On June 3, 2017 I had an accident that had profound effects on my lifestyle. This blog recounts my road to recovery.
Daily we pass by and see all sorts of people as we go about out daily routines. Whether it be at the shopping mall, on the way to work, at school or sports fields we encounter people going about their daily routines. Parking cars, picking up groceries, taking children to activities. In our haste and pre-occupation with our priorities we see people from all walks of life likewise pursuing their daily routines. We make quick judgements. Many things impact our judgements, such as our values and perceptions, our mood at the moment.
Unless we personally know the many people we pass during the course of our day, we do not truly understand or appreciate what people are coping with. As an insurance advisor, I get to know all aspects of my clients lives intimately. Lifestyle, finances, and health. I learned a long time ago to release the rubber bands off my mind and go into every meeting with an open mind, not assuming anything.
I found out many times, that people who outwardly appear successful and healthy, are often dealing with many issues, be they relationships, financial, or health. I count my many blessings as I’ve come to realize that many more people are dealing with far greater hardships and issues than me, yet manage to overcome these challenges to function with their daily routines. It’s never an easy or consistent path. Life is full of ups and downs.
Since incurring my injury on June 3, 2017 which has severely impacted my mobility, my independence, my ability to perform the simplest of daily functions, my ability to work, I’ve learned first hand what it’s like dealing with my own health issues, and the perceptions of others around me.
When I say, ‘perceptions of others’ I don’t mean to imply that I have been prejudiced in any way. Rather, people look and see a middle aged man on crutches with a cast on his right leg. The assumption is – oh, he’s got a broken leg or ankle. No further thought. I’m sure most thoughts are that the condition is temporary and will pass quickly enough.

In many respects, these thoughts have merit. My condition in many respects is not permanent. But the reality of coping with the many consequences of the injury is much greater. Before being able to give any thought of walking, I will have been on crutches/ wheel chair for 7 months. I will have endured 2 major surgeries on my ankle. My right ankle is now fused, so I’ve lost permanent mobility in my right ankle. I will have to learn how to walk all over again. I will never walk the same again. I will have to learn how to drive again. I’m sure most people don’t differentiate between the right and left foot/ankle. But injuring my right ankle means I’ve lost all my independence and mobility as I can’t drive.
Most people don’t realize I am self employed, so I don’t receive any employer benefits such as health, dental, disability, etc. I have to self finance any disabilities or health benefit. Being an insurance advisor, I do practice what I preach and I do have my own disability policies, which provide me an income to offset most of my household expenses. But the disability doesn’t pay out anywhere near the same amount of income as I would make should I be working.
The physical consequences and obvious signs of the crutches and wheelchair are not indicators of the emotional and psychological trauma associated with both the injury, loss of independence, loss of work and income. While I’ve had some ‘ups and downs’ as I’ve adjusted to my new reality, in the over all scheme of life, no where near as serious as many others. It has, however, given me a whole new appreciation for some of the aspects of mental illness and the mental struggles many deal with on a daily basis.
Using a wheelchair and motorized scooter to get around, has also given me a whole new appreciation of how small tokens of assistance can be so much appreciated by those with mobility issues. I remember going to a large outlet mall where not one store had any automated doors for the handicapped. My wife was pushing my wheelchair, but pushing a wheelchair and trying to open a manual door is challenging at best and even more challenging in a busy mall. So next time you see someone on crutches or in a wheelchair, take that extra second/moment to open the door and help them. As the saying goes – ‘A little goes a long way’. It truly does.
The past 4 months have been a real learning experience for me. I’ve had to face and overcome physical and mental adversity. I still have 3 more months before I can put any weight on my right foot/ankle. It will be followed by the better part of a year rehab to regain my balance, learn how to walk, learn how to drive again. I realize the rehab will be no picnic and there will be more challenges and frustrations to get to the point where I can walk again.
Yes, my conditions are somewhat temporary (my future walking and driving will not be normal, but I will be able to do both). In the moment, 7 months of no weight on my right leg and close a year of rehab don’t seem ‘short’ or temporary, but in the overall scheme of life, 18 months is not a particularly long period of time. This time has given me a glimpse of the many issues others dealing with much great health and longer lasting health issues must endure. It has also given me a greater appreciation for life. It has helped me develop greater appreciation and gratitude (still work in progress, but I certainly have much greater awareness). It has taught me how your personal accountability and response to adversity is greater than the adversity itself. Attitude can overcome many/most challenges. Some days will be better than others, but a positive outlook helps immeasurably in dealing with challenges.
So next time you see someone with obvious physical handicaps or struggling with daily routines – take note and help out. You really don’t know the magnitude of the challenges the individual is coping with. That extra gesture, the extra couple seconds it takes will make a lasting and immeasurable impact. Even a simple smile can make all the difference in someone’s day and be uplifting. You’ll be surprised how much it will also help you as well.