Adapting to life on crutches: week 2

Suddenly, life became more difficult. Simple tasks became arduous and time consuming, if not completely impossible. The world presented myriad new challenges, from high curbs to heavy doors and much more. I became aware of handicapped-accessible features and learned to appreciate them immensely. Something as simple as a push button-operated door made getting around alone easier. Daily chores required a bit more forethought and creativity. Here are some of the modifications I found useful:

1. The disabled parking permit from the DMV not only allowed me to get a space close to the entrance of a building, but also provided enough space for me to get my crutches out and get myself rigged up to go. Most parking lots are not designed in a way to facilitate moving people around, only for fitting in lots of cars into a small area. Since walking on crutches, especially in the beginning, was tiring, I appreciated shortening the distance traveled in any given trip.

2. I chose to shop at smaller stores like Trader Joe’s, instead of trying to negotiate behemoths like Fred Meyer. This minimized my “up” time and eased the stress of shopping. This did require more frequent, and more carefully planned, trips; however, I found the pros far outweighed the cons.

3. My Grivel rope bag/backpack was perfectly designed, not only for carrying climbing gear, but also for carrying things up and down the stairs to my second floor apartment. Its easy to load and adjust design allowed me to transport items comfortably and securely, unlike an over-the-shoulder shopping bag. Those just slid down to my wrists and generally made life miserable.

4. For smaller items, the backpack was overkill. It took longer to load/unload and was completely impractical if I just had to carry my wallet and keys plus a small water bottle, for example. To tackle this inconvenience, I designed and sewed a small handbag. It had velcro straps that allowed me to attach it to the hand-hold on one of my crutches. It took hours of work over several days, but it was a project I could easily work on while laying on the couch with my foot elevated, watching movies. It’s fabulous for carrying snacks, mail, water bottles, etc. around the house. It’s also perfect for going out!

5. Items such as plates of food, open beverage containers, and larger objects were a little more tricky to prepare for transport. Eventually, I figured out this was a perfect way to re-purpose the lid to a styrofoam cooler. The inside dimensions of the lid were about 12″ x 12″. I could place my dinner, for example, on the upside-down lid and push it across the floor with the toes of my injured foot while crutching forward on the good one.

6. A short length of climbing rope came in handy to transport a huge pizza box from one room to the next. I only had to use this awkward method once.

7. Taking a shower was not as simple as it used to be. For this I placed a small camp chair in the tub to sit on. When I was still in the cast, this allowed me to sit with my (plastic-wrapped) foot resting on the edge of the tub. It was considerably easier to keep my cast dry this way, since water generally doesn’t run uphill. Plus, I didn’t have to try and balance on one foot in the slippery tub. My chair dried up quickly after each use, and remained in the shower for future use. This also made getting into and out of the shower much easier.

8. Crutching around requires wider travel zones, since the crutches jut out several inches to each side. I found it necessary to clean up as much clutter as possible, and rearrange furniture as necessary. My narrow bathroom doorway remained the most challenging part of my home to navigate.

9. Some things just remained impossible for me. Taking the trash downstairs and cleaning the floors were jobs best left delegated to my friends. They were happy to help!

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