with not being able to move around normally. I left the doctor’s office after my first visit with the hope that 2 to 4 weeks afterwards I would have the cast replaced by the boot, so I could already see the end in sight.
The following describes how weeks 2 to 7 went for me. This covers the period where I wore the cast and the boot and had to keep all pressure off my foot.
Coping with normal things. This seemed to be the biggest issue for me personally. When wearing a cast (or boot) when you can’t put pressure on your cast/boot, all sorts of problems arise. How do you shower? How can you bring coffee to your desk/the living room/wherever? How can you take care of things you normally do in the house? How can you keep from gaining weight? How can you just stay “you” and do things that make you feel normal, when in fact, you’re not quite “you”?
The simple answer is you cannot do everything you normally do in the way you normally do it, and in some instances, you can’t do things you normally do at all. To be honest, this constraint – where your body is not able to do what your mind and spirit want – can be somewhat depressive. If you are not able to get around, you really need to ensure you are busy doing SOMETHING so you do not start feeling sorry for yourself and wallow in the things you CANNOT do. This is not always easy to do, and there were definitely days where I wasn’t feeling very upbeat, but in general, I managed to make it through this period without having too many pity parties. But it’s ok to have a few. Just keep them short!
So the first thing to do is figure out how you are going to deal with work. I will cover how I dealt with my work in part 5 of this blog series, but my injury definitely negatively affected the amount of work I wanted to do, and the amount I was able to do. If you are on disability and can stay home without any worries that is ideal. If you need to get to a job, figure out how you’re going to do that. While buses and trains may have accommodations for the disabled (see tomorrow for more information on my personal experiences with public transportation), they really are not an ideal way to get around during this period, so see if you can get a friend or family member or coworker to drive you back and forth.
Also, make sure as many people as possible know about your temporary problem and include everyone – neighbors (if you are on friendly terms), coworkers, friends, family. You never know when you’re going to have an emergency and need some assistance. And don’t assume just because you told one person, that everyone they know will know. If you tell your manager, for example, that doesn’t mean your co-workers will know. Just tell everyone and let them know you might need their help at some point. Most people are happy to help someone who really needs it!
Second, maneuvering around your home. You’re probably going to be spending most of your days and nights in your home. Using crutches means you need a clear area about 5 feet wide in order to get around easily. The first thing to do is to move everything out of your way. Make sure carpets are flat, and if you have throw rugs, perhaps move them out of the way for a few months. Crutches can easily get caught up on a wrinkle in a rug, and boom, down you go. If you have doors that swing shut as you’re moving through them, see if someone can fix them for you, OR find something to use to prop them open. Doors that swing shut while you move through them can catch the rubber part of your crutches if you don’t move through fast enough and boom, down you go. Ask anyone who lives with you to help you out by pushing chairs back under the table when they’re done with them and close doors and don’t leave things on the floor. These are all little things that may seem nitpicky but it takes a long time to go from one place to another if you have to keep stopping, moving things out of your way while trying not to fall, and then moving on.
Third, taking care of personal hygiene. I’m not going to go into detail on this one, but some things you will just not be able to do “normally” until you are walking again. For example, showering. You can’t get the fiberglass casts OR the camo boots wet so you have to find a way to cover them up. I would caution against purchasing any of the special shower covers you might find online. I bought one that is a special plastic cover with a tight seal that you have to pull over the cast. I couldn’t get it on. During the first week or two I would try to pull it on and the cast would move just slightly and it hurt so I didn’t do it. After that I tried a few times and I just couldn’t get it over my heel so I gave up. The easiest thing to do is good old Hefty. Use a garbage bag and duct tape or twine and just tie or tape the bag on and you’re ready to go. Then the big problem is getting in and out of the shower and standing while you’re in there. If you have a plastic chair, I would suggest putting that in the shower and just sitting. It’s the safest thing. I wound up showering in an unsafe manner, one hand holding the shower stall, the other hand trying to shampoo/etc, while standing on one leg doing this weird dance to try to keep my Hefty-ied foot outside of the shower because I was kind of obsessed with the dryness factor. Anyway, the way I did it was probably somewhat risky and dumb, so sit down while you shower.
Fourth, trying to make your in-home life as normal as possible. So here are some things I did which worked for me.
- First, I want my coffee at my desk. Since both hands are firmly in use gripping the crutches, carrying things is very tough. But here’s what I did. I would prepare my coffee in a travel mug that had a sealable non-drip lid. Then I’d put the coffee mug in a plastic bag, wrapped very tight around the top of the mug and then I’d put the top of the bag in my hand, then place my hand on the crutch so the bag was hanging below my hand. Then I’d just crutch to my new spot and unwrap the coffee. This process was kind of clunky, but it worked.
- Second, getting groceries and beverages. I had assistance in this department, but there were times where I’d forgotten to ask for a bunch of things or I wanted to help as well. Do an Internet search for grocery delivery in your town. You might be amazed at what is available. One of my local stores, ShopRite, does delivery and it’s really quite simple. You order what you want online. They select it all and bring it to your house. And they had same-day service. There is a hefty fee, of course, but it was worth it during those few months. See what’s available. If you can’t find a store in your area online, then call a few local grocers and ask them. If you explain your problem, they’d probably be glad to help since you’ll be a devoted customer forever! Also, wine.com is a great place to order quality wines, and they have an ipad app as well!
- Third, staying busy. You have to find something to keep your mind engaged since your body will not be able to do what it is used to. I’m typically active – hiking, running, walking, helping outside the house, taking the dog for walks, etc. I went from active to being a slug. What to do, what to do. While I did do work (more on that in different blog), I had hours or days where I wasn’t up to working. I didn’t want to turn into a TV head, so I took up a few other things. First, I played online scrabble on my iPad. I invited people over. I ordered crossword puzzle books with NY Times puzzles. I wrote. I read. I tried to exercise my mind like I did my body during pre-ankle days. I tried new recipes (cooking while on crutches is a real pain in the butt, but if you can pull a stool to the counter while chopping and can move things from counter to counter as you need them, you can do it!). If you’d rather just watch episodes of Dr. Phil and Judge Judy, that’s fine also, but you might wind up wondering where the day went!
This blog is longer than I expected, so I’ll end part 2 here, and in part 3, I will address dealing with public places (such as airports, airplanes, buses, trains, escalators, hotels, etc.) and will talk about the cast/boot timeframes and associated issues.
Following are all my ankle related blogs:
- Part 1 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-7D
- Part 2 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-7V
- Part 3 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-86
- Part 4 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-8e
- Part 5 of 5: http://wp.me/p1le37-8m
- Emergency Room Visit: http://wp.me/p1le37-6Z
- Lessons from Invalid: http://wp.me/p1le37-71
- Broken Ankle: Epilogue. http://wp.me/p1le37-ff