When I was younger, I thought being on crutches looked like fun. Swinging on sticks and having your friends sign your cast – did it get much better than that? Now that I’ve had the pleasure of being on one leg for over a year collectively, I’m not sure I feel the same way. So, if you ever find yourself on crutches, here are my top tips for survival:
1. Keep a sense of humour
One thing is for certain, you’re going to get called names. The fact you’re swinging a limb around on metal stilts is a new fount of comedy to all concerned. Strangers are going to shout ‘Oi, hoppy!’ after you down the street. Although it’s tempting to take a swipe at them with your crutches, I’d advise against it – you’ll probably stack it. So far I’ve had hop-a-long, peg-leg, sausage leg, and my favourite, limp-a-lot.
Of all the things that might pose a struggle, the fact that you can’t carry a cup of tea without sloshing it everywhere has to take the biscuit. Of course, there are other ways around it, such as a thermos flask and a backpack, but it’s just not the same and you’re not guaranteed a hot cuppa. The good news is that you can carry just about anything in a Tupperware box. On a final note, take it from me: never try the soup jig.
3. Be hands on
Wearing sweatbands or sock mittens will save your hands from a certain callousy fate from carrying your entire body weight around. I recommend these neoprene covers for £6 which fit round my standard NHS ones perfectly. Don’t fall for the advertised £20 covers on Amazon which are per crutch and frankly, exploitative of the vulnerable. Your lack of mobility can also be a good excuse to get some new wheels, and your local health centre might have a spare wheelchair for you to borrow.
4. Ooh la la
Even the most private daily activities such as having a wash become an absolute mission. Crutches are not allies with soapy slippery enamel, so unless you can haul your entire body weight over the edge of a bathtub, or squeeze a chair into your shower, a good old sink wash standing on one leg might be in order. If you’re lucky enough to have a trusted supervisor you can try la douche, but dry hair shampoo and wet wipes are essential.
Siblings or friends may have a habit of leaving your crutches out of reach, or worse, adjusting the height of a single crutch to throw you off balance. There are obvious dangers such as the stairs, slippery floors or general house items arranged to create an obstacle course tougher than Tough Mudder. Keep your relatives / housemates sweet, not just for favours but for your own safety. Most of all, remember that they’re all having to adjust too, and a smile (or letting them have a go on your crutches) is the best way to thank them for helping you out.
6. Be inventive
Strutting your stuff in public with your two metal bodyguards is going to garner lots of attention. Prepare for nosy neighbours by creating some exciting stories to satiate their curiosity. This is far more exciting than trawling through your medical history (and theirs). So far, I’ve used: skydiving fall, pogo stick world record attempt, shark attack, freak yoga accident. Feel free to use these, or share your own in the comments below.
7. Patience, young Padawan
This is the hardest one for me. After two months, I feel like I should be walking, but I’m not ready. I learnt this the hard way after a spectacular fall which took out my good leg. Remember, healing takes time, and you can fill the space between physio/hospital appointments with movies, music, reading, learning some new lingo in another language, baking, blogging, unwittingly watching Love Island, or learning to wag your chin like a bellydancer. Anything you like! Set attainable goals like mastering the stairs, your first solo shower and the number of leg lifts you can manage. It might not seem like it now, but you will get there. One day. Maybe.
8. On the outside
Escaping the house isn’t easy. Thankfully there is internet shopping, but if you must venture outside be sure to do some forward planning. If you’re in London like me, jumping on the Tube is tricky. Getting through the turnstile is the first hurdle. Remember that on escalators, your arms will descend first without your legs like a bad magician’s trick. Watch out for accidental tripping as people take out your crutches. Boarding the train, getting a seat, and navigating your way through a busy train carriage to get off at your stop are Herculean tasks now. I’d recommend an Uber until you’re off crutches, but here’s the TFL guide for the brave: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/wheelchair-access-and-avoiding-stairs
9. Life in the slow lane
Another difficult one for me to manage. I’m used to speed walking my way around town, overtaking so that I can spend more time eating breakfast over my BBC news app. Now, I’m passed by the elderly, mothers with prams and most painfully, other crutch users. It’s not just getting to the shop that’s hard work – my morning routine sees me through until noon. Becoming accustomed to being off the clock is tough, but if you are able to establish some kind of routine and exercise the rest of your body you’ll feel better.
10. Drunk in charge
Sadly, getting squiffy on crutches isn’t the best idea you’ve ever had. You’re already legless, so adding copious amounts of alcohol into the mix may sort out the pain, but it won’t help your balance. However, I do recommend some civilised drinking at home with friends. Not only is it cheaper than your local, but it’ll give you the chance to avoid the dreaded hermit status. Your friends will understand and will want to come hang out with you. There’s also the additional bonus of having only a few hops to bed.