Lessons Learned From a Broken Leg

  1. Never take your eyes off the road!
    Okay, that is over dramatic. But I think we all need to be more aware of our driving circumstances as we decide to take our eyes off the road. At 25 miles an hour on a familiar street there is a lot of room for error. At 75 miles an hour on a strange highway late at night there is no room for error. In a neighborhood full of kids there is no room for error. In a school zone and most busy city streets there is no room for error. In my case I turned on the inside light and looked at a CD case. There was suddenly zero margin for error when I got slightly distracted by a problem changing CDs. This situation probably does not apply, but consider a couple of other hypothetical scenarios.

    You are driving and eating a lunch on the front seat. You reach over to grab a french fry. You turn to glance at the bag and accidently knock the contents all over the front seat. Most of you will do a double take. That extra moment is enough to cause an accident or to prevent you from reacting to prevent an accident.

    You are driving down the road. The kids are bickering in the back seat. They do not calm down when you tell them. You turn to emphasize your point by speaking directly to them. Little Johnny has a bloody nose (Suzy has a good right hook). Again the time for the double take is all that is needed for an accident.

    I guess the actual point is to think more about your driving circumstances. What big distractions might you have in your car? When can you safely do things in the car? When should you pull over to take care of a task? And finally, do any of us really know how accidents happen? I'm not sure we ever get to think about how they happen, or get to hear stories from people who have had them. Thus we are far less aware of which of our own habits can contribute to them.

  2. Modern Car CD Players are Dangerous
    This is based on a series of probable assumptions. Most kids these days burn their own CDs. Most of those CDs will be stored in cases with plastic sleeves. They will probably play these in a car with a CD player. Now in the old days it was possible to remove a cassete from its case and get it into the car's cassette player without ever looking. The modern burned CD/plastic case/car player coimbination does not easily allow such luxury. There are too many possible snafus to encourage this system as a safe way to listen to music in the car. For this reason I recommend an approach used by the California Highway Patrol. CD players should utlize CD changers stored in the trunk. Most changers can hodl five or six CDs. That is enough variety or playing time for most needs. In order to change the CDs the driver will need to pull the car off the road. This is the safest approach to what I foresee will be a growing problem.

  3. Attitude is Everything!
    Abraham Lincoln once said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." I think I learned that lesson a while ago, but I may have forgotten it in my life lately. Sitting in a ditch with a broken leg in the middle of a freezing cold night it all came back. Lying in a hospital for six days surrounding Christmas in a small hsopital in the middle of Utah was nowhere on my list of ideal Christmas holiday plans. But there I was. I decided right away that it was going to be a rich learning experience, a grand adventure, and that I was going to enjoy it. That decision made the experience more enjoyable, helped me learn a lot, and probably was the greatest reason I felt so little pain the whole time. I was able to crack jokes with the ambulance crew. I could laugh at my circumstances. I just started looking for the good in everything.

    • Complain about the food? Nope. It is as bad as they say, but from now on out airplane food is going to seem like a gourmet meal.
    • Bored? Nope! 7:00, morning and night was a shift change. I'd get to meet a new pretty nurse and assistant. During the day I could watch TV shows I'd never get to see. Every hour someone brought me food or drugs or forms to fill out.
    • My sister called the local church and the pastor Jeff Garrison stopped by. I had a lovely conversation with him. His assistance turned out to be invaluable in retrieving my stuff from my car and getting it shipped to the proper places. That is a debt I can never repay. I can only hope to pass it on. Someday I will get to help someone in need.
    • Total strangers stopped by and became friends.
    • Three different groups of carolers stopped by Christmas Eve. Each group had its own personality and provided its own memories. I have never heard carolers before at Christmas. That was a new experience.
    • Some stranger in a Santa suited wandered the halls passing out candy. (Memo: No one knew him or questioned him. I think you can get away with all kinds of stuff if you are dressed in a Santa suit at Christmas time.)

    Once you decide to be happy all sorts of things happen that will help you be happy. I have heard of people in worse situations than mine who are happier than I am. I also know lots of people who are better off than me who are miserable. Attitude is everything.

  4. Cedar City, Utah is a Darn Nice Town!
    Actually I suspect most of Utah is nice, because the folks in Beaver where I had the accident were nice too. Everybody I met was friendly and helpful. This made the whole experience wonderful. This also means you are in big trouble. I live in Boulder, Colorado. That is a nice town and a nice place to live. Word got out and people are moving there in droves. Cedar City has a similar beauty. Although fortunately there is no major city 25 miles away. Still I suspect in 10 or 20 years there will be a small population boom as people flee California for smaller, beautiful mountain towns. And what does that mean for you? Buy real estate! Or as a friend says, "Buy dirt, they aren't making it anymore."

  5. You Are Responsible For Your Own Medical Care
    No consistency! No attention to detail! No thorough follow through! Mom says, "You don't go to a hospital to get well." Everybody knows Vitamin C helps with iron absorption, but I had to keep asking for a glass of orange juice to wash down my iron pill. It seemed like nobody was making sure I ate right. My first few days I had little appetite. They brought me food and I ate very little. Nobody asked why. Nobody seemed concern about my lack of nutrition during a critical recovery time. When I left the hospital there was a whole list of things I should have done. There is even a known order to do them. Recovery and rehabilitation have lots of steps. Drugs, nutrition, stretching, strength gains, and healing all have known steps. You would think there would be a list they could hand you when you leave. There isn't. (Though I am making one based on my experience. Rehab Notes) I think they assume you will swiftly find other medical care and that those people will take care of all the details. If you have to get medical care. Ask lots of questions, learn all you can, listen to your inner voices, and make sure you know what your responsibilities are. I am reminded of a quote, "The role of the doctor is to amuse the patient while Mother Nature takes care of the disease." Make sure you are doing all you can to help Mother Nature.

  6. You Choose Change or Change Chooses You
    I heard this line from Linda Ellerbee at her Unique Lives and Experiences talk. She had seven rules for dealing with change. (You can read all of them on the page linked above.) It seemed like a good way to label one of my lessons. I know I broke my leg in December, but I have gotten puzzled looks when I say the accident occurred in April. I had taken a year off from teaching to figure out what I wantedc to do next. That year ended in the spring. I had not decided how I was going to change my life. After that point I made no decisions and kept on thinking and analyzing. I got stuck in a rut. I eventually got burned out on that rut. Yet still I did not choose what I wanted to change into. Change chose me instead. I have a broken leg and six months of learning how to change ahead of me. Not sure you can handle change? Try learning how to walk again. I am learning I can set small goals that are part of larger goals and take two or three weeks to meet each small goal. It is a wonderful thing!

  7. Pain Teaches Two Lessons
    I started this idea in the previous lesson. Pain will teach you an immediate lesson. "Don't do that!" There is probably a second lesson somewhere. My accident taught me to not take my eyes off the road. However it also alerted me that I had not been living well. During my rehab I went for too long a walk and injured my knee. In one afternoon I set my rehab back about five weeks. The lesson? Don't do that! But there was another lesson about being aware of what your rehab looks like in the future. I went from walking three blocks to walking six blocks twice. That was too big a leap. If I had been envisioning my future rehab I might have had the good sense to not do any more walking after the first six blocks. Too late to make a long story short, I suggest that after you recover from a painful incident (injury, broken heart, broken wallet) you look deeper and see if there is not some other lesson for you about how to live a better life. See Rules For Being Human for more about life's lessons.