Baby Steps

This semester in Writing 220, we as a class have gone through a lot of similar journeys. We all created our three experiments and projects, searched for the right topic, genre, and figured out how to best approach and tackle each component. Each person’s decisions may have been slightly different, but the process was generally quite similar.

However, one journey I am reasonably confident was distinctly my own was the process of recovering from my knee surgery. For about the first month and a half, my knee was wrapped tight in my brace, and I had to use crutches to go anywhere. In fact, for the first week I was still fresh off surgery and couldn’t even live on campus. I stayed at home, and was only able to go to classes because I live pretty close to campus, and my dear mother was nice enough to drive me to and from my classes. After I was finally able to move in, some parts were better, but there were still plenty of challenges.

This was far from my first time on crutches; I sprained each ankle playing soccer in 9th and 10th grade (one at a time), and in 8th grade I broke my left one skiing. Recovery for each of these required at least some time non-weight-bearing, so I have spent plenty of time crutching around so far in my life. This injury, however, was substantially worse than any of my previous ones (I tore my meniscus and lcl), and I had to keep my leg locked straight in the brace early on, which added its own difficulties.

This was the first time I was on crutches while living alone, and I was also more limited in the recovery than I had experienced before. Things that are so minor, like getting up to go to the bathroom at night, or taking a shower, were much more difficult. I had to carry a chair into the shower to sit on, because it was both dangerous and difficult to shower without it. When shaving, I had to stand on one leg, which would quickly become tired. As I’ve mentioned in class, I’m not much for cooking myself and have relied heavily on the dining hall—except when I was NWB on crutches, I needed both hands to move anywhere. This meant that I couldn’t carry my own plates, and thus always had to coordinate trips to the dining hall with a willing friend, so that I could have them carry my plates for me. I was late to a fair amount of classes, and until I started walking again my underarms were constantly irritated from the rubbing of the crutches.

I don’t mean to sound whiny about this journey—there were challenges, yes, but overall, it was a very humbling and gratifying experience. It’s amazing how much we take for granted on a daily basis. I constantly thought of how difficult it would be to be wheelchair-bound, and developed an immense appreciation for those that go through physical challenges on a daily basis. Plus, for me it was only for a specific period of time that always had a light at the end of the tunnel—I have infinite more respect and admiration for those who have permanent conditions and overcome these sorts of obstacles on a daily basis.

I also think this time allowed me to grow as a person, too. I was able to focus a bit more on school, and I needed every bit of my newfound “free” time and more, as I took 17 credits this semester—including an ULWR, three upper level PoliSci classes, and the last class in my other minor, Latin 409. I also had to embrace a slow but steady grind for the recovery, and have gone to physical therapy twice a week, for about two hours each, something is still going on presently and will continue until I leave for Amsterdam in late January.

I had to constantly try to make miniscule improvements in mobility and strength. It was very reassuring when I was able to see consistent progress in gaining muscle back in my noodly left leg and in  regaining full range of motion, especially early on. However, after I was able to walk for a few weeks and , I appeared generally normal outwardly. This part was much more difficult in the recovery because while I still went to PT and everything, signs of improvement became much less obvious. I still haven’t even started jogging yet, and probably won’t be able to resume sports for a few more months.

On the whole, I am actually grateful for the experience of the injury, if not the injury itself. I did not like many aspects of the recovery process, and I missed out on a lot of things. But I was also able to realize many of the things that are most important to me through this journey, and have a newfound appreciation for many of the smaller things that were challenging with one functional leg. One of my professors even said to me on the last day of class (paraphrasing), “I’ve never seen such growth from a student over the course of the semester before—you literally came into my class not being able to straighten your leg, let alone walk, and now I could not distinguish your walking abilities from any other student’s!” Here’s to a smooth rest of the recovery process, and although I was serious about being grateful for the experience, I do hope I will be able to resume full physical activity so that I can enjoy all the fun activities Europe has to offer next semester.

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