The Crutches of Life

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I stood in front of the school elevator in the front office, impatiently waiting for the ancient machine to crawl its way to the first floor. Even though I knew it would not make the elevator move any faster, I pushed the button for the fifth time just to appease myself. Aware that the bell to begin class would ring in just a few seconds, I turned to my friend who was carrying my backpack and said, “You can go up to class; I don’t want you to be late,” and watched her turn and rush out the office doors.
After what seemed like hours, the elevator button finally lit up, signaling that I could now open the door to the claustrophobic elevator that I am certain was designed for small children and not high school students and teachers. I used a crutch to hold the door open while I swung myself into the elevator, no longer afraid that this quick action would cause me to fall and injure myself. After all, I was a professional at opening the elevator door with my crutch; it had been three weeks since the surgery and I had had a lot of practice.
Usually, a teacher would also be in the elevator and would ask the reason for my handicap. When I told him or her the explanation, I was met with surprised comments like, “Bunions? Aren’t you a little young for that?” or “Oh, you poor thing! I hear those hurt terribly!” and I would casually respond, “Well, actually, bunions are hereditary…I got them from my grandma,” or simply, “Yes, they do hurt!” Classmates and friends, on the other hand, would reply, “Bunions? That is so weird!” but I did not mind the playful remarks because, in reality, it was weird. What normal sixteen-year-old girl has bunion surgery?
I had the surgery twice -- once on each foot, of course, and the recovery was a total of sixteen weeks. During that time, my life revolved around elevators, ramps, chairs to prop my foot up, my boot, and my beloved metal crutches, or, more appropriately, my life supports.
Nevertheless, the surgery had a few perks: a daily full-service breakfast and dinner by my mother, a chauffeur service by my sister, early dismissal from class, especially Advanced Math, and most importantly, lean, toned arms. Throughout the recovery, everyone was extremely helpful and gracious, and I learned one important lesson that is quite useful at school: if a hallway needs to be cleared, have a girl on crutches walk down it. Except for a few encounters with reckless underclassmen who nearly knocked me over, students would considerately move themselves and their belongings out of the way when they heard the click-clack of my crutches coming from down the hall.
Some of my friends asked how it was to be waited on all the time, and although it certainly had its benefits, I despised the fact that I always needed help to complete the simplest tasks: “Can you carry my bag? Can you move that chair for me, please?” I felt so useless and incapable of helping myself, and my independent personality only added to the frustration. Every morning I dreaded getting out of bed because I knew that if I did, I would have to face the reality that I was able to walk only on one leg, not to mention that I would have a sore back and arms.
I know, I know, I made the choice to have the surgery, but who would have thought that it would be so difficult? All I wanted was to be pain-free, but this was much more work than expected. It was draining, both physically and mentally. Try crutching from the front office to the Walker Street building on a hot and humid spring day -- I guarantee that it is more grueling than running the mile in PE class and immediately doing ten squat thrusts afterwards. Additionally, I missed a few school events, including junior prom, simply because I did not feel that it was worth the arduous task of having to maneuver myself on the crutches.
I became a regular patient at the podiatrist’s office, and when I went for my visit every few weeks, I would foolishly hope that I would no longer need the crutches, but every week was the same evaluation: “Everything looks great, Julia! You just need a little longer to heal and don’t walk on that foot!” By the end of the recovery, the crutches were no longer my life supports -- they were objects of abhorrence and an obstruction to my life.
Quite surprisingly, my anticipation of the doctor’s visits caused the days to pass quickly, and the day of liberation eventually came. As I removed the boot from my foot and rid myself of the crutches, I thought to myself, “FINALLY! I can walk again!” but this thought quickly vanished when I stood up and realized that it would be a few days before my foot adjusted to the new situation. However, this reality did not fluster me in any way; I may have needed to get used to walking again, but at least I could regain my independence!
It has been six months since the second surgery, and the fading scars are my only proof that I used to have bunions. During the recovery, I constantly wondered if the surgery was worth the pain and hardships. I could only think of how difficult it was to get through the day and all the events that I had to miss. Looking back, I realize that the metal crutches were not what helped me through the recovery; they were only objects to help me get to my destination. My family, friends, and the support they gave me became the crutches that ultimately carried me through the recovery. Without their love and support, I would not have had the strength to get up each morning and slowly, cautiously make my way through yet another day. I will forever be thankful for their assistance and hope that one day I can be their crutch as they were for me.





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