I recently had foot surgery and will be in a boot for about 10 weeks. I am two weeks into recovery, which means I have another 2-4 weeks before I can put any weight on my foot. I am bound to crutches or a knee scooter and have not been out of my house except a visit to my doctor’s office in two weeks. At this point you are probably asking what this information has to do with Rebuilding Together. Let me share what I have discovered.
First, I want you to know my surgery was planned and I knew that I would have a fairly lengthy recovery. Knowing this, and accounting for the fact that I lead an organization dedicated to falls prevention, it NEVER CROSSED MY MIND that I might need to look at preventing a fall for myself. So, the second day after surgery, I am staring at the three-inch step out of my house and feeling like it is a mountain. How am I going to pick up the scooter and set it down on the patio while balancing on one foot? The next day I am staring at the shower, wondering how I am going to bathe while keeping my injured foot dry and balancing on the good foot. Why, when my organization has a warehouse full of ramps and shower seats, and I spend half my time sharing the importance of home safety, do I now have a piece of plywood balanced against my step and a kitchen step stool in my shower to use as a seat? Because as a relatively young, active, and healthy adult I didn’t think about those things.
Do any of us think about these types of preventative measures until we actually need them? For me, this experience has been enlightening. Even though I understand that a shower seat or a ramp can literally change a life, until I found myself in a situation similar to what thousands of Arizona seniors face daily, I did not truly get it.
Now that I am walking in their shoes, although temporarily, I understand that a simple ramp is a literal symbol of freedom. With it, I can enjoy fresh air, listen to the birds and watch the sunset.
I have experienced the indignity of having to have someone help me shower, which highlights the importance of being able to bathe yourself.
I have learned that when it is hard to get in and out of your home, it becomes easy to pass on invitations to see friends because it is just too hard to go out.
I can now imagine the hopelessness and despair hundreds of seniors experience on a daily basis. And I am thankful.
I am thankful that my own short-term experience has strengthened my belief in the importance of Rebuilding Together’s mission and my conviction that our work creates hope, supports independence, and gives people back their dignity. And I am grateful that I have the opportunity to do this work every day.