“Just a broken foot and two cracked ribs? That’s it?”
I can remember quizzing the ER doctor following his diagnosis and instructions and feeling pretty darn lucky. Well, foolish, too, because if I hadn’t applied that imaginary brake in the front passenger seat when that driver crashed into us head on, I would probably be walking out of the hospital wearing both of my favorite shoes.
I left the hospital with an upbeat attitude—I’m sure it had nothing to do with the sweetly numbing painkiller I had been given—and was thinking that I’d be as good as new in about four to six weeks.
That is not how it went.
As the months passed, I felt less fortunate, more angry and more depressed. The man who hit us had blacked out from a medical condition and gone through his windshield. I saw him at the crash site, and was sure he didn’t make it, and yet he walked away with barely a scratch. He was also uninsured, which meant I got to fight with the insurance company over everything.
My just a broken foot—from the snapped-in-half metatarsals to the broken-into-three-pieces cuboid and all the little chipped and damaged bones in between—was not healing as expected. I was in constant pain. The insurance company didn’t want to pay for the only non-narcotic pain killer that held relief for me, as they had deemed it experimental. I had to sleep on my back with my bulky walking cast on my foot, sticking outside the covers. If I moved much at all, the my cracked ribs would produce a raspy, screaky sound that belonged more in a scary movie than inside my body.
It. Was. Not. Fair.
I saw doctor after doctor who was so very sorry, but he just didn’t know how to help me.
My physical therapist apologized because he hadn’t been able to coax my foot into a shoe, let alone getting me to where I could use it again with even a minimum of pain. He offered his regrets with his goodbye.
I visited Dr. Number Five—Mr. I Am A Very Important Orthopedist—with my required x-rays in hand and a flicker of hope still in my heart. He flipped open my chart, and an annoyed expression darkened his face. He turned to me, and asked impatiently why I was there. I explained that I just wanted to get better.
He scowled at me and snapped,
You need to stop doctor shopping.
You are as good as you are going to get, so you may as well get used to it!
Shaking with anger and a deep down fear that he could be right, I became speechless. I managed to keep myself together until I got to the car, where I sat and wept.
Temporarily cowed but ultimately undeterred, I eventually found an amazingly talented physical therapist who recommended a friendly, down-to-earth podiatrist who knew just what I needed. We started back at square one as I marked the one year anniversary of being wrecked. Many doctor’s appointments, multiple orthotic fittings, and over one hundred physical therapy visits later, I was healed.
I. Could. Walk.
Sure, I have to wear orthotics in my stylin’ senior citizen shoes, which, in spite of their dowdy looks, cost many times more than I ever used to pay for footwear.
But I can now walk. And run. Without pain.
Here are 10 lessons I learned to help each of us navigate our own stretch of road.
1. Take precautions so you stay as safe as possible.
Whether it’s seat belts in a car, life vests in a kayak, or teaching your children best practices, be prepared, be smart, be safe.
2. Be honest and open with any professionals with whom you work.
If it’s a doctor, for example, give honest appraisals of your pain levels, behaviors, and whether or not you are following their instructions. The higher quality of your information, whether for a lawyer, kitchen designer, or teacher, the better job they will be able to do for you.
3. Take your medicine and follow directions.
If a financial counselor dictates some serious belt-tightening, do it. If a doctor advises a change in your eating and exercise routine, embrace it. If you are not sure the information is sound, get a second opinion or third.
4. Knowledge is your friend.
Learn all you can from reputable sources and be willing to share and ask lots of questions.
5. Everyone, regardless of the number of initials after their name, is human.
As the old saying goes, we all put our pants on one leg at a time. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect folks to know absolutely everything in our increasingly specialized world. Be decent, respectful and reasonable, with in all your conversations, and remember that you are due the same in return.
6. You are your own best advocate.
This one can be tough because it sometimes feels like it’s you against the world, but it is your body, your life, your future. If a doctor has a terrible bedside manner and is dismissive of your concerns, consider leaving. If you aren’t making progress with an advisor, you may just not have found your fit.
7. Let go of fear.
Irrational fears keep us from moving into a fulfilling life, as does its nasty little sibling, worrying. I highly recommend prayer as a soothing and empowering antidote. As Philippians 4:6-7 counsels: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8. Be prepared to pitch in and roll with the punches.
It is not unusual for the needs of individual family members to rise and fall like cresting waves. When everyone is on board and rowing in the same direction, it takes less effort than everyone trying to steer the boat their way. Patience and empathy can go a long way towards making the journey more bearable.
9. Learn to be a happy receiver.
We all love to give, but are very rarely keen to be on the receiving end. It is so good for our hearts to be humble and to let go of our pride. If the shoe were on the other foot—no pun intended—I have no doubt you’d jump in to help. So let someone else bless you with their giving.
10. Be grateful for where you are.
I know. I saved the really, really hard one for last. For me, that means I had to truly forgive and let go of so much, including anger at the other driver, irritation at those who weren’t able to heal me, but especially my very petty resentment of and embarrassment at my clunky footwear. I can’t wear dressy shoes, casual sandals, or even regular sneakers. These lace-ups are pretty much my entire footwear wardrobe. But I can walk without pain, so I lovingly embrace my bright white shoes that take me to see my daughters, that lead the way as my husband and I step towards our 30th anniversary next year; that allow me to dance in the knowledge we are joyfully and gratefully alive.
This post was inspired by Jeff Goins upcoming book, Wrecked, When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life.
Have you been wrecked, only to come out the other side with more wisdom and gratitude? Are you in the thick of it, and need to see some light? Please share in the comments so others can help, and also be lifted and encouraged by your words. Thanks so much for coming by—I am always so happy to see you!