by Winter Leigh
SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO ASK FOR HELP
As I recall, the day was unseasonably warm and all I could think was how great it would feel to get out and jog before the cold came on. I ran a couple of times around the local high school track, sweating, breathing in the sunshine, savoring every degree of warmth. There were hurdles were set up around the track. I must have been euphoric because I decided this was the day to test my high school hurdling skills. I was 33 that Autumn and the last time I had done a hurdle I was 17.
Ascending the first two hurdles made me even bolder for the third. I leaped, crashed and crumpled. Sweating, panting, embarrassed. My plan to “walk off” the searing pain in my knee didn’t work. I could not walk; I could barely stand.
WHY DID IT TAKE A YEAR TO SEE A SPECIALIST?
One year, two doctor visits, two rounds of physical therapy and an MRI later and I still had pain and limited movement in my knee. I got referred to a joint specialist for further consultation. Within minutes, I had an answer. I had almost completely torn off the ACL in my left knee. I needed surgery.
BECOMING A PATIENT
At my preop visit they asked me the basic questions. I gave honest answers. “No”, I didn’t have parents. My mom died when I was a kid and I hadn’t seen my biological father since I started college. He now lived across country (for the best as far as I was concerned). “No”, I don’t have a significant other. My boyfriend of six years had just dumped me for a former best friend of mine. So “Nope”, not married.
They went on with the long, detailed instructions for how to prepare for surgery, what the risks were, things I needed to avoid, recovery time – on and on. I got quickly overwhelmed.
YOU LITERALLY CAN’T DO IT ALONE
If I didn’t sound sad enough already, there was more going on than was apparent. My Siamese cat, a dear companion of 13 years, was just killed in a random dog attack. I had also just been laid off from my government contracting job. Not my best. Then the surgeon insisted I needed a person, “my person”, an in-case-of-emergency person. With no person, there would be no procedure. I almost broke down.
“Almost”, because the truth was, I did have a person, a friend a few states away. Hardly ideal for this purpose. She had a family, 2 kids and was several hours away. I didn’t want to bother her so without asking I just put her down as my in-case-of-emergency-person so I could schedule the surgery.
What I actually did was asked a single, local acquaintance to help me on the day of the procedure. When the day came, she backed out that very morning saying she was too busy! Ack! They’d cancel the surgery if I was unaccompanied. I did the only thing I could. I called my lifelong person. True to form, in that desperate hour, she stepped in and stepped up. More to the point, she drove across two states to be with me. She had once told me that she hadn’t earned “most dependable” in her high school yearbook for nothing.
THE CAVALRY ARRIVES
So, she drove a pitiful, post-surgical me home from the hospital to my house. But then, she didn’t just roll me into bed, she packed me a bag of clothes and essentials. Then, she drove us back to her home several states away while I lay groggy from surgery, groaning in the backseat. At their home, her husband gave me a bell to ring by my bedside (which was actually their bed – they let me use it). When I fell at four-thirty in the morning trying to get to the bathroom on my crutches, he dutifully came and picked me up. In tandem, they gave me all my medications on time, brought me meals, and took my phone away when my vile ex-boyfriend tried calling. I slept for about two weeks straight and woke up with a new tenacity, nursed back to health by the compassionate caregivers.
That intense and uncomfortable pre-op session served as a reminder of what I didn’t know I was even missing: an ally. I had amazing friends that moved heaven and earth to care for me, I only had to ask. They were happy to help me. They never once expressed what must have been great inconvenience. Now I have an incredible boyfriend with two boys of his own and when he was in the hospital (I wrote to you about that), I watched over him day and night and advocated for him. Because I know what it’s like to need an ally when it feels like there is none.
SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO ASK FOR HELP
I have so much more than just “my person” now, I have my people. Don’t deny your loved ones a chance to be your people too. Ask for help. It feels really good to give it.
Winter Leigh spends her time proving life doesn’t have to be conventional to be right. Her upbringing could be described as Mowgli from the Jungle Book. She grew into a God fearing, animal loving, conservative hippy who religiously practices hot yoga and modeling, prefers her birthday suit and excess amounts of sour cream, and insists on driving a manual transmission. Winter earned a degree in history and social science from Eastern Mennonite University and works in the aviation industry. She is a native of Virginia where she loves being near her close friends and her equally charming boyfriend.