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Paying It Forward

June 10, 2011 Friends 1 Comment

In September 2007, I was in a nasty bicycling crash that left me pretty much useless in terms of taking care of myself and my household. That will happen with a broken left tibia/fibula + broken left clavicle + broken right wrist. I went from training for my first half marathon to a wheelchair.

Then a walker.

Then crutches.

Then a boot.

Then a limp.

A year after the original surgery, I had one of the plates and 7 screws removed (including that one that had basically unscrewed itself from my ankle, as seen above) and am now good as new! I can run pain-free, I don’t feel the remaining plate/screws in my ski boots, and the scars are a great conversation starter (or something like that)!

I learned a lot about myself during the recovery period. Humility probably tops the list. There was a learning curve for me to accept my limitations for the time-being, and then marvel when I surpassed them as I got stronger. The toughest lesson was learning to ask for help. I am a fiercely independent person and pride myself on being able to take care of myself and do things by myself. But with no upper body strength and an inability to walk, I had to make peace with relying on others.

Greg was very patient with me and never let me see what must have been almost-constant frustration. He took on full-time Argus duty. He responded to my every whim for a glass of water here and a snack + more pain meds there. He suggested I use the “Luggable Loo” for my middle-of-the-night bathroom needs (#1 only, thankyouverymuch) and cleaned it out every morning. He lived with an out-of-control control freak without losing his mind or his temper. And best of all, he accommodated live-in help for four weeks — two of which were provided by my mother.

I personally believe that the live-in help was instrumental in our relationship surviving my big accident. Having lived through it, I realize that the caretaker suffers more than the one being cared for. We didn’t think about the ins and outs of any of it at the time — we just said yes to those offering time and assistance. My mom met us at the airport when we first got home from North Carolina and stayed a week. Sarah came for the second week. My sister came for the third week, and my mom came back for the last week.

The live-in help freed Greg up on things like groceries, household stuff like dishes and laundry, and cooking. He took care of Argus and worked full-time, and came home to us ready to help out rather than being totally burned out with the demands of also being a full-time caretaker.

But enough about me…

When my friend Claudia found out she had fractured her femur at the pelvis, I was quick to offer my services. She had already been on crutches for a month, in the hopes of repairing the fracture. The injury had progressed enough that hip pinning surgery was required. She and her husband Stephen live in a home with stairs and are raising a 3 year old and a puppy — hard work! Stephen had long-standing weekend getaway plans with his college buddies and was going to have to cancel his trip. Knowing how invaluable the break was for Greg to have full-time help, I implored them to take me up on my offer to go to Santa Barbara and help.

They resisted. They didn’t want to burden me. They thought it would be too much. I insisted. I prevailed!

It was certainly out of my normal day-to-day duties to care for a small child and a puppy (as well as my usually-independent friend) for five days. But helping felt so good! Having been in a similar situation — and knowing the long road to recovery they have ahead of them — I knew my help was something they wouldn’t have asked for and that they needed so much. Giving Stephen the time away and taking on the household duties so Claudia could rest and recover was the best gift I could give them.

It was hard work leaving Greg and Argus for five days and taking care of someone else’s family. But given my full recovery and first-hand knowledge of live-in help made paying it forward feel so good. I didn’t do it for praise. I didn’t do it for thanks. I didn’t do it for any other reason than I know they needed something I had to give.

Here’s to your recovery, Claudia! Pencil in the Big Sur Half Marathon in 2012 and we’ll run it together. I know you’ll make a full comeback… and pay it forward to a friend in need!

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  1. Claudia Luddemann says:

    Now that I am toting hardware and am hopefully bionic (and not the tin man), I expect to be much faster at Big Sur 2012. Molly – can you bring it?

    And BTW Bobsie, have I thanked you yet today?

    My gratitude to you, Greg and Argus is immeasurable and one day I look forward to paying it forward!

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