J.D. Moyer

sci-fi writer, beat maker, self-experimenter

New 6-Week Experiment: Living With a Disability


On the evening of Dec. 9th I stepped off my skateboard the wrong way and broke my foot (three fractured metatarsals — see above). Thinking it was just a bad sprain, I took a Lyft home and rested on the couch, watching my foot swell up to alarming proportions. Come Monday: doctor’s office, x-ray, a compression splint, the threat of screws and surgery. But after many scans and tests, I managed to dodge a bullet. No surgery required, just six easy weeks in a cast.

So, it’s my turn to learn. What’s life like with reduced mobility?

It’s Interdependent

Having only one useable foot is forcing me to rely on my family and friends much more than I’m used to. But that’s okay, I’m there for them when they need me, and I know I always will be.

It’s Cybernetic

Crutches, if you’re tall enough and strong enough, are faster than walking. Though they take much more energy to use, and make your hands ache. Far superior is the “wheeled sheep”, a deluxe sheepskin-clad knee walker on loan from my friend Dallas (who has titanium in his leg from stepping off his skateboard). The wheeled sheep can turn on a dime and works just as well going backwards as forwards once you get the hang of the steering. Haven’t tried it on a decent hill get but Dallas says it can hit 20mph. For now it’s fast in-house transport.

It’s Strategic

I didn’t realize until now that my modus operandi a good 20% of any day was wandering around my house, home office, yard, and neighborhood, puttering, straightening up, and sorting out my thoughts. That’s gone now. Movement = effort. A trip to the kitchen or backyard means hopping, wheeling, or crutches, and the latter means no free hands. Hopping is great until the good leg gets tired. Except when I’m carrying a beverage, then hopping equals spillage. Every movement is conscious and deliberate now. I miss getting lost in mindless movement, letting my thoughts flow. Now I have to think about what I’m going to do, and how.

The forced strategic nature of day-to-day activities spills over, to some extent, to bigger things in my life. There’s less flow, which I miss, but also more conscious choice, which is also good. What do I want to do? Can I do it? How? Many things I’m not doing as much of, or not doing at all, or asking others to do. I’m thankful to have friends and family to help me out, but it’s also fine if I just do less, and long as I keep doing the important things. I might even achieve more in my less productive state.

It Changes Up Family Roles

For the first time in my life, my daughter (age eight-and-three-quarters) is doing what I ask her to, quickly and without too much argument. She can see that her dad actually needs help (as opposed to just arbitrarily interrupting her book with random tasks — that’s how I think she perceives my regular insistence that she helps out around the house). It’s stressful for kids when their parents aren’t operating at 100% capacity, but it’s good for them too. I’m glad she’s stepping up.

My wife is picking up the slack on the cleaning, cooking, and straightening up that I usually do at least half of. “I feel like Cinderella” she said after the first week. It’s not so bad now that I don’t have a keep my foot elevated.

What else? Humbling, because it made me realize in a visceral way how quickly your life can change in an instant. Embarrassing because a man my age isn’t really supposed to be skateboarding, so does it serve me right? Expensive because CAT scans aren’t free, even with health insurance. Relaxing because when you have a real problem, the first-world and anxiety-based problems fade in intensity.

Thanks for reading my blog in 2016! I’ll do a year-end summary/2017 preview post in the last few days of the year. Until then, enjoy the holidays, and try not to injure yourself or anyone else!

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4 Comments

  1. Chris

    Feel better man. I broke my right toe at the top of the bone (near the joint) about 2 years ago training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It just snapped in class on a failed arm drag and everyone around me heard it. Didn’t feel anything until about 3 minutes later…. then WOW. Getting to my door down my walk way took me a good 5 minutes. moving inches at a time.

    We take for granted the simple things in life until they are taken from us. My walking gait was off for months because I favored my left side while it was healing. My hips were off everything gets thrown for a loop. So I can relate and feel your pain for sure.

    One thing I should have done more is work on oblique stability. (when walking or moving keep the core engaged this will stop any imbalances a good deal I learned AFTER the fact) We have a tendency when one leg is messed up to bend through the lumbar and the hips offset.

    I hope you have a fast recovery!

    • Thanks for the tip Chris. I’ll take that advice, and probably visit a chiropractor for some adjustments during recovery for good measure.

  2. Lorraine Lott

    I just went through the same thing and agree with everything you said. My empathy for anyone with any difficulty in walking is a millionfold now. Every step for me was painful for 6 weeks.On the mend now, and worked outside today for the first time. It was glorious. I am less concerned about the speed of doing things anymore; just very happy I am able to walk with almost no pain now. Not “on my last leg anymore”. Thank you for your email.

  3. Sheila

    Great blog JD! You are cool as heck observations! Love it

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