Across the past few weeks I’ve had more than enough time on my hands as I continue to heal from my severely fractured left radius and ulna and restrain myself from undertaking much in terms of physical activities per my OT Jen. It has been almost ten weeks since that cloudy and cool March day when a smallest of motions changed my current existence and set me off on a voyage of discovery once the pain was managed. In hindsight I now recognize I went through a number of ‘phases’ with the severe injury: initially it was extreme pain and hoping the arm was just wrenched or similar, then western medicine intervened and I learned I had broken my left arm although determining the severity had to wait – along with a cast and pain meds – until I drove myself the 65 miles or so to the Mat Su Regional Health Clinic, then the long wait to schedule a visit to the orthopedic surgeon followed by the crushing news I would need full surgery followed by the actual surgery.
At this point I began the healing process; initially I was in ‘La La Land’ thanks to the Percocets but soon I realized I did not need them regularly but rather once in a while and the opiate fog slowly lifted. From time to time a solid dose of ethyl alcohol was substituted but for the most part I was focused on learning to get by with just my right arm. This required weeks of learning interspersed with moments of frustration and some rage at my inability to just ‘function’. When the cast was finally removed I began another phase; recovery with a lot of occupational therapy which is where I am currently. Jen is thrilled with my progress to date and feels I should regain 90% of my former range of motion and flexibility if not more. I may only have another few weeks of required ‘office’ therapy before I enter into the much longer phase of continued ‘home’ work on stretching and strengthening my left arm.
During the last few weeks I’ve noticed a lot of introspection on my part; some driven no doubt by being bored with respect to getting out and doing things but some of this is based much deeper.Having led an injury free life to this point I was ill-prepared for the immediate shock of such a serious fall; in this case the shock was good as it allowed me to get back home before I had an inkling of the severity of the damage to my left arm. After learning of the nature of the insult and understanding I would require serious surgery I developed a sense of fear regarding my balance even though what caused me to trip would’ve tripped anyone. I suffered nightmares about falling for many weeks and I couldn’t even consider jumping while on any infirm surface like ice or wet snow. Since that time I’ve found myself unwilling to climb ladders or do anything that might put me in a position to fall. Soon this came to frustrate me as while I do not want to repeat such an accident I sure as Hell do not want to live in fear of doing so! And so it is I find myself profoundly changed by this one perhaps 3 second occurrence. I am continuing to force myself to ‘get up, dust myself off and get back on the horse’ and I’m seeing some success.
But this accident really delivered a perspective shift with respect to the perhaps too cavalier outlook I had on living alone. Of course I’ve considered the ramifications in the past but once again I knew them only from an intellectual level; this event brought in the emotional and now spiritual perspectives. And this has caused some deep introspection on my part. I cannot see any change to my existence and I really do not want any; I truly enjoy living solo with my canine companions and I love living in semi-rural south central Alaska! But because I’m a thoughtful being I cannot escape the need to reflect upon not just my situation but what I have missed out on in taking this path. It is almost as though the emotional and spiritual shock from the accident were initially buried as my body sought to come to terms with the injury and then heal it. But I could only bury these powerful motivations for so long and now they have exploded into my consciousness with the force of a moose bursting from a tree line. As such I have no choice but to indulge them regardless of where they take me.
I’ve come to appreciate that life is tenuous; that it can be robust and full at one point yet changed forever in the blink of an eye. I really reinforced my slowly evolving outlook of the past decade that I am aging and with that age comes an awareness of one’s mortality both in remaining years but also in one’s physical condition. I have faced this realization and decided that I must heed to its basic premise but I must also push against its constraints but do so in a sensible and controlled fashion. In hindsight I should long ago have really learned that one instance can change one’s life; sometimes for the good but also sometimes for the bad. The real importance here is not the actual instance or event but rather how we choose to respond to said instance or event. Even at the older age of sixty one and two thirds years it is possible to take a very negative event (my accident) and experience the pain, the frustration, the desperation yet never lose sight of the positives. Sure, I will never regain the $48,000 that three second error in judgment cost me and my left arm will never fully recover; in addition I know I’ll have some psychic scarring which may or may not heal but the latter is up to me.
And what positives can I glean from such a tumultuous event..? I learned I can tolerate extreme pain for more than a day yet still function. All of the health care professionals I met during this event marveled that I managed to go 28 hours without pain meds given the severity of the accident. I learned that I was ill-equipped to manage daily life on my own if I was crippled by some physical shortcoming. This led to me re-thinking some of my situation; I realized that if I had broken a leg or ankle I would be in deep kimchee because all the bedrooms are on the second floor and because my house is a renovated and ‘add on’ cabin the stairs are both narrow and very steep. A simple solution was the purchase of a portable inflatable bed for storage on the main floor. Should I ever manage to break a leg or ankle I’ll still have a place to sleep on the main floor and be able to forgo the steps for some time. But I believe the most important positives have come from my introspection’s regarding myself and my place in life. I’ve lost that ‘oh so common’ feeling that life is something that just happens and is ‘owed’ to we humans. Now I recognize the precious nature of life in general and my physical health in particular; I both suspect and hope I will never again take these for granted. In a way I now view my existence with clearer sight as I am no longer ‘clouded’ by the care free belief that I am invincible and the perception that hugely upsetting events cannot happen to me.
I’d say my life is indeed now richer for this experience and I also view it as more precious and better understand its tenuous nature. Although I’d have not believed it prior to this situation the introduction of a monumentally negative event in my life has actually allowed me to better perceive life and appreciate it in all its fragility and wonder.