What I Learned From 2 Weeks of Being Disabled

Two weeks ago while playing 3-on-3 basketball at a local gym I completely ruptured my achilles tendon. Initially I thought someone kicked me in the leg, but when I asked around, no one saw anyone near me. A searing pain ran down my calf for 5 minutes followed by a strange numbness. (I would later find out that was symptomatic of a complete rupture). Although full recovery is still months away, the first couple weeks have been an eye-opening experience.

Credit Mayo Foundation

Being Disabled Sucks

One of the first warnings my doctor gave me after surgery was, “Face it. You’re disabled. You can’t do what you did before.” I didn’t believe him until I got home.

I took showers on my hands and knees because I couldn’t get over the 4-inch lip and couldn’t stand on one leg for more than 5 minutes. When my daughter awoke crying in the middle of the night, I crawled from my bed to hers because I couldn’t use crutches in my delirium. Making a simple cup of coffee became a twenty-minute ordeal as I shuttled ingredients back and forth from the coffee maker. I could no longer demonstrate proper shooting form or a solid defensive stance to my daughter’s basketball team. I could no longer put dishes away, vacuum the floor, change the cat litter, take the garbage out, and a hundred other activities I took for granted with two good legs.

It seemed everything in life became harder. I felt like a burden to my family and friends. I was ashamed that I could hardly do anything myself.

Disability Accommodations are Awesome

I never really paid much attention to handicap spaces or ramps — only that they were the best parking spaces and there were ramps that nobody used. However, once I couldn’t use my leg anymore, I breathed a sign of relief at the sight of a ramp, an automatic door opener, or a handicap stall.

A week after surgery, my doctor filled out a form so I could get a temporary disabled placard for my car. Initially I balked, thinking that it would be unnecessary. Once I got the placard and went to a movie at a crowded mall, I couldn’t imagine life without it.

I quickly realized that the ramps, spaces, railings, and openers were the only times when life actually got easier as a disabled person. Those small perks allowed me to relax and not worry about putting the extra effort into something the rest of the world does easily.

The Remote Work Revolution is Important For All of Us

I’m fortunate to work for a company (InsideTrack) that values and fosters a remote-friendly work culture. After blowing my Achilles, I missed one day of work — the day of my surgery. Despite being hooked up to an ice therapy machine for 14 hours/day, I was able to attend meetings, compose emails, plan sprints, write code, and do all the major functions of my job from the comfort of my own home. I had no fear that I would be looked down upon for missing time in the office. In fact, many coworkers had no idea I had been injured because my participation at work didn’t go down — it went up. Being stuck on the couch for so many hours a day actually encouraged me to work more, not less.

I’m fortunate that in a few months time I’ll be back to walking on two legs, opening doors myself, circling lots for an open parking space, and taking the stairs. However, this new perspective on how much different and harder everyday life is for the millions of disabled in this country will stick with me for a long time.

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