We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.
~ Lee Iococca
The Elegant Gathering
TODAY on TV
Actors Studio: Bette Middler
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
7 June 2004
One year ago today, I was planning what I would wear at the next days Ride Against hunger. I would spend the last half of the following day lying on a gurney in the emergency room at Kaiser, waiting for a couple of hefty men to pull and twist on my arm to get it to go back into the socket the proper way. When it popped into place, the excruciating pain instantly diminished.
At the time my only concern was whether or not the accident would affect my planned trip to Australia.
"Youll be doing stretching exercises by then," the doctor told me.
Sounded very encouraging.
Believe me, I had no idea what the extent of this relatively minor injury was going to be. I have a whole new appreciation for either the guts or the total stupidity of athletes who get back into the game a week after a major injury.
So a year later...whats the status of my body?
I had no idea how long the pain/discomfort was going to last in my shoulder. It wasnt something that I was aware of all the time. Shortly after I was freed from the immobilizer, I began learning what I could do and what I would have to work on learning how to do again.
Anything which involved pressure on the arm (like cutting something against resistance) caused the shoulder to hurt. Scrubbing pots hurt. Wiping the kitchen counter hurt. Putting on a bra the normal way, with the hook behind the back, was impossible. I learned a whole new way of doing a lot of things (and became more ambidextrous in the process!)
In very slowly diminishing degrees, the amount pain (the term "pain" being relative--it was more discomfort, with occasional stabs of sharp real pain) began to subside. It seemed to go in "chunks," for want of a better word. One day I would notice that I was significantly better than I was the day before. One of those chunks happened about two weeks ago. It seemed that overnight I was suddenly able to put my arm behind my back without it hurting for the first time in a year. I might be able to put on a bra the regular way again, but I have long since gone for front-fastening so I dont need to deal with that. But suddenly I can cut things again, I can wipe a kitchen counter again (though Ive gotten used to doing it with my right arm anyway).
This latest "chunk" was the first sense Id had in a long time that I was actually going to regain use of the arm again and that I wouldnt forever more be reminded of that one brief moment when I went flying over the handlebars.
The slower healing injury is the one nobody really even paid much attention to. My knee was injured four time in two weeks, had swollen up to twice its size, and all the medical folks seemed to take the swelling as minor and the major problem the shoulder.
But its the knee whose symptoms are lasting longer. When I finally insisted on going to a physical therapist for the knee and not for the shoulder, she was the first to identify the most logical problem, which is that I probably nicked a nerve ending and that is why it still feels numb. She says that the nerve endings are the slowest part of the body to regenerate, and that it will eventually come back, but it may take a couple of years before it feels normal again.
It is, unfortunately, now the knee which keeps me from being able to bike like I used to (well, that combined with the fact that I am one year out of shape! We rode down to the park recently--about 1/4 mile, if that. Im the girl who was so proud of doing 12 miles before breakfast before the accident, and who easily completed 30 miles on the day of the accident. I suddenly understood why my friend Nancy complained that I went too fast for her to keep up, when I was holding back and going slow thinking it would be easier for her. If I ever get back on a bike regularly again (and at this point, I dont know if I ever will), I will have to start from square one and build up the leg muscles I was so proud of once again.
The overpass will once again become dreaded.
But right now Im not thinking in terms of getting back to biking on a regular basis. I'm going to start with going back to the (new) club, which I will do on Monday, on walking Sheila, and on building up my ability again and maybe by then the knee will be at a stage where I can consider biking once more.
Of course, the biggest deterrent to biking, bigger than the physical stuff, is the fear that I now have inside me. Even when I can bike, I am nervous and I dont have the joy that I did a year ago. I miss that most of all.
One year ago, I lived with that sheer joy. Today I dont have it. It is my job to find it elsewhere.