‘Off my feet’: experiences of a health professional turned patient – Part 1

Part 1: Independence – The Little Things we take for granted

I am an occupational therapist and would like to think of myself as an empathetic practitioner. However, I have also recently been a patient and it has surprised me how many new insights this has given me into how difficult it is to cope with disability.
I had surgery on both my feet recently. As a result I had to use surgical boots and two crutches to walk for almost seven weeks and a crutch or stick for a further three weeks. It has been fascinating to be ‘on the other side’ and really see the world from a patient’s perspective.
I do not intend this blog to be a moaning session – but hope that it makes you reflect on some of the little things. The first part of my blog will describe how I felt as a patient and how not being able to do some of the little things have really mattered. Part 2 will he second part will talk about the actions of others and the impact of some of the little things that people did, or didn’t do, which made such a huge difference.

Vulnerability
Nothing prepared me for the feeling of vulnerability I experienced. The little things we all do every day without thinking about it suddenly became big things for me. For example, I now had to plan ahead knowing that it would take me a long time to go upstairs to the toilet, I had lost the freedom to shower when I wanted to and not when my fiancé Mark was able to help me, I was unable to go to the shops to buy something for tea when I didn’t fancy what was in the fridge or to buy milk when I was desperate for a cup of tea and we had run out….
I also felt a real loss of dignity. For the first few weeks I had to use a bath-board to shower. I have given out dozens of bath-boards as an occupational therapist but to actually have to use one…to have to sit naked on a bit of plastic balanced over the bath was embarrassing enough when it was someone I know and love who was helping me. How must it feel to have to be helped by a stranger?
Venturing out and about was a whole other issue – more about that in part 2!

Loneliness
My life is usually too busy! With a busy work and social schedule, I am constantly rushing and thought that having a few weeks of working from home would be blissful! Admittedly not having to tackle the morning commute and being able to work in my pyjamas is lovely …but I quickly learnt that I missed the pressure and social contact of my normal work! Despite friends kindly visiting me and my fiancé rushing home from work in the evenings, for much of the working week I was essentially on my own and after a couple of weeks began to crave company and stimulation.
Time at home and by yourself is not so nice when it is imposed and not through choice. Let’s remember those who are truly lonely; Age UK estimate that a million older people in the UK have not spoken to anyone for a month.

 

Written by Laura Stuart, @laurajstuart

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