The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By Josie Braaten
Casual Observations 

Learning to Use Crutches


Last fall, during the tail end of my cross country season, I started feeling an aching soreness in my left hip. Instead of just being sore from lifting, like I had originally thought, it turned out to be an avulsion fracture. I was absolutely devastated. Just two days before, I had ran my personal best 8K time at our regional cross country meet and now I was being told that I had six weeks of crutches in my future. I had to keep reminding myself that it could have been much worse and to be thankful that it wouldn’t require surgery. However, for someone with virtually no physical coordination or upper body strength, the idea of tottering through a raging Minnesota blizzard on two metal sticks didn’t seem that much more appealing than having one’s hip sliced open.

Learning to live on crutches was, to put it in socially appropriate terms, difficult. My apartment mates were great about my temporary handicap, but they had their own lives and I didn’t want to burden them with my needy self. Those reasons, along with an intense desire and love for independence, left me determined to learn to navigate the adult world, something I could barely do with two solid hips, on crutches.

Grocery shopping, laundry, getting myself to class, cooking, showering, Christmas shopping, it all had to get done, and somehow it did, through a continuous evolution of trial and error and with lots of actual blood, sweat, and tears. For future reference, crutching sideways in order to pull a rolling suitcase makes you look super pathetic and doesn’t even work, and the accelerators on the electric carts at grocery stores are VERY touchy. My methods weren’t elegant or even very efficient. However, I didn’t starve, was never more than four minutes late for class, and figured out a way to swim that didn’t involve using my lower body, so I think they were more or less effective. My first week on crutches, I could barely do twenty little hops before I had to rest. By the end of those longest six weeks of my life though, I was basically like a three-legged gazelle bounding through the snow. A crabby, stressed gazelle, yes. But I was still going.

It would be a dirty lie though, if I said I was able to do everything myself. I gave it my all, but some things are just impossible to do while juggling crutches, and I would never have survived without assistance from some very kind souls.

Not being able to compete, practice with my team, and do an activity that I loved was terribly sad. On top of that, I was extremely anxious about my healing process. Along with being necessary for self-preservation, attempting to integrate my crutches into my normal lifestyle gave me something to focus on besides my injury and the negative emotions that it brought. Working to preserve as much of my independence as possible, also gave me back a sense of control in a situation completely beyond my control.

Learning to work my crutches into my everyday life was my way of coping with a situation that was extremely tough for me emotionally. Although, I obviously wish I had never fractured my hip, the situation proved to me the importance of finding something concrete and achievable to focus on when life takes things out of your control. Without something else to focus on and work toward, it is just way too easy to get sucked into a hole of desperation and bitterness, making a bad situation even worse.

Josie Braaten is the Courier's editorial intern. She is a sophmore at Minnesota State University, Mankato.


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