Frustration and a Golden Opportunity
A long road ahead
The surgeon advises against squatting or running for six months. I’m demoralised. Running is a salvation for me. The health benefits, the endorphins released, the sheer pleasure of being outdoors and immersed in nature is a necessary balm for my mind and soul. Reality bites when I ask if I can walk for 30 minutes at the end of the 10 week rehab. The answer is a firm ‘no’. I’m only allowed to walk for 10 minutes to start with. The physio warns it’s imperative to take things easy. “This is equivalent to a knee reconstruction. The danger period for re-tearing the meniscus is in the first 10 weeks.” I realise this is going to be a very slow and gradual process.
Frustration… even the simple things take forever
Before leaving hospital, I’m given a lesson on using crutches. Stairs are extremely challenging and I can’t carry anything. There are many adjustments to be made at home and because I live alone, my 85 year-old dad, Alan, moves in with me to provide 24 hour support.
Moving on crutches, ensuring I don’t put any weight on my left leg, is a struggle. Initially, I only move from bed to couch and back again. I dull the pain with painkillers and inject myself in the stomach each evening with a blood thinner. The simplest things I do for myself take an eternity but the hardest thing of all is showering.
The Danger Zone: the dreaded shower!
My left leg is in a full-length brace to keep my knee straight. I sleep with it on only taking it off to shower. I undo the brace, slip it off and pull a rubbish bag over my leg, protecting my knee and its bandage from the water by sealing it with tape at my thigh and ankle. Showering is dangerous because the chance of slipping on a wet floor is high. I have some close calls. Showering sitting down is easily fixed with a plastic chair. Even with the brace off though I can’t bend my left leg at all. I sit in the shower with my leg out the door and as water hits my thigh, it runs down my leg and all over the bathroom floor. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of dear dad. He makes sure I don’t slip and I extricate myself from an embarrassing water soaked bathroom disaster.
I have a lot of couch time, very unusual for me. Time is so precious. I’ve learnt the hard way we only have one shot at life. I’m frustrated but I want to put this time to good use. I do something I’ve been putting off for a long time — I upgrade my phone from an ancient sluggish overused Samsung S5 to an S8+. It takes me about two days to get used to the new phone. I’ve installed apps, contacts and configured the settings to my liking. The phone works fine… for a week. Then one night on the couch, I’m watching TV and multitasking with the phone (I know in reality, multitasking is a fallacy…it’s actually paying inadequate attention to all the tasks at hand!!!). The phone is plugged in and charging. One of the apps is playing up. Easy. I reboot. Disaster. The OS is completely corrupted and fails to boot. The phone now has my full attention! A little Googling reveals I’m not the first S8 owner to experience this reboot fail. I restore the phone to factory settings so at least I have basic call functionality. I hop off to bed on my crutches and decide to dedicate tomorrow to setting up the phone to my liking, yet again! The joys of modern technology. At least I have a project and ample time to spend on it.
A phone call to lift the spirits
The next morning, I have a missed call and a voice message from ICMI Speaker Bureau consultant, Neil Baird-Watson. I’m now keener than ever to get my phone back on track. I plan to call Neil the next day, keeping to my ‘24-hour rule’ of getting back to people (I’ve learnt this from Alan Weiss, one of the world’s most renowned consultants). The following morning, before I have a chance to phone Neil back, he sends me a follow up email. Neil’s call, message and email, all in quick succession, make me think he’s pretty serious about what he’s proposing. I show the email to dad.
A golden opportunity
Neil thinks I’d be a great fit for an upcoming talk hosted by the Australian Psychology Society (APS) on how psychology has changed people’s lives. He usually presents two to four suitable speakers to his clients who then select from his short list. Apart from being a Senior Sergeant with the Queensland Police Service, I’m also a professional speaker. I’ve been building my motivational speaking business, TWICE SHOT, since 2015 when I was recognised by Professional Speakers Australia as the emerging speaker of the year and awarded the prestigious Kerrie Nairn Scholarship for Public Speaking.
Dad finishes reading Neil’s email. He looks up and says, “What lousy timing”. I wholeheartedly agree. Frustrated, I respond, “I have such a powerful story on this very subject. I could do this talk standing on my head but I’m marooned on this bloody couch!” Dad and I while away a few hours in my apartment, me doing my rehab exercises, dad making lunch. Then, out of the blue, dad says, “I’ve been thinking, what if I took you down to Melbourne?” I’m a little startled. I reply with a “What????”
Alan saves the day
Dad says, “I know I’m 85, but I’m in pretty good health and you were such a wonderful support to me after your mum passed last year, Mum would want me to support you now.”
In mum’s twilight years, she battled pulmonary fibrosis, scarred lung tissue that makes breathing increasingly difficult. She’d never smoked. Mum, or my nickname for her, “the best little girl in the world”, was eventually wheelchair bound and on oxygen 24/7. Dad lovingly took care of all of mum’s needs, preparing meals, showering, placing her in bed, taking her on drives and pushing her in a wheel chair so she could enjoy time with friends, picnics and the outdoors. I called into mum and dad’s every day because I never knew which would be the last. Before leaving my parents’ home on the evening of 15 August 2016, I gave mum a big hug and told her I loved her as she sat in her recliner chair next to dad. After 53 years of marriage to my father Alan, mum passed away on 16 August 2016 leaving a huge hole in our lives.
And so, despite dad’s age, I know he’s an experienced high carer! I’m inspired by the old English proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” and my dad is one hellava Englishman!
Eileen Jean Green: 1 November 1934 – 16 August 2016
A mission to Melbourne
We put our heads together and work out the logistics. We’ll use Uber for vehicle transport. We’ll fly Qantas and request wheelchair support at each airport. Since we need to overnight and I can’t carry anything, we’ll share a bag. It all seems simple. I phone Neil and explain my circumstances. I tell him if I can address the audience on a stool, the surgeon will give me the go ahead. Neil sees no issue and puts my name forward to the client. On Friday 8 September he sends me an email: “Hi Daryl, great news ̶ lock it in!”
“It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.”
I tell dad. He has a great, big smile on his face and reminds me I was supposed to be in the Philippines about now. He then recites a favourite saying of his mother Ellen, “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.” He means if it wasn’t for the devastating knee injury, I would have been away and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be selected for the talk. I’m a big believer in misfortune having an upside. Every cloud has a silver lining. Then it dawns on me…there’s one major obstacle we haven’t considered…the danger zone…the dreaded shower!!! I look forward to telling you how it all unfolded in part 3. Stay tuned!