Sunday, January 25, 2009

Facing my Fears. Facing Reality

It's snowing again.

From my bed it looks beautiful as the snowflakes drift slowly past the window, landing somewhere below my line of vision on the cold, brittle ground below.

But the view out the front door looks anything but beautiful to me:

Where I slipped

Tomorrow morning I have to somehow hobble out that front door and make my way down those icy steps again (the thought alone makes me shudder!), as I have my two-week post-surgical appointment at Harborview Medical Center. As far as I know, I'll be getting my stitches removed and a permanent cast (suitable for signing!). I will also hopefully have the opportunity to have a myriad of questions answered.

I've been looking for answers to all my questions, and so far I don't like what I'm learning. Some of my answers have come from this message board, filled with people who have the same injury I have. Of the hundreds of posts, this one's fairly typical:

"I am eight months post ankle break with 7 screws and a plate. I spent six weeks in three different casts and another two months in that awful boot. Have tried to maintain a sense of humor and optimism, but a broken ankle is a miserable experience. After reading all the posts, it reinforces my theory that doctors do not prepare us for what we will be facing. Six weeks with no weight on the ankle and after that you can put weight on it begin PT," the doctor said. What she did NOT say was that when the cast came off, my foot would be totally immobilized and that it would be still another two months before I could begin a semblance of walking alone. The PT people were GREAT and were the ones who really gave encouragement and advice that helped me survive the ordeal."

I feel paralyzed today -- not just physically, but emotionally as well. When I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital, dizzy with pain, I remember thinking that I'd have to re-arrange my work schedule for a few days, thanks to this damn injury that -- I figured then -- was probably just a bad sprain and I was just being a big fat baby. In the course of the following days, I learned that my ankle was actually broken, that I'd need surgery and hospitalization, and that my recuperation would be longer than a few days or weeks. It would likely take months -- months and months. Many months.

I heard those words, but I wouldn't own them. They didn't apply to me. I'm a doer, a mover, a list-maker, for goodness sake. I'm a project manager! I make things happen; I get things done. And this injury was simply unacceptable. I'd walk in a few weeks and get back to work even sooner than that. End of story.

Then I heeded the surgeon's orders and, after returning home from the hospital, I went to bed. Foot up, spirits down.

Within a few days, I'd seen all the episodes of What Not to Wear I could handle and I begged to start working again. I'm lucky to be a project manager for Microsoft projects that can quite effectively be done remotely.

Or so I thought.

It'd be inappropriate to get into details here, but suffice it to say that even though my mind and hands are perfectly healthy and capable of working, I can't physically get to my office, as it's on the second floor of an office building with only steep stairs and no elevator, and until I can physically sit at my desk every day, I won't be considered to be back at work. The new projects that I was planning to kick off the morning after my accident have been reassigned, and I am neither able to work full-time nor do I have access to any short-term disability or state assistance programs. I'm stuck -- which means my family is stuck.

I've been accused of being a "hopeless optimist," but today I don't feel especially positive or hopeful about all this. Tomorrow things will be better, I'm sure. This is just a downward blip. I'll be fine.

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Anonymous said...

An office building in this day and age without an elevator to a second floor? Actually, that's the case at one of the branch offices where I work, but they DO make accommodations on the 1st floor. ADA! What's up with that? (Of course, driving there could be a challenge, too). Man, it just seems that they should be able to accommodate you working from home. Oh, Carol, I feel for you. (And yes, I had to laugh at your arrows and stuff depicting your fall. Dark humor).

Anonymous said...

That's a tough one. One piece of advice: When you get to the point of Physical Therapy, make sure you get a good PT. They are not all the same, as I found out when my mother shattered her wrist. If you don't feel comfortable with the one you have, switch. Too bad you live so far away from my neck of the woods. I have an excellent PT - she was the only one who could get me walking comfortably again after two years of pain because of my inflamed short achilles tendons and various other foot-related problems. Right now she is trying to fix the pinched nerve in my neck. Stupid cat slept on my shoulder one night and caused the whole problem. Keep your spirits up. I know it's easy to say and hard to do. How are you doing with your pain management?

Anonymous said...

I had the same injury, and had a plate, a rod, and 9 screws implanted to reconstruct my ankle. It took me not just months, but years to get back to 100%. Doctors really do not prepare you for this. You will probably be able to hobble up the steps to work in 2 months though, and you can work at a desk as long as you have a way to keep your foot elevated.

You need to modify your front landscape to accomodate a railing. I am several years out from my injury and I still get scared going down stairs without a railing. Especially if the step surface is slate, which is notorious for being slippery when wet/icy.

Anonymous said...

Make that 85%. I'll never be 100%.

Carol said...

Fortunately, it's my left foot, so driving shouldn't be a big issue. And all Microsoft buildings are accessible, so meeting there isn't a problem. It's the steps in front of the house and the stairs to my office that are the issue.

As far as pain management, my foot really doesn't hurt at all! (Except those spasms I have as I fall asleep. OUCH!) What hurts, for some add reason, is my left side, under my arm, around my shoulders, into my back "wing. Absolutely kills when I cough. What IS this?

Thanks for all your good wishes and helpful suggestions!


Margaret said...

I thought all buildings had to be accessible--but even so, it doesn't help you in this situation. I'm so sorry that you're going through this; it sounds like so much stress. (especially with the financial burden added in) I wouldn't be able to remain positive all the time either; I think that's part of being an intelligent human being. Take care.

Anonymous said...

You'd have to be blind and naive not to see and be affected by the downside of this, Carol. It SUCKS. And yeah, you'll get through it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck.

Let me know if I can help.


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine how hard it is to think somethings going to be one way and have to deal with the fact that it isn't. I actually met a woman on Saturday who broke her ankle (pins screws the whole bit, she was on vacation in Italy when it happened). She to the boot now and it happened in Nov, so there's hope. She's working again and out and about so keep hope you are going to get there too.

Good luck with the trip to the doc, I say cut across the lawn!

Goofball said...

this sucks so much. I really hope you get some remote projects assigned soon!

Jen said...

Oh, Carol, I'm so sorry you've been going through all this. Is there any place you could switch to on the first floor for a bit? I'm sure you've thought of that.

This just sounds so awful.

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