pins and needles

Saw the ortho doc last week, and I’ve been cleared to pedal.  No – I’m not riding a two wheeled bike quite yet…..

Thanks to Livewombat and her partner, I am able to get around on my own these days... And now, I can even use both legs to pedal!

The biggest challenges of the hip fracture mostly center around a near total loss of independence.  I was not allowed to drive… and using crutches to go very far is challenging.  I built up the upper body endurance quite quickly, but it is my hands that can’t handle more than a few blocks at a time. Putting bar tape onto the handles plus wearing bike gloves helps…. Distracting myself helps… But sometimes my hands feel arthritic!

Thanks to some really nice friends and to Cheryl, I got to and from work with very few complications.  I enjoyed the company and the conversation…  But of all the rides to work, it was on the back of Dave’s big dummy that I had my best commutes – outside and on a bike, even though I was not pedaling myself.  This guy is over six feet tall of pure power, fun, and generosity.  On a few occasions, he chased roadies with me on the back there…

It’s been an interesting ride, actually qualifying for a disabled parking space hang tag and NEEDING the infrastructure designed for people with mobility disabilities. For a long time, I’ve been involved in advocacy for people with disabilities.  I’m kind of hard of hearing my own self.  I’ve many friends who are differently abled or disabled.  I’ve also spent time working with students and kids with disabilities. I’ve also spent time helping people with disabilities get onto human-powered vehicles (i.e., bikes and trikes).  And so, before I busted my hip, I thought had a clue.

Guess what.

I maybe kind of had a clue.  I am shocked by the behavior of people around me.  I am shocked by what people actually say to my face and the looks I get when using a scooter to go about a half a mile across campus.  I am shocked by the poor infrastructure.

A few examples of behavior….

One day, on my way out of Coffman (building on campus), I used the push button to automatically open the door.  I was about to step through, when I was faced with six people who had gone out of their way to enter via this now open door (obviously, it magically opened for them).  Once the sixth person, who said uuuuhhh – sorry, came through, I had to reactivate the automatic door.  That sort of thing happens all the time.  ALL.THE.TIME.

Another frustrating behavior is the pedestrian version of the right hook.  People assume I’m slow on the crutches (I’m not), and they’ll rush to get ahead of me so that they can turn right in front of me.  I’ve been nearly taken out several times by this behavior.  People probably kick my crutches, on average, a few times per day.  Fortunately, I have good balance and have not hit the deck …. yet?  I hope to maintain my streak!

On the well intentioned side, some people literally throw themselves in front of me thinking they can help me.  They’ll put their bodies into doorways in order to hold a door open, but I can’t get through with them in the doorway…. Or they will practically knock me down trying to get to something I have dropped before I can get to it.  Now, I know this is coming from a place of “I want to help,” but there is some common sense missing a lot of the time.  I wonder to myself, have I done these things to my friends?

On the very generous side, some people ask me if I’d like some help.  They offer carpooling and help carrying things (something that is impossible with crutches).  And they take no thank you for an answer when that is the answer I give.  Like the people above, their actions come from a place of “I want to help,” but people in this category are simply able to deliver kindness….

Then, there’s people who feel the need to tell me that I’m doing it wrong.  Sorry, my friend, but I’ve got to tell this story.  One friend was telling me that I should feel obligated to take elevators rather than stairs because stairs are dangerous.  While I can see the point that stairs CAN be dangerous, I think that is still my decision to make.  In fact, I would argue that since I CAN use the stairs, I SHOULD use the stairs so as to maintain any and all possible strength.

Of course, then there’s me.  Sometimes, I am just so stubborn – I WANNA DO IT MYSELF!!!! DANG IT!!!!  To the point that I hurt the feelings of others – most especially Cheryl’s feelings.  She’s consistently sweet and consistently doing things for me that are helpful… but sometimes, I get a bug up my butt and WANNA DO IT MYSELF!!!!  I’m working on that….

Examples of poor infrastructure….

My friends with disabilities will probably be reading this and saying – DUH LEE!@!!!!  I knew that the infrastructure was not great.  For example, to get into Smith Hall, you have to go around to the side and take a three turn ramp down so you can enter via the tunnel that connects Walter and Smith.  That door has a push button, and it works well.  Then, you head up a small hill to the door leading to the Smith Hall basement.  This door is narrow and has no push button to automatically open the door.  Then, you can take the elevator….  Getting around takes twice as much time… If it’s a new place for me and I’m using the scooter, it can take a few minutes to figure out how to get into a building.

But the bits of poor infrastructure that I didn’t really appreciate until driving my little scooter about 2/3 a mile to make a meeting across campus include push buttons that are located three feet off to the side of the door.  You have to drive up to the button, push it, back up, align yourself to get through the door… and then get through the door.  Some have long delays, so you’re sitting their waiting for several seconds before the door opens.  Some have no delays, so you’re lucky if you can get backed up and realigned before the door starts to shut.  Some don’t work at all.  So, you’ve gone up to the button and pressed it… and waited….  for nothing.  Now, I’m pretty strong, and getting a door open and my scooter through isn’t too bad… but imagine if you did not have upper body strength… or the balance… or even the use of your arms.  Every new doorway is an unknown.

Sometimes, it’s clear that some engineer has cleverly made the button look different – like the tiny rectangle buttons you’ll find at the Department of Transportation downtown.  Honestly, it didn’t occur to me that I’d be looking for something that was not about 6 inches in diameter.  Nope – this one is about one inch wide by about three inches long, and it took me a while to find it.

Sometimes, the entrance designated for people with disabilities is NOT the best entrance.  An example is Shepherd labs.  That building points you to the entrance across the way from Civil Engineering.  No button that I could find… and two sets of doors to pass through. But if you go through the door that is on the southwest corner of the building, you get a button and a nice small little miniramp.  Much better than the other entrance, but it is not the entrance people are directed to.  In few cases do I find the main entrance into the beautiful part of the building also the ADA compliant entrance.  I count myself lucky that I can easily manage stairs and do not need the scooter except for the longest of trips across campus.

So, I titled this post pins and needles.  NEEDLES!!!!  I had to get blood tests for INR status because when you break a bone in your lower extremity, your risk of blood cots is substantial.  So, they put you on warfarin / coumadin in order to make your platelets less sticky.  But, they don’t want your platelets to be too sticky-less, so you have to have regular blood tests.  So, I was getting stabbed a bunch…  I am happy to report that I have no planned blood tests over the next two months…  YAY!  Eight or so weeks of stabbing-free living!

Pins – my hip surgery is referred to as hip pinning, and here’s an image for your viewing pleasure.

X-ray image of my current hip: Three screws and four weeks later... my hip is healing well, and I'm allowed to pedal.

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About rleepenn

I'm a mom and a chemistry professor, and I love to ride bikes! On July 29th, 2011, I received the news that I have breast cancer. This is my blog....
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