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Guest column | James Pettican

Injuries, Father Time put seniors to the test

"Don't fall."

Just about every senior citizen hears that from his or her doctor during just about every office visit.

Good advice, but fate sometimes steps in. In my case, it was a misstep on my part, which had me ending up on our garage floor. The damage was three broken bones in my right foot. The road to recovery began with six weeks in a wheelchair.

As a patient, I tend to be impatient and fortunate as a result of no major operations or long hospital stays in my 92 years and counting.

Wheelchair living is a way of life I would not recommend for my worst enemy. However, it taught me to have a new sense of admiration for those forced to spend years or even lifetimes in the conveyance. To those young folks, who manage to take part in various sports and wheelchair games, I can only offer a favorite teen adjective: Awesome!

Confronting and solving (and sometimes falling to solve) obstacles is a constant challenge. Towel racks are too high and many shelves are just plain out of reach. You speculate that the Wizard of Oz Munchkins must have had similar feelings along with the various other little folks found in children's stories.

Getting from one room to another when the passage is narrow brings out skills you didn't know you had and would rather have not picked the wheelchair way to learn.

In the early weeks, especially, pain is a matter of timing. Forget to take your pain pills on schedule and you soon get a painful reminder.

Simple tasks previously always taken for granted become challenges. Your caregiver's patience is something you learn to admire more and more as days and weeks go by. In my case, my wife and other family members' help deserved some sort of red-carpet award.

After six weeks, I was free of the wheelchair and moved on to using a walker, then a cane, and finally my own two feet. I'm not exactly striding triumphantly around like those lawyers in the TV commercials but I'm getting around.

At home, I usually walk — or, should I say, shuffle — around unaided. But, I use a cane or walker in the outside world, depending on the distance to be covered.

My sister says I was lucky that only my foot sustained fractures. The cement floor could have easily taken a toll of a hip, arm or leg. She's right, of course, and I hope my luck holds out a bit longer as there are still special family occasions I want to attend.

I guess Father Time will decide that.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.

Injuries, Father Time put seniors to the test 07/12/12 [Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 5:03pm]
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