College Without Arms

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Recently, I had the lovely misfortune of a small accident. Whilst gliding along the wet, slippery surface of an ice rink, I hit a nice little hole and down I went. Bracing both arms straight out in front of me to break my fall, I felt the bones in my elbows bending and shifting unnaturally. I landed in a crumpled heap on the ice, clutching my arms tight to my stomach. I didn’t feel any pain; I didn’t feel anything for that matter. My mind wouldn’t register what had happened. All I could think was, “Why can’t I feel my arms?” It was brutal to say the least.

After some time, I can’t recall how much, I ended up in the hospital. They took me back to the have some x-rays done, and that’s when the pain hit. Great, rolling waves of pain shooting through my arms. That was also when the tears finally came. Shaking sobs racked my body as the tech pulled my arms and tried to get them into the right positions. They didn’t believe me when I said I couldn’t move them.

Later, I sat on a bed in the ER when a nurse came in. She started asking me all sorts of unnerving questions- “Do you want an IV or pills?” “Straight brace or soft?” The list went on, and she made it through a few of them before she realized I had no idea what she was talking about. My blank stare prompted her to say, “Since you broke both of your elbows, we have to get you in a brace,” which was answered with a groggy, “What?” Yep, that was my brilliant response to the news. She told me that she thought they had told me in the x-ray room, and that I had shattered both of my elbows in the fall. The nurse said that in all of her twelve years working in the ER, she had never had to double brace someone.

Now, I haven’t told you the best part of the story, and it’s a real kicker. This whole episode took place in the middle of the night, the third week of the fall semester of my Freshman year of college. Great way to kick off the biggest chapter of my life, right? Just my luck. My suite-mate was with me when I fell, so she joined my floor leader in getting me to the hospital and staying with me. My suite-mate was responsible for my phone, which coincidentally resulted in her having relay everything that was happening to my mom, who lived in another time zone. Needless to say, I was eventually cleared and sent back to my dorm. That night, I slept sitting up straight, with my brace-wrapped arms strapped to my stomach. Quite an interesting night, to say the least.

My mother was waiting when I woke up the next morning, and I was carted back home to be properly checked and casted. They casted me from fingers to shoulder in bright blue. Then I had to figure out what to do about school. All kinds of things needed to be resolved. Was I to stay in school? Could I even do it? Should I drop out? How was I supposed to take care of myself? I couldn’t even brush my hair, let alone shower or get dressed! We decided I should drop out, but that option was scrapped when it was made known that I would lose my scholarship if I pulled out, and then I wouldn’t be able to return later. So finally it was settled that my mom would just come live with me at school. Obviously, she couldn’t stay in the dorm with me, and then we had trouble finding an immediate, furnished, move-in ready apartment. By a miracle, through a friend of a friend and so on, we found someone who had a furnished mother-in-law suite that they would let us stay in, free of charge! They were the sweetest elderly couple, and the place was relatively near my school. Therefore, my college education was saved.

The rest of my year was spent attempting to not fail my classes. I had to sit in the back of the classrooms, having the teacher’s assistant take notes for me. My roommates had to hold doors for me and help pull my chair out at meals. One of my suite-mates likes to remind me of how she had to pour my drink into my mouth at lunch one day when I forgot my straw. Yes, you heard right, I was the only person on campus who drank out of a straw because she couldn’t lift a cup to her mouth. Everyone got a good laugh out of that one, especially because she spilled it all down my chin. I made it through though, and I didn’t break anything else or fail any classes.

This has been an ongoing thing since the incident last fall, and I’m still not fully recovered, but I’m working on it. My schoolwork wasn’t the only thing I learned that year though, and breaking my elbows was an experience I will (hopefully) never have again. I learned a lot about people, and a lot about myself. I attend a small college, with about four thousand students, and it felt like every one of them stared at me. I spent all semester being known as ‘Elbow Girl’. I had people I didn’t even know come up to me just to tell me that they had heard my story and were praying for me, or that they had their churches and families back home praying for me. Entire floors of students would come up just to say they were thinking about me, and were hoping I’d get well soon. It was amazing, and inspiring.

Encouragement wasn’t all I got though, and I felt the presence of dozens of eyes on me wherever I went. I had to drag a rolling backpack with me to hold all my books, because I couldn’t shoulder my bag, and that was mortifying. I was ignored, people blatantly avoided me, or dropped doors on me, but mostly people just refused to make eye contact with me. No one knew how to react, and so they just pretended they couldn’t see me. It was isolating, and I felt lonelier than ever, but I couldn’t stop. They couldn’t make me quit, I wouldn’t let them.

Lucky for me, I had good friends to back me up, and it was only for a little while. Even so, those eight weeks of casts were terrible. It gave me a new perspective on life though, and for that I am grateful. I will never again look at handicapped people the same, because I finally understand what it’s like. What it’s like to feel like you’re living in a glass case with everyone staring at you. Never again will I avoid eye contact with an injured person just because I don’t want them to feel like I’m staring. Now I try to go out of my way to help wherever I can, because I know how it feels. It’s no fun being different, but you have to take what life hands you and deal with it. No one else has your life, and you don’t have anyone else’s. Everyone fights a battle, and we must be willing to help someone else whenever they need it.





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