On Thursday, October 30, I was riding my bicycle in Sacramento. As I crossed light rail tracks at a corner, my bike’s front wheel slipped and I fell to the ground. Immediately, a number of unknown persons approached and offered assistance, carrying my bike and me out of the rain and dialing 911. My bike and I were transported to a nearby hospital, where I learned my left femur was fractured. I had surgery on Halloween to install a titanium rod that runs from hip to knee.
When I first came home I was not able to perform most activities of daily living. My flexibility, mobility and strength have improved over time. Over the past few months, I have developed a sense of what life is like for those who live with these limits for years or a lifetime.
Some things I have learned:
• How important others are to my well-being. My wife has been a wonderful companion during this challenging time. She has arranged to go in to work later every day so that she can help me. My wife has also accompanied me on so many of my appointments and firsts, such as first walk with walker out of the house. My stepdaughter has given me rides to appointments and bought accessories for the walker so I may carry beverages and other things. Friends have brought meals or have taken me out for meals. Co-workers have stopped by or called to chat. The service providers from agency to which I was connected for the first weeks were helpful: the home health aides, the physical therapists, the occupational therapists, the registered nurses and the case manager. It does seem strange that I only had contact with the case manager on the telephone. It’s interesting to note that different people with the same role do things in a different way and provide different instructions even though they come from the same agency. When I am able-bodied, I am more likely to take others for granted.
• Facilities for disabled persons may work for certain disabilities but not for others. For example, the angle of ramps may work for wheelchairs but may be too steep for a person using crutches or walkers.
• Uneven surfaces on which I walked with the walker were often a challenge. The surfaces were designed to be uneven or had cracks or the spaces between the concrete had grown over time. Walking over those same surfaces, I never thought about the fact that persons who have different needs might have difficulties with these surfaces.
· How the pain medication affected my cognitive abilities and emotions was something unexpected. I was not aware of how I was communicating or how vulnerable I felt. I reduced the dosage and frequency so that I begin to notice the difference.
I have been using a walker to get around. At first, I noticed I could not carry anything. My stepdaughter bought a basket and a beverage carrier. They sure made a difference. Service providers never suggested accessories. I remember being at the physical therapist’s office and another patient who used a walker asked where I had found the accessories. Others with similar needs may be great resources.
Realizing that I might have been unresponsive as a result of my accident, I recently ordered a great product. It’s called Road ID. Road ID could play an important role in getting assistance when the wearer is unable to request it. I now have a bright red ID that I can wear on my ankle when I am out. It provides an 800 number or a Web site and my ID numbers so that others may get information about me in addition to contacts, doctor, insurance, medical details, etc. Check it out at www.roadid.com