AT on... Being at Home with a Broken Leg

Until now, I've happily spent much of my free time and energy arranging my apartment to please me visually and accommodate an active lifestyle of working at home and entertaining friends. But I now have a new and entirely different perspective on my home: that of a person convalescing after suffering a broken leg.On the Saturday before Christmas, nearly a foot of snow fell on Seattle. I spent the entire, wonderful day reading by the fire with my honey while the snow piled up around my house, weighing the bamboo down and clearing the view from our windows where we could see the sledding and the snowball fights.

That night we decided to visit a friend who lives half a mile away. When we left a little later, we expected an uneventful, mostly downhill trek ending in our warm bed, but about a block from our friend's house, I slid and fell. Not a spectacular fall; more of a crumple-and-crouch that should have ended with me sitting in the snow laughing. Instead, I broke off the end of my tibia.

After a perilous ambulance ride (at this point, I-5 was empty and not plowed, salted or sanded, with deep snowdrifts crossing it) to and treatment at the ER, I woke a friend at 4am in the morning to pick us (my husband and I) up and take us to my mom's house, which is much closer to the ER with fewer hills. And there I've been for the most part, ever since.

The benefit of staying at my mom's house is, first and foremost, my mom is here. She prepares and brings my meals, brings my belongings with me from room to room when I need them, watches me climb and descend the stairs, and keeps me company. But I will have to return to my little apartment eventually, and I stayed there one night last week to see what I will need to make my space livable with far less support.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

Furniture arrangement. It was kind of sad to me to have to think about changing the way the furniture is arranged, since I worked so hard on it during the Fall Cure. But the truth of the matter is that I need wide walkways to the essential spots — the couch, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom — even if this means "bowling alley effect," pushing furniture against the walls, and losing some functional areas. My hard-won desk and dining areas are two such casualties. Also, my open living room arrangement used to see the lounge chairs at an angle to the couch; I changed this to make the chairs square to it, since a grid is much easier to navigate with crutches. A coffee table that's sturdy enough to elevate my leg on is essential.

Throw rugs. Light weight throw rugs, even with non-skid liners underneath them, present a tripping hazard with crutches. I asked my husband to remove the one we had by the front door. Even the bath mat has to go, since I'd have to walk over it to get to the bathroom. We left the big rug in the living room since it's heavy and held down by heavy furniture, so it won't move around.

Everyday items. When I broke my leg, I lost the use of not just one limb, but three, in a way, since walking with crutches takes the use of my arms as well. That makes carrying anything a matter of careful planning and accessories, like a backpack or over the shoulder bag. I put everyday items where I actually use them, instead of where they've been cleverly or aesthetically stored.

Stairs. My mom's house has stairs up to the bedrooms, and since I've broken my leg, I've fallen down them twice. It's a tricky thing to learn how to maneuver crutches on stairs, especially going down, and it's never as safe as with two healthy legs. My apartment is a single story, but getting up to it involves a very slippery wooden staircase. If I need to leave my house for any reason, I'll have to call someone to help me.

Pets. Our cat is now in my husband's sole care, and if I lived by myself I would have arranged for someone to take care of the pets, just as if I was on vacation and not home at all.

Bathing. Slippery surfaces + one nonfunctional leg that can't get wet = a challenge. There are a lot of resources on the web (like this one) for stools, chairs and railings that make bathing less of a hazard, but so far I've made do with a lightweight chair that I drag next to the bathtub to rest my leg on while I take a bath, and to ease the transition from laying, to sitting, to standing.

Image: net_efekt

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