Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Recovery Asymptote

In math, an asymptote is a value that is approached infinitely closely, but never quite reached. Think of a curve that approaches a straight line, but eventually runs almost parallel to it, getting closer but never touching even out at infinity.  That's what recovery from my accident feels like.

I'm still making progress, but the increments are getting smaller as I get closer to normal.

On cursory inspection, strangers probably don't notice my limp, although I still feel that my stride is a bit constricted. I'm starting to feel a bit sheepish about using my handicap parking placard. I do still need it, because I get tired quickly and the limp increases. I'm ever so grateful to come out of a store and find my car right there. The permit expires at the end of October, which will probably be just about right.

I was discharged from physical and occupational therapy at the end of August. It was a strange feeling to say goodbye to people I had worked with thrice-weekly for almost five months and have them tell me they hoped to never see me again, at least at their workplace. Although technically I was functional, being able to walk a short distance without assistance, I still felt far from normal. The burden of returning to my former state, however, shifted from the insurance company's pocketbook to mine.

I followed instructions to explore gym memberships and finally decided that I would hire a personal trainer for a period of time to help me approach those intimidating machines. After three weeks of work, I'm certain that was the best choice. My teenage son may find the image of Mom lying on a bench pressing 12-pound dumbbells funny, but he didn't have the broken arm. Now I have a clue how to use all those machines, and how much weight I can use. My trainer has a master's degree in sports medicine, so I'm confident that he knows what I should and shouldn't do, and how to get me better in the most efficient manner possible. Having a knowledgeable person there to coach and plan the program is a good investment. I wish I could keep him indefinitely, but he is expensive, as he spends that full hour right at my side, making sure my form is proper and safe and even counting repetitions.

I can tell I'm making progress as I'm able to do more without so much pain. Balancing on the bad leg is a pretty good indicator, since that was the most wicked thing to do after going to full weight bearing. I can now do warrior III (without the arms) all the way horizontal, holding for five breaths. That's huge! Only three months ago, I struggled to just lift the good leg off the ground for a quick step.

Now I'm mentally working at regaining a normal routine, homeschooling, grocery shopping, cooking, and (very occasionally) cleaning. Everything takes longer than normal. I get tired by evening, especially after workouts or long walks of any type. Since that's my productive art time, I feel I'm not getting anything much done. But slowly, ever so slowly, I am inching back. I'm just trying to view this as time to reevaluate what I'm doing, to think about new ideas, to let the creativity percolate before it comes whooshing back.

It's hard to make people understand the magnitude of this injury. 99% of broken legs are different, with casts and crutches for 6 to 8 weeks and then back to life. Tibial plateau fractures are life changing. Sometimes people get totally back to normal, like the Olympic slalom skier who earned a silver medal eighteen months after one (was it normal, or should that have been the gold?). Sometimes people begin a long sequence of surgeries to repair problem after problem. It looks like I'm one of the luckier ones, even if I never quite reach that asymptote.