Two years’ walking

Sunday 15 July 2012, 3.50am HKT


10.51pm local time, 33° C (91°F)

YESTERDAY (Friday the 13th) was exactly two years I’ve been off using crutches.

If you’ve ever read my About me and Random fun facts about me pages, I had spent 37 months in crutches from a busted pelvis after being run into by a pedestrian.

That was from 01 June 2007 to 13 July 2010.

My Ripley corduroy jacket, my Tennessee-made cowboy boots,
and the proverbial G.I. crutches that crumbled to pieces by the third week of use

Soon after coming off the crutches, I had wanted to write about my time being temporarily crippled/disabled/semi-mobile/semi-immobile.

I clearly never got round to it because of:—

  • inability to think straight
  • inability to walk straight
  • inability to sit straight
  • inability to pull chicks
  • inability to pretend to be cool and debonair
  • writing unfunny stories for you lot on this brain-damaged blog
  • plain bloody laziness

Two dozen months later now, this is as good a time as any to talk something about that ‘cripple time’ of mine.

*

“You will receive an Identity Disc.
Everything you do or learn will be imprinted
on this disc. If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands,
you will be subject to immediate deresolution.”
— TRON (1982) and TRON: Legacy (2010)

*

When you’re ‘crippled’ (or choose your favourite politically correct term), your PERCEPTION of the world around you becomes warped by YOUR OWN SELF.

There are no subtractions in this game.

Your normal way of seeing the world up to and including the moment of your crippling doesn’t leave you. You get to keep that department. That is your ‘identity disc.’

The additions are new bits of perception resulting from your injury or illness. Those new bits are responsible for warping your existing department. The worse part is, you never know you’re unprepared for them.

Just as you’ve been unprepared for the impact that crippled you, the additionals can cripple you if you can’t manage to handle them in the early days.

The additionals come on in a flash the moment you’ve come round and realised you’ve been in an accident or illness. They don’t come on slowly, gradually, imperceptibly — that’s just special effects in the movies. If you’re expecting slo-mo, that’s just self-deresolution. The addiitionals are supposed to hit you just right behind the eyes like too much wasabi on your nigiri sushi.

Draw your own conclusions about objectivity vs. subjectivity.

*

The additionals come from the EYES OF ONLOOKERS glaring at you as you lay there in injury or in bed with some disease.

It’s the moment you say to yourself, buggermaquilt, is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my days?

And then you suddenly come to realise that our built-in, automatic survival mechanism — The Three F’s (fight, flight and mating) — is actually focused on how others now view you.

Then it dawns on you: Our glorious survival mechanism isn’t designed or evolved for survival. It’s for dying.

You are wasting time by distracting yourself with the look on other people’s faces — which are 100% irrelevant to your purpose to continue living.

Broken things do not function properly. A survival mechanism in a broken animal, vegetable or mineral CAN’T function properly.

That’s why we should go the extra mile to help those in trouble. They can’t help themselves — it’s just not on the cards.

Draw your own conclusions about the survival instinct.

*

You’re constantly angry at WHY you’re constantly in resignation.

You’re surprised too at the constantness of all this.

You wonder where on earth that energy could have possibly come from to be constantly angry at being constantly in resignation.

*

Broken fingers have been proven to be
an effective antidote for lying

You suddenly develop a very keen sense of when people are lying to you.

Throughout the duration of your enforced disability, you’ll hear (as I had) a lot of unadulterated bollocks from others:—

How they’ll help the worse-off
How they’ll never discriminate against the handicapped because they’re blameless
How they’ll do their utmost to help via volunteering or financial donations and whatnot

The song-and-dance routine many put up in front of you is very convincing too.

But in the dead of night during your first week of handicappedness — as you lay in bed writhing in throbbing pain and the misery from that sickening sour-bitter aftertaste in the mouth from having ate too much painkillers — you realise The Truth that you’re in the midst of:—

Everyone discriminates against the handicapped in the worst-possible way, ever.

The MERE SIGHT of your crutches and/or prosthetic body part invariably elicits instantaneous blame and stink-eye from everyone (and ‘everyone’ includes the other handicapped).

And the discrimination is going to happen tomorrow, and the tomorrow after, and the tomorrow after that.

If you live in a society where the culture is about in search of perfection — in other words, in which perfectionism is the desirable, sought-after quality — the person with any kind of temporary or permanent disability or disfigurement is the lowest form of animal life for all practical purposes.

Most Far Eastern/Oriental cultures are perfectionist cultures, even though many practical aspects of those societies are anything but.

Draw your own conclusions about altruism.

*

During my 37 months as a temporary cripple, I was a disruption to the general ebb and flow of humanity.

Many people make it a conscious point to let me (and other cripples) know we were such an unwelcomed disruption.

Fellow cripples and I got shouted at in the most unbelievable of ways and places. A well-dressed office lady with a mauve Prada handbag (cost: HK$12,000 or US$1,550) yelled at me at the top of her lungs in the underground (subway to our American cousins):—

“Hey, cripple boy! Get out of the fucking way! Have you no consideration for others?!! Stay home when you’re crippled!!!”

That was inside the Central MTR Station on 2nd July 2007.

And ascribe all sorts of derogatory causes for your condition:—

You were in a fight
You got beaten up in a fight

You’ve been a busybody who got sucked into a fight
You’ve been a busybody who got sucked into a gang fight
The gangs who fought thought you were a busybody
You had the nerve to diss someone and he beat you up
You dissed someone who then called for backup to teach you a lesson
You’d been negligent and now caused your employer to pay for your medicals

And you deserved to be crippled for every single one of those reasons.

Draw your own conclusions about moral integrity.

*

As a patient, you’re just random fodder for someone to administrate.

I don’t know how things are done in your country.

Here in Hong Kong, an outpatient is one who receives hospital treatment but isn’t hospitalised. The outpatient gets assigned to a patient follow-up group (or ‘PFUG’) after the initial treatment.

Patients in each PFUG have (or supposed to have) the same or similar type of injuries or ailments resulting from the same or similar aetiology (causes).

This is a kind of triage, although the term ‘triage’ is normally a term in Emergency Medicine.

In the PFUG I belonged to, there were:—

Me — ‘mechanical injury’ in medical parlance: resulting from straightforward brute-force impact (by a pedestrian, no less)

A 71-year-old man whose limbs no longer functioned because of diabetes

A 21-year-old guy whose right leg had been so grotesquely disfigured and mangled in a previous surgery (at the same hospital) as to defy belief

There were roughly 30 others in my PFUG.

Mostly, there was no commonality in our causes — other than the fact that our limbs weren’t functioning normally.

My PFUG wasn’t at my nearest hospital either. It was at another hospital right across town, about 45 minutes to 1½ hours away by bus. So, of all people, we cripples were required to do a trans-Siberian/Gobi Desert/Himalayan trek to get our follow-ups.

Draw your own conclusions about triage.

*

Pets rank higher than you in our hospitals, boyo

The hospital treats you as a case, not as a patient.

I spent a good part of my 37 months in and out of hospital.

Most of that time, the nurses and doctors never even bothered to speak to me face to face to find out how I was doing. They sat there, mostly behind a computer monitor, doing some kind of administrativa related to my case rather than related to me as a patient.

Those medicos who DID actually talked to me with some semblance of normal bedside manner were all foreign-trained. The locally trained doctors all took my abject queries the wrong way — they considered that I was questioning or doubting their abilities.

If you don’t mind, I never once doubted their abilities. I had been a medical labtech in a London hospital before, so I’m not ignorant of their abilities. It was their general demeanour that I found offensive and disturbing. My fellow PFUG patients thought the same too.

None of the local doctors had ever said anything about the progress of my condition, out of some real or imaginary fears that to give me a prognosis was tantamount to giving me a cause to litigate in case their prognosis didn’t pan out.

A Korean-American on exchange by the name of Dr Lee was surprised that I was never let off crutches for such a long time. Dr Lee signed me off and explained to me what I could expect when out of crutches, what could worsen the condition afterwards, and what I should do or not do in order to maintain good mobility.

“I don’t understand why we’ve kept you on [the crutches] for so long,” Dr Lee kept saying. (Notice that he said “we’ve” — even though he was only an exchange doctor.)

His signoff was countermanded by the hospital administrators, I later found out.

Another signoff came from Dr Wong, a UK-trained local doctor. “Just lay off the crutches for a bit and see how it goes,” he told me. “If it gets bad, come back and we’ll see to it.” Pure gold too. That signoff also was countermanded.

Draw your own conclusions as to who is actually treating you.

*

I know what our American cousins are thinking.

This isn’t an indictment of the public healthcare system. Most public healthcare systems around the world — and I’ve seen most — are in fact well run for the benefit of patients. But the one in my city is an abortion.

*

You develop a superpower against your will.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to live the dynamic, luxurious, globetrotting, oversexed, champagne-guzzling high life of a cripple (albeit on a temporary basis), I’ve discovered that even highly visible, totally horrific physical disability makes a person invisible.

Yes, you develop the superpower of invisibility.

People don’t give you any berth to manoeuvre. Indeed, many times people walk into you. People none-too-subtly elbow you out of the way. Horror of horrors, they kick at your crutches (as had happened to me many, many times).

Of all the things anyone could possibly do to a crutch-borne person, the one thing never ever to do is to kick at their crutches. That is how people fall down and DIE.

Here are some observations — shared by many of my PFUG patients:—

The locals are practically blind to your presence. You could visibily be seen to have a half-completed lobotomy, with one leg per Long John Silver style, a Terminator-style metallic prosthetic arm, AND a urine bag and catheter clipped to your tattooed nostrils — and still people cut into your ‘lane.’

The expat residents stay clear of you, either because they think you’re about to die on them or because you hvae some nasty, horrible, infectious Chinese disease — but at least they stayed clear of you.

By contrast, European and American visitors automatically give you room because they know your Jackie Chan-like manoeuvrability ain’t so hot anymore.

At my local McBongo, one American serviceman — a marine, I think, judging from his Mk. 1 haircut — whose warship was in port for an R&R visit had the heart to ask:—

Him: “You want a hand with that?”

Me: “Nah, I’m okay for now, thanks.”

Him: “Just let me know if you need to.”

And this from a guy who’d been trained to kill. Draw your own conclusions.

If the USA and China ever were to go to war, the Yanks’ Special Forces wouldn’t even stand a level chance from a half-hearted frontal assault by civilian office ladies carrying Prada handbags (mauve-coloured, no less). The bitches’ yelling alone would blow out the commandos’ eyeballs already.

*

Even the signs meant for you are retarded

When you’re crippled, you’ll also discover that your disability causes others to see you as a retard.

(You might actually be a retard to begin with, but that’s beside the point.)

Your statement that the Moon is round (which it is) will be doubted. State you prefer your food sweet, sour, salty or bitter and that will be questioned. State matter-of-factly that you’re a bloke, and you will be doubted.

Perversely, even fellow disable-ees will doubt you and think you’re as retarded as they are.

Now that I’ve been off crutches for two years, I find there’s a lot of truth in thinking cripples are retards. The effort and energy in using the damn crutches, prothetics or what-have-you does cause some sort of retardation in you. It’s because your ability to react is constantly undermined by your attention paid to protecting your aids.

As soon as you’re off those aids, you then live a new life as an ex-retard.

Draw your own conclusions about the quintessentialness of self.

*

Your injury or illness is some edjumacation.

I’ve talked some people who had been lucky enough to be ex-disabled/ex-retards. Nearly all of us have come out of our experience having learnt a few things about ourselves:—

  • It’s not a forgettable experience — ever
  • Even after recovery, you’ll never be looked on as a ‘recoveree’ — you’ll continue on as an ‘ex-injured’ or ‘ex-sick’
  • You discover you have the propensity for violent fury in the most intense way in the shortest time possible
  • You become surprised that you can actually control that intense fury in the face of the most obnoxious provocation
  • You’ve evolved new ways of defending yourself from attackers who want to rob you because of the disadvantages of your condition
  • If you’re not too crippled, you discover your newfound defensive manoeuvres can outgun hand-to-hand commando fighting

And a few, rather blunt, facts about others:—

  • Everyone (including your own folks) hates your guts because of the way you look
  • Everyone (including your own folks) are 10 times more callous than you thought imaginable
  • Their callousness and hatred of you and your condition can be highly creative than you ever thought possible
Draw your own conclusions about the learning process.

*

Permanent cripples should take a leaf from ex-retards like me.

A permanent cripple is someone who’s on enforced self-retardation. He’s retarded because he’s got it into his thick, soggy skull that he can ‘handle it’ on his own, even for such simple things as getting through a doorway.

Unless you’re fairly badly handicapped, negotiating a doorway is something most disabled people can do with no help from others.

Realise this:—

There ARE kindly souls who really want to give you a hand, but are afraid that you might take it the wrong way.

Protip for permanent cripples:—

Let others help even when you don’t actually need it.

I always allow others to help me. Not that I needed the help, usually speaking.

Getting on or off the bus, for instance, I let others help me if they wish to. No need to cart me on or off — just keep a hand on my shoulder (not the elbow). That doesn’t help jack physically, but it lets them know I appreciate their kindness. It’s good for their souls (I should hope) and good for mine.

To all the permanent disabled (on crutches, wheelchairs and whatnot):—

Learn to take your disability in your stride straight away in the early days.

Even if you CAN handle it on your own without help, let others help even if it’s just symbolic.

If nothing else, it teaches others to get used to helping the disabled.

And if they’ve learnt something about the disabled in the process of helping poor angry you, then we can all be truly thankful.

*

Grandpa once said, with a little bit of low cunning, all diseases (and injuries) can be made to go away.

But you’ve got to do it in a way as if you’ve NOT got the disease or injury.

Since, however, when you’ve got the wretched disease or injury, that really needs some high cunning in order to do the low cunning.

Conclude your drawings.

_____

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© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2012. Updated 06 June 2014 (formatting fixes, extra tags).

Images by me: Crutches and cowboy boots ♦ Rabid dog No Depend, Cautious Step Me and crutches Hong Kong coins in author’s collection.

Images by others: Hard disk monster via c4c Girl with camera graphic via c4c Why sign via c4c Trust the Lies via irational Hospital gore via c4c Mindless Behavior via Assigned to Encourage Edjumacation Girl via Video Fantastica.

2 Responses to “Two years’ walking”

  1. Ed Hurst said

    As you suggest, my own experience in a wheelchair is different externally, but pretty much the same internally. The VA medical system is potluck in some ways. I got some of the good stuff in terms of surgeon and prosthetics, and really crappy care while actually in the recovery room. Somehow, what you say about being crippled in Hong Kong doesn’t surprise me.

    Like

  2. […] already spent 37 months in crutches from a busted pelvis and I’ve managed to walk unassisted for two years […]

    Like

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