- Countries Visited: Not including stopovers 46 countries.
- Travel Wishlist: Japan (we’ve had to cancel twice!), Thailand, all of South America.
- Locked down in: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
“Life will never be the same again, every day it changes. We lose something and we gain something every day. We learn to adapt, to be flexible, to draw on our strengths, to build resilience to survive and even through adversity to thrive. I truly believe there’s light at the end of this tunnel.”
On the 20th January 2019 I was out for a solo bike ride along a bike path in Fern Tree Gully, enjoying a sunny day, when a rider travelling toward me cut the curve onto my side of the path, panicked, braked, then flew over her bike to catapult into me. She impacted my right knee with her helmeted head, an accelerating force of 180kg. I hit the ground, still astride my bike with her on top of me.
Two kind bystanders came to my aid, beautiful people who gave me comfort and sorted out the logistics of getting my bike home to Ringwood & enquired later about my welfare. Meanwhile the woman who caused the collision stepped away, didn’t communicate, and has made no effort to do so at any time since. She was able to ride away unscathed.
I knew something was wrong with my leg, I couldn’t move it without severe pain; an ambulance took me to Maroondah Hospital. Later I was diagnosed with a break to my tibia plateau (involving damage to the tibia and the surface where the tibia joins the knee joint). Three days later the knee was surgically repaired. I was sent home with pain killers, a straight leg brace and a warning if I put my right foot on the floor over the next 3 months the surgery would be ruined & the knee would be even worse. The surgeon deemed 80% return of normal function would be a success. When I told him normal for me was to carry a 15kg backpack on a multiday hike he looked at me as if I was crazy and said there was no way I’d be able to do that!
Life as I knew it was over. Everything stopped. My work as a fitness instructor/personal trainer and social worker facilitating children’s groups, scouting, the 3 day a week carer role for my elderly mum, my independence, the ability to enjoy my leisure time walking, bike riding, hiking in fact doing anything outside. Finding myself in a wheelchair with my leg struck out front I realised I couldn’t fit through doorways, navigate footpath crossovers, manage steps or sit in the passenger’s seat of a car (to travel home from hospital I sat across the backseat of the car, I didn’t feel safe).
I cried a lot. I slept poorly, I couldn’t get comfortable, I was in pain and overcome with despair. But I had a mission to get my leg back in working order and to prove the arrogant condescending surgeon wrong.
My husband Chris was fantastic, he built a platform to get me from the house to the car, he took me on walks in the wheelchair and he hugged me, giving emotional support. Friends visited, some brought jigsaw puzzles, colouring books, puzzle books and novels to keep me occupied. While I quite enjoy reading a novel before sleep at night spending daylight hours engaging in jigsaw etc. only highlighted what I couldn’t do. I lost my appetite and felt depressed. Thinking back, I pretty much did nothing those first 6 weeks post-op.
At the 2 week surgeon appointment the straight leg brace was adjusted to allow for movement up to 90 degree. The surgeon asked what pain killer medication I was taking & I told him I’d reduced myself from 3 x 20mg Targin daily to 1 x 20mg at night. He told me to stop all Targin & only use Panadol, I did as instructed. Two days later I became suicidal. I was unable to rationalise or control my emotions. I secretly started writing suicide notes to Chris, my sister, and my sons. I planned in my mind how I would commit suicide, I would wait until Chris left the house and overdose. It was only in writing to one of my sons that I thought about the affect my actions could have on those I love, so I reached out for help. I was admitted to the PAPU (psychiatric unit) at Maroondah Hospital where I spent the next 3 days. They put me back on Targin and stabilised my mood. When I was released, I was advised to work closely with my GP to reduce my dependence on Targin and to address my mental health with a psychologist. I was considered at high risk; Chris was told under no circumstances was I to be left alone. My moods swung wildly, not only did I have a physical injury now my mind was injured. I was fearful of reducing the medication, it took many months and learning to trust my GP and psychologist to finally become drug free.
How could this be happening to me? I’m strong physically and mentally, I help others, I’m independent. This was like being dumped on Mars, everything was foreign, I had to rely on other people of everything, absolutely EVERYTHING! I’m forever grateful to family and friends who supported me during this time, I owe my life to Chris.
At my 6 week post-op check I was given permission to do exercise for my upper body. Now that I could clear my foot from the floor in a standing position with crutches, I could start on a campaign of upper body gym workouts. I set myself goals & gradually rebuilt my upper body strength. Chris dropped me at the gym 3 x a week and picked me up 3 hours later. The longer this saga went the more guilty I felt about being dependant on Chris. I became hesitant to ask Chris to take me out or do things for me and apologised continuously. My mental state was fragile and I had a near-miss trying to be independent.
Finally, 3 months post-op arrived and I returned to the surgeon expecting to start rehab for my leg but my hopes were dashed when he announced the leg wasn’t ready. I was devastated, he had set my expectations and then taken hope away, there were no guarantees for me now or in the future. More tears…. Another month passed, back to the surgeon I’m finally given permission to put my foot on the floor. This is what I’d been waiting for yet the fear and trepidation was immense. What if the leg collapsed? The surgeon was callous, he belittled me, a good clinical surgeon but a truly horrible human being.
So began rehab for my leg; from April to September every day I worked on regaining my physical health. It wasn’t easy, sometimes it was one step forward two steps back with both my mental and physical health but eventually there was improvement. With the recovery of my leg my mind grew stronger, step by step I was able to resume work and social activities. July 18th was my first bike ride and September 27th – 29th my first overnight hike with Scouts to Legdederg Gorge.
Hallelujah! I’d survived, I’d recovered my life, I was back on track. I’m still ticking off first post-ops and accept there’s somethings that I’ll never be able to do again but that’s OK.
Later last year Chris’ health nosedived, it was my turn to be his carer. Stress had left Chris vulnerable to physical & mental assault which finally resolved in January 2020. 2019 was truly the worst year of my life.
January 2020, we started hearing about this deadly virus hitting China, by March Victoria was in its first lockdown. Déjà vu, all my work stops, social interactions and freedom to travel are limited. Mum’s aged care home goes into lock down, I can’t visit or support her. You know the rest…..
The first time doing something is always the hardest, this is round two for me and Chris. What has the past taught me? How do I get through this again? At least this time I can walk, I’m not in pain.
For me, I need to move, I need routine, I need to be productive and helping others is important for my soul. So, into action, I phone Red Cross and volunteer for Patient Transport. I can’t instruct fitness classes f2f so I make weekly recorded workouts & post them on UTube. I make jams, phone people, clean up the house and the garden. I build the routine I know I need. I survived 2019, this virus will not be my demise, I’m mentally stronger and prepared this time.
How do I feel about my life in Covid19 lockdown 2020? I hate the limitations it’s put on my life, the frustration of three cancelled holidays, not seeing family & friends or doing the many other things I was looking forward to this year. I feel so sad for those who have lost loved ones from Covid19 and other causes, to be unable to grieve and pay tribute to them is anguishing. I worry for those living alone, we all need someone to hug, to connect with, to draw comfort from. And I feel thankful for modern technologies which allows me to Skype with mum and see my family and friends through a screen. I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself, to be patient and flexible. I keep up to date with the latest on Covid19 but then put it aside and find other things to do. Could I live like this for ever? It’s not ideal, but I feel hopeful the virus will soon be under control, a vaccine found and we’ll all be able to resume our lives.
Life will never be the same again, every day it changes. We lose something and we gain something every day. We learn to adapt, to be flexible, to draw on our strengths, to build resilience to survive and even through adversity to thrive. I truly believe there’s light at the end of this tunnel.
This is my story and why I feel differently to others about life in lockdown 2020. We are all on our own journeys and have our own stories, all of them valid, all of them important. I hope by reading my story you too will reach out without shame or embarrassment for help and realise your inner resilience.