One thing I didn't give much thought to when I retired was what I would do if I became ill or disabled after I stopped working. I've always been a relatively healthy person, and have had very few accidents over the years, so I've never needed to be hospitalized or have surgery. And when I ran and did yoga regularly, I felt very comfortable in my body. I never felt unsteady on my feet or likely to fall.
That changed 5 1/2 weeks ago when I tripped and fell hard on my right hand, breaking a bone in my wrist. Because I've never had a broken bone, I assumed it was a bad sprain for a week or so before going to my doctor. She wisely sent me for an emergency x-ray "just in case", which led to an ER visit, during which a young orthopaedic surgeon attempted to set the bone. When that was unsuccessful, I was placed on a list for emergency wrist surgery. Fortunately, the call came just a couple of days later at 8:00 PM when I was asked to be at the hospital by 6:30 the next morning. By 11:00, I was on my way home again, a metal plate installed in my wrist to aid healing of the bone.
I have to say I found the past month difficult. The pain wasn't bad after the first few days, but the surgeon advised that I should use my right hand as little as possible for six weeks following the surgery, in order to let the bone heal as fully and quickly as possible. As a result, I've spent a lot of time hanging around, frustrated by my inability to do many of the things I enjoy most, including gardening, cooking, and photography. The doctor said I could use my hand for typing but I find keyboarding uncomfortable so I've mostly relied on dictation apps to keep up on correspondence, etc. In fact, I'm dictating this post.
I have managed to do more reading than usual. I've already finished a couple of books and am part way through a couple of others, but I find it difficult to focus. I'm often distracted by worrying about whether the bone is healing properly, whether the twinges I feel are normal, and whether I'm going to regain full use of my wrist again. It's frightening to think I might not. Relying on my left hand has been eye-opening. It turns out I'm not at all ambidextrous. I've slowly learned to do routine tasks with my left hand but they take much more time and I still can't write with it. I shudder to think how difficult it would be to get along without my right hand permanently.
Even if everything goes perfectly. It will be at least another 6 to 8 weeks before I can function more or less normally, and it could be longer before the pain is gone. I'm okay with that so long as it heals eventually.
And there is a silver lining in all this. Since the pandemic began, I've been lax about exercising regularly. I can't help wondering if I could've avoided the accident if I've been in better shape. I've certainly felt a lot less sturdy my feet over the past year. Of course, I'll never know. What I do know is that it's important to maintain bone health, particularly as I age. To do that I need to get back to regular weight bearing exercise, including running and yoga, and work on improving my flexibility and balance. Hopefully, this experience provides the motivation I need to get back on track.
The other thing that's got me thinking about all this is a series of visits with elderly family and friends, who've been hospitalized recently as a result of falls and other issues. I've been struck by how vulnerable they are, particularly given there's so much COVID-19 circulating in hospitals. I was able to wear a good mask nearly 100% of the time I was in and out of hospitals over the past month and a half. They haven't had that option. While the air quality in the hospitals I've visited has been quite good, I worry about what repeated COVID-19 infections may do to them. I know of too many seniors who, despite being relatively healthy and strong before their COVID-19 infections, succumbed to likely post-Covid sequelae a few months later. It breaks my heart that we're not doing more to keep vulnerable people safe. And it's sobering to realize that I've reached the point in my life where I could soon be one of them.
As I look down the road at the likely impacts of the climate emergency, and recover from my first surgery since I was a child, I'm more conscious than ever that I am aging, and much more quickly than I'd like. I need to make peace with that, while taking the steps I can to remain strong and healthy as long as possible. As Bette Davis put it decades ago, "Getting old ain't no place for sissies". It's time to toughen up and get serious about looking after myself.
On a more upbeat note, here are a couple of images from our recent visit to Risser's Beach.