Fall had finally fallen in Florida after an endless summer of 90+ degree days. “Let’s ride our bikes to church,” I begged my husband one Sunday morning. My kind husband finds it hard to say no to me (or possibly doesn’t want to endure my whining and pleading) so off we careened in what I hoped was suitable Sunday attire. Careen is the operative word as it turned out. I had a particular route in mind, my husband another. The upshot? Our careening resulted in a collision where I served as the cushion for my husband’s fall. Our crash was like an episode of The Night Before Christmas story – “Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter neighbors sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.” The matter turned out to be a fractured wrist and ankle (of course the same ankle as the drop foot) and road rash from skidding across the asphalt.
Good Samaritans, hearing the clanging and crashing, poured from their houses to help. But alas, a metal plate and multiple screws were subsequently required to repair my wrecked wrist.
Thus began life with my left hand. I saw a movie entitled, “My Left Foot”. I think there should be a sequel called “My Left Hand” to document the hilarity and humility of only having the use of one’s left hand. I have read that left-handed people tend to have faster connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which leads to quicker information processing. I am so right side dominant I wonder if the hemispheres of my brain communicate at all. Adjusting to life with only one hand (the other being wrapped from elbow to knuckles) and barely two feet has proven to be an adjustment. My shirts have permanent stains from food dropped by the fumbling fork in route to my mouth. Fluoride will probably prevent cavities from developing in spite of my childlike brushing technique but I am concerned about plaque build up from FTF (failure to floss). Oh, have I mentioned the indignities? Like fastening a bra? Pouring 67 year old boobs into a bra in front of an audience is humbling. Sponge baths were necessary in the early days following surgery. My husband stands nearby afraid I might fall and hurt myself, not an unreasonable assumption in light of my past year. Ordinarily clothes and towels help obscure flab and folds. Not during bath time standing under LED lights above the kitchen sink. (There really is a reason to stay married) Texting, my favorite mode of communication, is really hard with only one thumb. One solace from my knee replacement surgery was my ability to write/type on my laptop, phone, and Ipad. Now I feel compelled to offer up a disclaimer- “Please forgive the typos, I’m operating with only one hand.”
Friends and family have been enlisted to cut my food into bite-sized portions; driving is out of the question for weeks to come triggering my control issues all over again. But vanity dominates as my chief complaint. “How can I fix my hair with only one hand?” I wailed to my reflected self. Hair renders women vulnerable, especially as we age and our hair loses body and density. Coiffing demands multiple hands. The blow dryer goes in one hand; the brush in the other. Simple, except when you only have one hand! My husband’s name is Kitchens not Hair for a reason. His culinary capabilities definitely outweigh his styling skills.
I don’t think I’ve been particularly empathetic with others about the psychic impact of PTSD. I can’t even imagine the impact of PTSD on people from war torn countries or those surviving environmental disasters. The past few months have given me “a case of the nerves” as my southern grandmother used to say. I’m afraid of getting injured again. Riding in a car my eyes rove from side to side anticipating a collision. Walking even has its pitfalls.
But I know this is temporary. I totally plan to get back on my bike (even though my friends keep threatening to envelope me in bubble wrap to prevent further calamities.) But that isn’t living. Movement is an essential component of being alive. Sitting is the new smoking we are told. Maybe with all the hemispheric cross-over between the left and right sides of my brain, I will be smarter by the end of my convalescence. Uh oh, I think the pain pill just kicked in triggering my illusions of grandeur.