Learning the hard way and teachable moments

That photo is for sure not me and not even how I hurt my back. As I discussed on the radio show this week, hurting my back (unglamorous—changing a fitted sheet on a heavy mattress) was certainly a giant pain but it also opened my eyes to some things and even inspired a little creativity.

I recently learned:

  • That the “for better or worse” vow is no joke. I am very fortunate that husband Bill has been willing to put up with my utter helplessness…in the beginning, I needed almost constant help for the littlest chores and for many runs to the dentist and doctor. He has been a sweetheart under difficult circumstances. (Yes, I would have said that even if he wasn’t proofreading this blog!)
  • I now have enormous empathy for people struggling with chronic pain—IT IS EXHAUSTING! (Give them a break when they aren’t very patient.)
  • Read the darned package notes for prescriptions or search a website like com! It is not safe to assume that the doctor or pharmacist will warn you of side effects to watch for. E.g., I was aware of the cautions about avoiding addiction to pain killers, but not that they can cause constipation.
  • I will no longer snicker during the annual Medicare physical when they ask those questions about the “activities of daily living” (e.g. getting yourself dressed, showering, preparing food, etc. (Happily, I have gradually been able to regain most of those simple abilities.)
  • Don’t be afraid to accept help. Friends and family will ask, and it might make them feel good to contribute. Perhaps make a list of some things friends and family can do. For example, take some of the burden off the caregiver who in addition to the new role likely still must do all his or her normal chores…e.g. help folding a load of laundry; make a trip to the grocery store; walk the dog; scoop leaves from the pool; change the furnace filter, etc.
  • Focus on the tiny improvements, not the seemingly endless road ahead.
  • Getting in and out of bed was the hardest thing to manage and involved a lot of screaming. It was a great help when Bill ordered a Medical Bed Assist Rail with Adjustable Heights. Our bed is tall, so I also figured out that having a little 1-foot step stool by the bed helped me start out high enough that when I sat down, I was back far enough into the bed so that I could pull in my legs. Another problem was that my jammies didn’t slide on the sheets, making it hard to scoot in or roll over. So, I put one of those thin flexible plastic dollar-store kitchen cutting mats under my rear.
  • Heat feels relaxing on muscles, but ice might be more useful to reduce swelling and inflammation on the joint injury. We really like this 3-Piece Set – Reusable Hot and Cold Therapy Gel Wrap. We have only used the cold therapy option but appreciate that the velcro holder keeps it where you want it. For heat, we have several microwave pads (rice filled, etc.) we accumulated over the years, but prefer this one because it is large enough to cover the whole lower back and is easy to hold in place even if you are up walking around.
  • In my quest to do additional things for myself, I leaned to greatly appreciate the Grabber Reacher Tool that I had previously only used to reach stuff on the top shelf of my closet. We had inherited a second one and so there is one at each end of the house. (Now my problem is how to pick up the grabber when I drop it…“Uh, Bill”.)
  • Our daughter loaned us a walker. It is a great design. It helps me stand in the best posture so I can really tool around with it and get some exercise without pain.
  • I needed to allow a LOT more time than usual to get to any appointment. Every step getting ready and into and out of the car is slooow.
  • Everything in the body is connected. E.g. I noticed that even sitting at table I can feel it in my back when I pick up a coffee mug.
  • Posture is very important to preventing trouble and to giving the body a break in healing. I learned that subtle changes in posture (made to avoid pain in the area of the injury) can strain and annoy other muscles.
  • A regular chiropractic tune-up can help prevent injury. Also be aware that nerves coming from the spine affect all the organs. Therefore, spinal irregularities can be at the root of seemingly unrelated health problems.
  • Stem cell therapy will not keep you from doing something dumb and hurting yourself, but it will certainly help you heal faster.
  • Handy as they are, towel bars are not safety grab bars. I learned I could grab a doorknob in each hand to help me pull up off the stool. (I’m grateful that my trainer made me do the hated squats because I now know how critical those quad muscles are for standing up.)

Again, I am very blessed to have such a supportive husband. Kiss, kiss. (I only hope that when my turn comes, I’m as patient.)

Leave a Reply