Of Wheelchairs, Walkers, and Walking

My visit to the orthopedist yesterday brought a couple of blessings.  The doctor lifted all physical restrictions, besides those imposed by my hand surgeon.  This means I can bear weight on my left leg.  I can walk on my own again.  He recommended I use my walker for stability, but said I could hop out of the hospital if I liked.  I might have done it, had my leg not atrophied over the past ten weeks.  

I expected to be given the go ahead, yet it still feels surreal to be walking again.  In addition to being given permission to walk, I was also given time to regain my strength.  The doctor ordered six weeks of physical therapy and a final evaluation three months from now.  For me, this means I have time to fully recover before I must return to work.  (I am a bit of a workaholic, so I am a bit surprised to be relieved to find I will be home a bit longer.)

When I returned home from my appointment, I asked my husband to leave the wheelchair in the trunk of the car.  We borrowed it from my step-father who is living with COPD.  Like me, he only needed it when out and about, but I want to be sure to get it back to him as soon as possible.  It isn’t a post-traumatic avoidance issue, but a desire to close that chapter of my journey.  

I have a new-found respect for those who have accepted being permanently bound to a wheelchair, and compassion for those who struggle with the same.  There are things I learned firsthand from being temporarily disabled.  For example, the handicap stalls in many public restrooms are the farthest from the entryway.  Entrance doors in many businesses are frequently too heavy to hold open and wheel yourself in at the same time.  Some people ignore the reserved signs in movie theaters for those accompanying movie-goers in wheelchairs.  I could go on, but I point these out to show my own ignorance as well.  I am certainly more mindful of the obstacles the physically handicapped must face.    

I also had my husband fold up my walker and leave it near our front door.  I will still take it with me when I leave the house, as I don’t want to hurt myself by being overly zealous about my mobility.  At home, I am taking it slowly and using furniture for stability where possible.  I have found that just a few trips to the bathroom and kitchen are physically exhausting, yet I am so grateful to be able to make them.  

Before my accident, I was walking or running daily (and occasionally riding my bicycle).  I wore a FitBit One tracker and had a goal of 10,000 steps per day.  I didn’t always hit the target, but occasionally exceeded the goal, some days getting in as many as 20,000 steps. Now, I am tracking around 200 steps per day.  I ran a 5K two weeks before I became immobilized.  So, as part of my healing process, I have registered for my next 5K.  (I may be walking rather than running, but I will be out there.)  


2012 Fight for Air Walk, Nashville TN (I participated to start the healing process after losing my father to lung cancer.)

I spend a lot of time talking about creating change, overcoming fears, and personal growth in general.  Today, I have been working on my business plan.  I participated in a conference call, watched some videos, and began drafting some business documents.  These are all small actions I am taking to become self-employed.  All the while the word “start” kept running through my head.

In the book, Running for Mortals, coauthor John Bingham says of himself, “The miracle isn’t that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”  He also points out “that the only thing you have to do to be a runner is run.”

Last summer I decided I wanted to try running.  I had always been the last one to finish laps around the track in high school, and thought of running as punishment more than cardiovascular exercise.  But for some reason, I decided this would be my next exercise regimen.

Within days of making the mental decision, I ran across Bingham’s book (co-written with Jenny Hadfield) in the bargain book bin. (Since I’m always looking for signs, I took this as my green light to get started.)  I bought the book and read it from cover to cover in just a few days, yet I was no more a runner than I had been before I bought the book.

One thing I have learned on my journey is that if I wait until I am ready to do something, I will never do it.  I must take some small action to move myself closer to where I want to be, and one action after another will get me there.  But I have to start.

So my next step took me to the shoe store to buy a pair of running shoes.  I made a copy of a training program table from the back of the book and I put the next day’s date on the first block.  The next morning, I went out and I walked.  For the next three weeks I walked 30 to 40 minutes per day, 6 days a week.  On day 22, something magical happened.

I became a runner.

I ran 8 1-minute intervals during a 32 minute walk, and within 2 months, I ran my first 5K.  I wasn’t fast, but I did it.  It was the same way with writing.  When I began blogging, I didn’t think of myself as a writer.  I am beginning to get it that the only thing I have to do to be a writer is write.  I also know I can replace anything I choose for runner or writer… as long as I do that thing.

On a side note, I am currently unable to walk as the result of an accident back in November.  I will start physical therapy in a few weeks, when I can bear weight again.  I am already planning my training schedule for my next 5K.  And when I am able, I will start.