Friday, 15 January 2010

Creative Problem-Solving 101

Well, to round off a thoroughly shitty year (more on that another time), I ended up breaking my right ankle (and fracturing a bone in my foot and rupturing the ligaments) on 22nd December, and have spent the weeks since with a cast and crutches to hobble about on. Oh, sure, 7 or more weeks off work sounds like a laugh - at first. After 23 days of being essentially housebound (I made part of the family Christmas festivities and have been for fracture clinic check-ups twice), the novelty is truly wearing off and I am developing severe cabin fever. I'm also semi-watching Megashark Vs. Giant Octopus, which should go some way to clueing you in to my mental state.

Anyhoo, in the spirit of keeping myself occupied, and passing on hard-earned Cast Survival Tips for the similarly afflicted, I thought I'd share the following hints and tips, gleaned from four weeks of having the cast and crutches:-

1. The Chair-Shower (patent pending)
"Don't get your cast wet", they say. "Don't even try taking a shower", they say. I say, you serious? Seven weeks of nothing but stand-up washes at the sink (also known as the "Tart's Bath"*)? Not on my watch. To install your own Chair-Shower, take 1 (one) metal or plastic chair, without wheels obviously, and place it in your shower cubicle. Put it on a towel or bath-mat so it doesn't slip - Health and Safety, people. Then wrap your cast in a towel, tucking the edges into the top of the cast, and drag a stool or second chair to the front of the shower. This requires a lot of hopping and balancing and I suspect I will have one crazy-strong leg at the end of all this, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Sit on the Chair-Shower chair, rest the leg with the cast and towel on the stool/second chair, outside of the shower, and you're ready to go.

2. "How the hell can I feed myself now?"
Sure, most major supermarkets deliver, and by adding a note to your order they'll even know to give you more time to grab your crutches and hobble your way over to answer the door, so you won't run out of supplies. But how the hell do you go about preparing your meals, and, once cooked, how do you get them to the table, or, more realistically, the couch, so you can eat your dinner in front of the TV like the lazy slob you are and always have been? Well, my friends, the answer is simple: another chair. Ideally you want a dining chair with a firm seat - you can then push this chair around your kitchen, using it both for stability and as a transportation device. Push it to your fridge and freezer, put the things you want to cook with onto the chair, then push the whole lot over to your worksurface. Hop around gathering up other materials, then you can rest your injured leg on the chair while you cook (or microwave; see the aforementioned "lazy slob" comment). Once your meal's ready to go, you can hop into the living room with it. Unless it's soup or something; then I'd reccomend getting a housemate or family member to carry it for you. Voila! Dinner is served.

3. The bathroom's upstairs - the TV is downstairs....
If spending the next few weeks confined to your bedroom doesn't appeal, then at some point it's likely that stairs will become an issue.
a. Going up: There are two ways I've found - and my life is currently empty enough that I now switch between them just to mix it up and keep things fresh (don't cry for me - I'm already dead. Inside). The first is going up on your hands and knees; as long as you have a below-knee cast, you should still be able to bend your leg enough that you can do this without much fuss. The second way is backwards: sit on the stairs and push yourself up onto the next step above with your arms and one leg. Done.
b. Going down: Slide! Remember when you were a kid and you used to slide down the stairs on matresses, blankets, trays, anything, nothing? Do that. But keep it controlled by using your arms to brace yourself - you don't want to pick up speed, not be able to stop, and whack your already broken leg/foot/ankle when you hit the bottom.

4. Get a Helper Monkey
There are loads of things that will now be just impractical for you to do, yet are still pretty essential. Tidying and cleaning up, carrying cups of tea or coffee from kitchen to living room, laundry etc. Lucky for me I have a wonderful housemate who has been doing these duties for me, and visiting friends have taken it in turns to perform the role of Helper Monkey for me. True, by the time this cast comes off I will have burned through the good graces of every friend I have and will owe my housemate two solid months of cleaning the house and making tea for her, but it's a fair price. If you can, get a friend, housemate, partner or family member to help you around the home!

5. Ensure you have a reason to get out of bed in the mornings
Ties in with the whole cabin fever thing, but is also probably a symptom unique to me and those who don't just see the glass as half empty, but smashed into pieces on the floor. You'll be signed off work/school for at least four weeks, and enjoyable as books, DVDs, Lego Batman and Guitar Hero are, you'll need to find some sort of purpose because otherwise just getting out of bed and getting dressed seems so utterly pointless and futile. Arrange for friends to come visit, see if you can find someone to play taxi and take you out to the cinema or somewhere crutch-accessible, obsessively alphabetise your DVDs, arrange your records/CDs into an autobioghraphical order, anything to fill your days and nights and prevent you from just becoming one with your sofa and losing the will to live.

Well, that's all the tips I can think of for now! If you or someone you know has been affected by the issues raised in this programme, there's probably a BBC helpline.

......Thought of another!

6. Get a bag
Trying to carry books, bottles of water etc around the house, and wondering how to do so when you've got your hands full of crutches? Simple! Get a bag. I'm using a canvas messenger bag, 'cos it leaves my hands free to hobble myself around with crutches and has lots of space. I've also borrowed a flask off a friend's parents and so have a ready supply of tea/coffee that I can take into the living room. Ahh, what a success I've made of my life....

* Washing the underarms and undercarriage.

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