Guest health column Brian Adams: Sometimes carrying on is magnificent

  • Tip of a Pen Mike Watson Images

Published: 3/17/2020 3:59:35 PM

There’s an old saying: “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.” Damn those old sayings! It would be so much easier to learn crucial life lessons without going through hell and back.

The day after moving into our new house, I fell and broke my hip. We had moved from Northampton to a smaller ranch house in Florence hoping the accessibility features would prevent such a fall and voila, there I go, falling the day after we move!

Seriously? Weird karma or what!

I spent two weeks hobbling around on a walker before finally finding out my hip was broken. Complicating matters is that I’ve lived with a spinal cord injury for decades with weakness on my right side and significant mobility impairment, so getting around was now doubly difficult. During those two miserable weeks I had asked numerous health care practitioners for imaging, but was told it was a muscle spasm and to tough it out. Work it through. Exercise.

Finally one morning I couldn’t get out of bed, called 911, was whisked by ambulance to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and finally got a CT scan revealing the break. Following surgery and two weeks at a rehab facility in Ludlow, I am now home and on the mend.

Fortunately the broken hip didn’t kill me, but, like the old saying said, did it make me stronger? Obviously not physically stronger (duh!) but mentally stronger? Were there life lessons learned from that month-long debacle?

Looking on the bright side, maybe there were a few.

Trust your body. I spent days in pain knowing that something was seriously wrong, but denial, powerful as it is, did not serve me well. In the future, I’ll be much more of an advocate for myself, assertive (not aggressive) with my health care providers in asking for what I think I need. Just because people have an NP (nurse practitioner) or MD after their name will not dissuade me from action.

Following my injury I was pretty pissed at myself. Breaking my hip was an accident, but the “stupid me” self-recriminations were hard to ignore. There’s a wonderful book by Charlie Mackery called “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.” Mole says, “Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses there is ... Often the hardest person to forgive is yourself.” Wise words from an insectivore.

In the same book the boy asks the horse “What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” “Help,” replies the horse. Asking for help may be difficult, but giving help is no walk in the park either. As hard as this whole ordeal was on me, it was equally hard on my wonderful wife, Morey Phippen. Showing love and kindness to your caregivers is of tantamount importance.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff,” another one of those old sayings, certainly rings true. Better yet, embrace the small stuff. Incorporate mindfulness, celebrate the now, be joyfully present in all the activities of daily life. Making the bed. Doing the laundry. Washing the dishes. Little tasks we might find cumbersome, with a different mindset, can be quite pleasurable.

Celebrate your abilities, rather than letting your lack of abilities drag you down — cliché driven, but clichés do have their place, after all.

There is nothing to celebrate about a broken hip, but there is much to be thankful for in learning to walk again. When bad things happen and you begin the slow, sometimes painfully slow, ascent back, be sure to celebrate how far you’ve gone, rather than how far you have to go.

There was a time in rehab where I thought if I can just walk to the bathroom by myself without someone hovering over me then I’d never complain about another thing, EVER, for the rest of my life. Ha! How long did that last?

Know that if one “bar” in life is lowered, it doesn’t mean all your personal “bars” are. When I entered rehab my “activities of daily life” bar was at ground level, but that didn’t mean the rest of my “bars” had to be.

My wife and I have a business, Phippenadams Solar, installing solar on the roofs of nonprofits. One of the best things that happened during rehab was meeting with Rusty, our business partner from Northeast Solar, and moving our solar projects forward. Life goes on, and it’s not just about me. I needed help walking, but solar panels still needed help getting on to roofs.

Life is good, even with significantly compromised mobility. One morning in early January I woke up in my hospital bed and, even as the low sun peeked through the clouds, it was snowing outside. A light fluffy snow coated the trees and covered the pavement. Another cliché — even in the darkest of hours, light is beautiful.

These lessons can certainly be learned without breaking a hip. And most of the above are simply restating the obvious. But taking a moment in our hectic lives to appreciate what we have and embrace all we have going for us can only be helpful.

Lastly, here’s another gem from Mackery’s book.

“Sometimes,” said the horse.

“Sometimes what?” asked the boy.

“Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.”

Now that, in these times of strife and struggle, is exactly what I needed to hear.

Brian Adams lives in Florence.
Sign up for our free email updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Headlines
Daily Hampshire Gazette Contests & Promotions
Daily Hampshire Gazette Evening Top Reads
Daily Hampshire Gazette Breaking News
Daily Hampshire Gazette Obits
Daily Hampshire Gazette Sports
Daily Hampshire Gazette PM Updates
Daily Hampshire Gazette Weekly Top Stories
Valley Advocate Newsletter
Daily Hampshire Gazette Dining & Entertainment


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy