What I Learned From A Broken Leg

January 27, 2022

Written by Art Petrosemolo

It can be referred to a number of ways, including a time to take stock, a pause before going forward, a reevaluation or just thinking ahead. I prefer to call it a “reset” and in my 70-plus years I have had several.

For the past month, I have thought about it not constantly but pretty often. I realized there are times in our lives when a change is warranted and sometimes we don’t see it. Sometimes we do and make the changes and move ahead. Sometimes we get a reminder.

I believe that was the case for me the second Saturday in December as I hustled off to a Plain Sect bakery in Gordonville that specializes in seasonal cookies. I had a vision of thousands of just baked Christmas cookies with colored sprinkles ready to box as a photo for the following week’s Lancaster Farming newspaper’s front page.

I’ve been pretty busy for past several months, even with COVID, with a variety of photography, writing and video assignments. I’ve been moving quicker than I needed to but that’s my style and hard to change, even in retirement.

In an instant, a slip down a step on the other side of an unmarked door sent a thunderbolt up my left leg. I had a tibial plateau fracture. And although I was in denial, I knew it was more than a bruise. Fortunately, a trip to urgent care and an x-ray showed a minor fracture. Instantly, though, my plans to head to New England two days later on a business/pleasure trip, and anything else for six weeks was canceled. I found my left leg encased in a hinged brace. I was using a walker and trying to figure out how I was going to get from my second floor man cave/office in my home in Sycamore Springs to the first floor. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about it.

You are probably aware that in the workplace, falls result in 21 percent (eight million) of emergency room visits each year with fractures being the most serious consequence. For retirees, the numbers are staggering. In the United States, an older adult falls every second of every day. Many times those falls result in broken bones.

So anyway, the Lord gave me a quick wake-up call. Ironically my fracture is the same one Paige Bueckers (the superstar women’s basketball player at the University of Connecticut who, as a Connecticut native and basketball nut I follow religiously) suffered in a game a few days before my slip, and I was feeling pretty bad for her.

For many of you, I am preaching to the choir. For others, let me tell you, the first few days after an accident are just brutal as you are literally stopped in your tracks. You also have to cope with, in my case, a month’s worth of plans and find a way to keep the doctor happy by keeping weight off the leg, your spouse from going nuts (for me, Tina had to bring meals to the second floor) while hopefully having something positive come out the other end.

The first thing I did was look for a bright side. For me it was the fact that the accident didn’t happen in the spring or summer when I’m outside most of the day and washing the car(s) or cleaning the garage or off somewhere. Second, fortunately, I had three articles for Lancaster Farmingthat had been researched and I could space them out and write them as I was secluded in my man cave/office. Third, I took the accident as a reset and reviewed where I was physically and literally after five years as a GSV resident. I asked the question, “Do I need to make changes?”

Before I could do that, Tina and I had a small curveball thrown at us to make it more interesting. She fractured her thumb in a minor auto accident, which required a (five week) cast and eight weeks to get her new car repaired.

Living independently here at Garden Spot Village, we all are aware of the services available to us but never think we’ll need them. For me, the first stop was Social Services. Jenny visited, evaluated what I needed immediately and helped arrange for in-home physical therapy and a travel wheelchair for doctor’s visits. She kept in touch weekly to be sure all was proceeding as planned. Garden Spot at Home helped arrange someone to visit to keep my second floor living space clean and to help me with small tasks where I needed a second hand.

And finally, having neighbors and friends at Garden Spot who have shopped for Tina, driven us to the doctor, visited, dropped off meals and are there when you need them was and is priceless. It all adds up to what my friends in New Jersey didn’t understand when we picked this community to move to. Aging at home as they are doing can be a challenge and unfortunately, they’ll probably face some of the things—without the on-site support—that we all here have faced at one time or another.

So, this race or journey does have a finish line in sight. The doctor says the bone is healing and that I should be out of the brace by end of the month. I will continue physical therapy and walk without support by spring.

That’s good as I already have a few stories on the books to write and photograph, including the annual Tobyhanna Ice Harvest the end of January and a visit to Hanover Shoe Farm (the largest standardbred breeding farm in the country) in Hanover, Pennsylvania in February. And oh, I need to reschedule my trip to Morocco for the first month that they take the country off the “do not travel list.” I hope that is sooner rather than later. But, the reset has allowed me to downshift and I’ll go back to what I enjoy doing, but not at the pace I had set for myself.

So was I excited about this unplanned “reset?” The answer is no but let’s see what I have learned from it and how it affects me and what I do in the weeks, months and years (I hope) ahead.

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