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Post-Polio Health (ISSN 1066-5331)

Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 1995

Recovery from Orthopedic Injury

Sunny Roller, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Having just finished a strenuous two-day training program and carrying a heavy book bag, my crutch tip hit some water and I hit the ground, smashing the wall, clanking a wastebasket, knocking the wind out of me, fracturing my leg.

At the emergency room, I learned that my health care institution did not easily accommodate a person with a disability. The physicians on duty did not understand why I should be admitted as an in-patient for a broken leg. They wanted to send me home by myself to my wheelchair-inaccessible apartment. I felt I needed nursing care and rehabilitation. They suspected me as being homeless with nowhere to go, wanting to use the hospital like a hotel room. They felt my problem was a social one, not a medical one.

My experience as a person with a disability obtaining appropriate treatment was not a matter of common sense and need, but a matter of common practice and standard insurance reimbursement policy Fortunately, my physiatrist advocated for me.

From the first day in the hospital I set goals for my recovery. Through the ten days of rehabilitation and hospitalization, the three months at home in a wheelchair, and the five months of daily physical therapy, I applied what I have learned as an adult polio survivor – to make my own decisions about my care.

In my apartment a door had to be removed, cupboards had to be rearranged, and I learned how to take our city's accessible bus service (when they could fit me into their schedule).

I worked full time at home and the office. At the same time, I managed physical therapy to regain strength and walking ability, the paperwork for worker's compensation, and I purchased new shoes and a wheelchair seating system. One of the best decisions I made during that time was to swim twice a week after work. Swimming gave me stress release from an old fear of never being able to walk again.

During my recovery I received support from my physician who made house calls, friends, family, and neighbors, and I was able to attend a meeting in Germany.

Even with the finest of care, it took nine months for me to recover from the injury. It was a time to learn about the medical implications of what was happening to me, to relearn to be open to new ideas, and to take control of the situation.

I learned that polio survivors should have an injury control checklist with two categories:  intervention and prevention.


Injury Control Check-List

INTERVENTION

___ Post-polio physician to contact for consultation:

Name: _____________________________________________________________

Telephone: _________________________________________________________

___ Advocate who will meet me at the emergency room or treatment facility:

Name: ____________________________________________________________

Telephone: ________________________________________________________

___ Post-polio literature collected and collated for health professionals

___ Organizations to call for support and information:

Local post-polio support group: ________________________________________

Telephone: ________________________________________________________

Post-Polio Health International, 314-534-0475

Local center for independent living to contact for information about financial, medical
and other support services and products available:

Contact person: ____________________________________________________

Telephone: ________________________________________________________

___ Optimism and flexibility available on demand.

PREVENTION

___ Energy conservation and pacing a part of my routine.

___ Home safety inspection and upgrade completed.

___ Assistive devices checked and upgraded regularly.

___ Safety precautions considered before traveling outside the home.

___ Personal wellness / fitness needs considered and addressed.

___ Positively focused on living every day in strength, health and wellness, and
never really plan to use this list!

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