Yes it's me again!

My apologies I haven’t updated Caring Bridge in a few weeks. It’s been a combination of more things going on and a lack of the right mood for writing frankly. But on this Friday afternoon I had to cancel PT due some challenges with my prosthetic/leg pain, so I figured I’d get an update out. Here goes…

THE MILESTONES:

• In my obsessive quest to be positive, (note of humanity here – I have failed at this miserably on certain days and moments over the last few weeks – see below for more detail), I am starting with some of the many achievements that have occurred since my last update. Here goes, in no particular sequence:

• I graduated to using crutches for support vs. a walker. This makes me feel more like the athlete who tore their ACL and less like Benjamina Button (aka 90-year old in a 36-year old body).

• I graduated on flat terrain (like being in the house) to walking with no assistive device when “my legs” are feeling good. My doctor said about 6 ½ weeks ago I could be walking with just a cane in 6-12 weeks (when pressed for his best guess :) and I learned to use no support at all less than 5 weeks after him saying that. I still use crutches or a single crutch on occasion (soreness, rough terrain, navigating curbs, etc) but enjoy the ability to function at home with nothing on a good day. 

• I’ve walked up stairs several times. I can also walk down stairs but that is trickier but possible. Sometimes at home I still slide downstairs and walk when I get to the landing. This stair mastery has enabled me a great deal of flexibility on where I can and cannot go.

• As of yesterday I haven’t sat in my wheelchair for an entire week. Not a single second. This is where my obsessive nature regarding goals comes in handy. I made a goal chart and one of them was to be wheelchair free for a week. There were moments when it would have been much easier to just use the chair but my quest for goal attainment pushed me to figure out other creative work-arounds to avoid it. Plus, it’s been helpful for both Aaron and I mentally to not start our day with me in a wheelchair.

• Tied to the last accomplishment, I have been wearing my brace (right leg) and prosthetic (left leg) from morning till night. Some days I’ve had issues with different pain, discomfort, fit, etc. but I’ve generally been able to make it work one way or another.

• Driving. As you know I tried driving our Gator around our place and things felt fine. I then graduated to attempting to drive a vehicle on our secluded road. That too was a success. However those first attempts including me getting into the driver’s seat with help out of a wheelchair. So the biggest concern was me being able to get myself out of a vehicle safely if necessary. Per the above updates, I can do that now so I started driving myself to my numerous appointments which has been very helpful on many fronts. Using my right leg to drive really doesn’t feel that different than how I used to drive. This has been an exciting discovery. 

• All of these building blocks have allowed me to be more independent with the kids too which has been great. Whether it’s putting them to bed 100% by myself, taking them to the dentist (yesterday) or picking them up from school, it feels great to be able to just be with them without always having to have someone else involved.

THE HOLIDAYS:

• Halloween came and went since my Oct 21 update. My kids had a ball as most 4 and 2-year olds do this time of the year. Mitchell was Optimus Prime (a Transformer if you’re not aware like I wasn’t until having a son) per his steadfast request and Morgan was Tinkerbell as I knew she’d like anything frilly and I think her little blonde/blue-eyed self is very Tink-like. I got to attend the preschool Halloween parade which was awesome. I did have to be in the wheelchair for trick-or-treating which was difficult, but next year will be different (God-willing!!). Plus, Morgan’s quote after every door of “let’s go get some more!” was hard not to smile at despite the circumstances.

• Veteran’s Day was this week. Many of us have family members who were in the military and have an overall patriotic sense of pride. I’m no different. I will tell you, however, that this year did make me think more deeply about our military heroes. I went to listen to a young man who lost both of his lower legs in Afghanistan last year speak at a Wounded Warrior presentation and it was humbling. Going through what I’m going through takes my empathy to an entirely new level. Of his key messages/quotes, here were my favorites (and I’m paraphrasing):
1) “If you want to honor a veteran, it’s really pretty simple. Don’t squander your opportunity to vote. It’s the biggest insult.” 
2) “I don’t want to just make lemonade from my lemons, I want a lemon farm”. I like how he thinks.
3) I had the opportunity to speak to him briefly 1 on 1 before his speech. He told me: “do not let your injury define you”. I loved that perspective because I have many other things I’d rather have define me than this chapter, than this injury.

• Almost like a holiday for our family is corn harvest time in Nebraska. We make an annual pilgrimage up to Aaron’s hometown for harvest each fall. We made it work this year as well, and the change in scenery was good for the soul. I even made it up into his brother’s combine for a (long!) ride with a little help from a well-aligned truck bed. :)

• Thanksgiving is coming soon and the stores already look like Christmas. Crazy it is already that time of year.

THE DARK DAYS:

• I considered titling this update, “I’ve been dark because I’ve been dark”, but thought that was both too cryptic and not entirely accurate. But you get the point. That is unless it’s too cryptic. Ha.

• In all seriousness, I’d say in the last few weeks I’ve had some of my hardest moments, hours, mornings, days since this all began. I know it’s counterintuitive to think the emotional journey has increased in difficulty when the physical side is making progress, but that’s what’s happened. 

• I have several hypotheses and probably all of the above are true. One is around the “hangover” (in a good way in this case) you have from a near-death experience. I feel like in the past few weeks I’ve felt more of the emotions you all assumed you’d feel if this had happened to you. The anger – how did this happen to me?! Why did this happen to me?! The shock – did this really (insert explicative) really happen to ME?! The frustration – do I really have to deal with X for the rest of my life? I frankly was coming up short on my positivity quest. I didn’t feel some of those emotions at first. I was truly grateful to be alive as the day of the accident I was literally 50/50 if that was going to be the outcome (and I was being generous I’ve learned from the vast number of paramedics, medical professionals and others who have witnessed or heard of similar accidents…when I write this a wave of gratitude rushes over me again…so it never completely fades…). This just goes to show you really don’t know how you’ll react until something happens to you.

• I do believe, however painful, that these feelings are feelings I have to go through in order to heal my mind and soul just like my body is healing. This is all part of the process. There is a pile of yucky stuff I have to sift through to get to the other side. I’m pretty sure that’s only natural. So I guess I might as well get started on the sifting. 

• And I know you all care, so please know I truly feel like we are doing everything we need to do our emotionally healing work. We have all of the help and support we need and we will make it through! (did I mention I’m quite driven?? By the way, many of our caregivers of all types have labeled me as an overachiever almost as if that’s a bad thing!! ha!)

• And I will say that the last few days have been really good on the emotional front – even despite some challenges on the physical front (like the literally 5 hours I’ve spent in the Prosthetist office getting one adjustment after another and one problem gets fixed then causes another…they say this is the bumpy phase and it all improves). I have felt much more like myself which has felt great. I know the proverbial roller coaster is far from over, but I’ll take a reprieve. In my heart, I do feel like everything is going to work out. And I know my prayers and many of your prayers are asking for that too.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:

• Pardon me for being presumptuous, but everyone asks how they can help so I thought it was okay to include such a section. Also, a good friend of mine published a do and don’t list before she returned to work after a health journey and I found it quite useful.

• Please offer positivity, progress and prayers – not pity (back to those P’s again!). I appreciate it so much when I see someone and they make note of progress I’ve made and/or just seem generally positive. I love to know you think I can do this, I can make it through. Of course it has to be sincere – the last thing I need is people saying one thing and thinking another – but it is really helpful when it’s real. What we don’t need is pity. We will be fine and it’s hard to think that people are feeling sorry for you. I know my natural reaction used to be “I’m so sorry” when something happened to someone but that actually is the last thing you want to hear when you’re actually going through something. And of course there is nothing better than prayers.

• Feel free to just be normal. Treat us like you would have a few months ago and will again. Don’t think you have to say something profound if you don’t feel it. I know I don’t usually have profound words on the tip of my tongue. :) And don’t feel like you can’t share your problems. So many people will say, “well that’s nothing compared to what you’re facing”. That actually feels horrible to hear though it’s always well-intended.

• Success stories! I love hearing of people who are doing great after going through a similar journey. For instance my Mom & Dad ran into a guy with a prosthetic leg at Menard’s the other day when asking for help finding a certain light bulb. This 20-something guy had a good story for me to hear and my Dad was sure to gather the details for me. :)

• Continue to be the awesome support network you guys have been since day one. It amazes me how many people have rallied behind our family. We are lucky. As a friend told me the other day, “don’t be afraid to lean into us”. I won’t.

Like I said above, this won’t define me. This won’t define us. With the grace of God, we will get through this chapter and move on to the trivial problems of daily life. :)

Thank you…from the bottom of my heart! Have a great weekend.

Love,
Lindsey