I’ve always thought that I was the kind of person who could empathize with those in different situations and from different backgrounds the me. I was raised in an upper middle class, predominantly white neighborhood, by 2 parents with 1 sibling. I had a nice childhood.
I never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from. I never had to worry about being too cold or too hot. My family could afford everything we needed, and much of what we wanted.
Growing up, my friends and classmates, as well as most of the population surrounding me, all looked like me. It wasn’t until I was in college that I started to experience the true diversity of the human race.
There were so many different colors of people, in both the literal sense and the figurative sense. I saw their struggles for attention. I saw their struggles to stay fed and warm. I saw their struggles to move around freely in a society that seemed to not care about almost anyone who’s upbringing and background was different.
In my eyes, we were all human. We all deserved our space on earth, and we all deserved the opportunity for a healthy and happy life – based on how ever we defined that for ourselves.
Once in college, I quickly made friends who didn’t look like me. Building relationships just came easy for me.
After graduating, I entered the world of the working people – I had good jobs at good companies. I had friends, food on the table whenever I wanted it, and a roof over my head. I could come and go as I pleased, without any real challenges.
Life was good.
Last weekend, I had an accident. It was caused by my own carelessness, I was trying to do something on my own that I really should have had help with. But I just wanted it done, so I set out to do it on my own.
I was making progress towards my goal, moving about the room, from ladder to ladder. And then, bam! I missed a rung on the ladder and went crashing to the floor about 4 feet below where my feet once were planted.
My hip struck the floor first, and within a nano second, I broke the rest of my fall with my arm.
I laid there on the floor of our new shed for a minute or two, covered by the batt of insulation that came down on top of me.
I stood up. I walked around the room a bit. Nothing really hurt too bad, so I grabbed the insulation and the heavy duty stapler again and started to climb the ladder. As I lifted the insulation over my head, I discovered more pain. I could no longer do what I wanted to do. It hurt too much.
And yet, I chose not to seek medical attention because I figured if something was broken, it would hurt a lot worse than it was.
Over the next 4 days, the visible signs of the injuries grew. The bruising got larger, and more ugly by the hour. The pain in my hip was tolerable, but the pain in my shoulder was past the point where I could stand it without medication. Sleeping comfortably didn’t exist anymore. It became difficult to lift a glass of water or hold a fork full of food in my right hand. (It has always been a little difficult to do that in my left hand, as my right hand is the dominant one.)
I quickly began to realize just how difficult life must be for those with visible or invisible physical challenges.
I called my primary care provider who sent me to get X-rays done of my hip and shoulder. The X-rays showed a severe bruising of my hip and an avulsion fracture of the greater tuberosity in my shoulder. Huh? What? So that means the part of my shoulder where the tendons connect my rotator cuff to my shoulder muscles was fractured. Cracked.
See that gap inside the red circle? Yeah – that’s not supposed to be there. Of course for a fractured shoulder the treatment is to immobilize it. So now I have to wear a sling and an abductor pillow for at least 21 days to help restrict the movement of my shoulder, in hopes it will heal on its own. And if it doesn’t, surgery is likely in my future.
Doesn’t that look comfortable? And did I mention the Orthopedic doctor said I should wear it 24/7 except when I’m taking a shower?
I’m normally a stomach sleeper, with my right arm folded and up underneath my head. There’s no way I would be able to sleep like that with this sling on. Needless to say, I haven’t been sleeping as good or as much as I normally do due to the discomfort, no, due to the pain and agony in both my shoulder and my hip.
Enough about me and my injury. None of that is really the point of this post.
What I quickly discovered was that many of the things I needed to do on a daily basis were much more difficult than then were just a few days earlier. As I mentioned earlier, what were once simple tasks – changing clothes, using the rest room, eating, getting in and out of a vehicle – were no longer simple.
I had to have help fastening my pants because I couldn’t button them or close the zipper with just my left hand. Eating a meal took much longer than before, and if the food needed cut into bites & that couldn’t be done with just a fork, yep, I needed help with that too.
I discovered quickly that I had taken for granted the fact that I could so these simple things…and now I couldn’t, without help or without significant pain and moving the shoulder that was supposed to stay immobilized.
I know plenty of people who have different levels of physical abilities. Some who have been forced to deal with that their entire life, and others that began more recently as a result of an accident or illness. And now I was along the population of those differently abled.
I now have a new appreciation for being able to take care of myself. And I have a new appreciation for those who struggle with disabilities, whether visible or invisible, every single moment of their lives.
I’ve gained a new level of empathy and respect after walking a mile in the shoes of the differently abled.
I’m grateful that it was only a fractured shoulder, because if I had broken my hip, my road to recover would most certainly be a much longer and more difficult one.
You never know what curves life will throw your way, so make sure you are always grateful for what you have. And please treat those who are different than you, with respect, dignity and empathy.