Steps-2, Quiconque-0

July 9, 2008 at 4:34 pm (der Fuß)

The renovations of my elevator are imminent and everyone but I seems to be horrified at the idea of me crawling on my hands and knees or scooting down the stairs on my backside.  My mom tried to show me some tough love last night by parking the car far from the handicapped ramp outside my physical therapy.  The object was to force me to hop over a high curb onto the sidewalk.

Not using my right leg for three months has had profound effects on mobility.  No duh.  What I mean here is that I’ve lost the automaticity of walking.  I have to think, and think hard, about my next step, and what my other limbs will have to do to make that step possible.   And, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, if the terrain is sketchy, or I’m feeling tired, or the path seems particularly complicated, I actually find it easier to take the weak leg out of the equation all together and hop with the crutches and the good leg.

So, encouraged by my mother, I walked to the edge of the curb.  And stopped.  And looked at the curb.  And gripped my crutches.  I tried to wrap my brain around getting up onto the sidewalk.  Nothing came to me.  I put the crutches on the curb, but couldn’t get enough purchase to lift myself up.  I stood there for about 2 minutes, just looking at the ground, trying to figure out what I had to do.  And I couldn’t. 

My mother suggested holding onto the hood of the car for support.  Which SEEMED like a good idea but it was, in fact, really dumb.  But that’s what I did.  And I hurled myself onto the sidewalk and flailed my arms and lost my balance and landed on the injured foot and bashed the hell out of my wrist on the side of the crutch while my mother hovered next to me but did nothing really to save me.  I was livid.  And I yelled out, “god-fucking-dammit!”  My mother didn’t even admonish me; she knew she was wrong.

My pain and the obvious flaws in her plan did not stop her from nagging me: “You have to learn how to walk up stairs.  What’s going to happen when the elevator goes out?”

At the close of my physical therapy session, my therapist took me to the office staircase to demonstrate the sideways method of ascending the stairs.  It seemed simple when he did it, of course, because he has two working, fit feet attached to working, fit legs.  When it was my turn, things didn’t progress as well.  When I put my weight on my bad foot, it was like there was no leg in between the foot and my hip.  I was able to drag myself up one step, but it took all the strength of my arms and most of the strength of his to keep me from tumbling backwards.

So, no upright stair navigation for me, which, again, other people seem to have a problem with. TragicCrusade often says that dignity is a luxury he cannot afford.  And while he and I don’t always see eye to eye on what “dignity” means (I believe there are ways to be craven that have nothing whatsoever to do with one’s physical circumstances), I am beginning to understand a little of what he is trying to say. 

My mother (and to some extent my therapist) doesn’t like the IDEA of me crawling or scooting around on the floor, even though, to me, falling and hurting myself are far more serious concerns.  My mother worries about my clothes getting dirty.  (“Make sure you tell the super to keep the staircase clean!”–as if such a thing is possible when the entire building will be trudging up the same flights throughout the day.  How many times is the man supposed to mop?)  I told her that I just won’t wear white while the elevator’s broken.

I bought knee pads and rubber gloves.  I have moist towelettes in my bag.  I have many pairs of grey and brown pants.  I’ll be all right.



  1. Ten Feet of Steel said,

    I’m trying to figure out what would make a nice, slippery mat that you could use to put under yourself if you need to scoot down the stairs on your bum. Perhaps a heavy-duty trash bag? Just to protect your pants. Or maybe your workplace would allow for jeans while you get through this particular phase of your rehabilitation? Denim hides dirt better than most fabrics.

    I hope your therapist has at least asked himself whether the techniques he’s teaching you have been evaluated for usefulness to people who weigh something other than average, since I’m sure there are some modifications in technique and pace that would need to be made to adjust for increased strain, different leverage, etc.

    I hope everybody, mother and therapist included, can understand that having to navigate a staircase on your hands and knees is not some kind of unspeakable horror. Obviously, you have to work on eventually getting back upright mobility. But the pace of that work shouldn’t be dictated by some notion of what some consider embarrassing. I have gone through short periods of time when I had to go up the stairs on my hands and one knee/foot or hop down the stairs on one foot clutching the railing for support. It wasn’t all that embarrassing to be caught at it by other people. The worst part was trying to make people understand that I didn’t need help (it actually feels less secure to lean on someone else than to do it myself, although I may just have control issues)–some people are very concerned citizens, and men, especially, have issues with chivalry. I did sometimes take people up on the offer to carry groceries, packages, etc. for me up the stairs, though.

  2. TragicCrusade said,

    What TF said almost precisely. Hear hear. (NO sarcasm)

    I would add that a cut up bath mat or carpet remnant might be safer. A plastic bag, while easier to manage, may be too slippery and not offer enough traction for control. And while the thought of Qui virtually taboggoning out of control down the stairs on a bag on her bum makes me smile inside (OK, I lie. Laugh out loud in fact) in an Itchy and Scratchy and America’s Funniest Home Videos kind of a way, it’s not as funny in real life. So, I suggest a small bath mat or capet remnant or car mat. The weird question is how to carry and manouvre said “stair bum mat” (trademark this quick TF, boomers are getting older) in between, before, after and during flights. If someone could maybe help her do some practice runs, it might be very helpful. I’d offer but that seems like it just might multiply the ensuing hilarity.

    Look disabled ppl fall down and go boom over and over. (This is how I get a bad rep on this blog I think ? :))

    I found I hated all trains until a dear friend helped me think about them kinesthetically differently and then went around with me to many of the city trains and major stations to help me figure out which ones I could use and couldnt and help me determine what features to look for in a station to make it easier to deal with or less so. Sometimes it can be helpful to have another person do some practice runs of a difficult or scary thing with you first to build confidence. Now I even ride the subway. Ok, I’m leaving before this becomes a Very Special Episode of Charismatic Megafauna.

    They havent won yet! Rally! Rally!

  3. yoko said,

    I was nimble enough to hold both crutches under one arm, hold the rail with the other hand and hop, both up and down stairs. However, in the middle of the night, when I had to go to the bathroom (you may recall that my former apartment was configured so that I had to walk a small flight of stairs to the bathroom), I crawled up and down on my hands and knees.

    I’ve actually crawled up and slid my way down steep hills when hiking, which looks absolutely ridiculous, but I felt safer that way.

  4. ashyknees said,

    Yeah, whatever works for you.

  5. La Belle Helene said,

    The crawling up and down the stairs doesn’t concern me. What does is: How do you plan on lowering yourself to the ground to begin the descent in the first place? And How do you plan on getting back upright at the end of the flight?

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