The content and opinions expressed in this blog are mine. They do not represent the US Government or US Peace Corps - Jud Dolphin

Tuesday, September 23

Life Changes

Of course, we all know how life can change suddenly, but we don’t think about it much.  It hangs underneath daily consciousness until something happens and we become hyper-aware.   

A tall step ladder stands by the wall where I had left it a few days ago.  I was in the midst of trimming bushes on the edges of my patio garden.  Daylight ran out and I pledged to finish before the weekend was over. 
It’s Monday noon and the step ladder still beckons me to finish the job.  

Carefully, I place the ladder next to the bush which is more like a small tree.  Actually it’s about 10 feet tall.  I climb the ladder and hack away at the limbs. 

All is going well and a lot quicker than I thought.  Assessing my work, I move the ladder a few feet and hop back on.  Almost done, I reach for the final two branches in the back.

Then like a slow motion movie, the ladder shifts.  My mind races ahead.  “Jud, watch out. “  One of the legs of the ladder begins to sink into the moist soil.  I feel myself going and going and then gone.  The ladder falls one way and I’m flung the other with a terrible thud. 

“I’m in trouble,” I say to myself.  The white heat flashes from my extremities in an explosion of pain.  Hugging the earth, I look at my left arm.  It’s twisted at a 90 degree angle, just like an upside down L.

“Oh, this is not good,” I repeat to myself and attempt to pull the arm into a straighter line.  No bones seem to be protruding.  This is good.  I can move my neck and legs. That’s really good.  I’m feeling grateful. 

Up on a balcony a neighbor says that she’ll call 911.  Time passes as I practice slow steady breathing.  Now I know why I went to a Yoga class a few weeks ago.  Preparation. 

My mind races in hundreds of directions.  I think of all the what-ifs and should-haves and could-haves.  I image family and friends and feel their presence.  I tell myself it will be all right, but it hurts so bad.  What’s taking so long?

Too much time has passed.  No one has come.  I can’t hold it in any longer.  I yell out – “Help me.  Help me.  Help me!”  Up and down my apartment stack I hear balcony doors opening.  “Where are you?”  I yell back and more promises are made to get help. 

Time passes and for me now, time is pain. It’s so much more intense.  The arm has swollen like a long sausage balloon.  I want it to go away.  Then the neighbor above says she hears a siren.  I listen and yes it’s coming closer. 

The EMT crew arrives and takes charge.  Checking vital signs and keeping me informed of everything is so reassuring.  Soon I’m on a gurney and on my way to the awaiting ambulance.

I think to myself, “It’ll be okay.” 

It’s now a week later. All went well except I had to change hospitals.  My healthcare provider doesn’t have a contract with the hospital where I was first taken.  I think it’s yet another reason for single payer universal health care. 
My operation went well.  They realigned my bones (both were broken) and screwed in titanium plates to keep everything in place.  I’m definitely equipped for excitement at the airport security gates.

At home, I’m learning one-handed life.  Simple tasks like putting on socks or changing a pillow case become mini-challenges. 

It takes me back to Ukrkaine and my Peace Corps service.  Ordinary chores had to be relearned the Ukrainian way - like swooshing laundry in the bath tub instead of popping it into a machine or taking a hot bath only after three pots of water have been boiled on the stove. I can see now that living day-to-day will be many new projects.

Of course, the benefit is more mindfulness.  I’m forced to slow down and notice.  I’m less on automatic pilot and more into making plans with what I have.  I’m thinking that in our modern technological life cluttered with more multi-tasking data, finding moments to be mindful is a very good thing. 

I remember how people appear when needed the most.  A lady on a balcony calls for help.  Others stop what they are doing to answer my screams of distress.  Friends call with support and well wishes.  Small acts of kindness give me a deep feeling of gratefulness.  I’m connected to a wonderful human family.  There’s such abundance when loving one another is practiced. 

No doubt, my healing will be a long slog. I wish I had a magic wand that could make it all better.  But I don’t. 

What I do have is the chance to take these experiences and re-weave them into my life-story.  I’ll learn more about living and giving in the moment.  I’ll cherish friendships more and make new ones.  Acts of kindness are not going to be taken for granted or quickly forgotten.  I have a chance to practice gratefulness and imagine new ways to pass it on.  As they say, “pay it forward!”

Sure, my arm is broken.  But I’m thinking. “maybe it’s not going to be so bad.”