My Love-Hate Relationship with Crutches

Since ancient times, man has carved staffs out of wood to walk while suffering from leg injuries. Today, these staffs, called crutches, are constructed of wood or aluminum, and make walking possible when you have an injured or unusable leg. A crutch is essentially a way of extending your arms to the ground so that you can use your arms to help you walk while remaining upright. They have existed and used for so long because they do the job that they are meant to do so well. Yes, it is true that they are difficult and uncomfortable to get around on, but without them, we would not be able to ambulate when a leg was injured. The popular consensus of those who have been subjected to needing crutches to walk due to a leg injury is that they suck. I agree that it sucks to have to use crutches to perform one of our most basic actions—walking bipedal—but when walking becomes a painful and impossible task, crutches can become a valuable tool in your life.

Waking up with two healthy legs, getting dressed, leaving your house as you do every morning, breaking a leg, and returning your house in a leg cast and needing crutches to perform even simple tasks, such as going to the bathroom, is a difficult experience. This is the case for many people who end up on crutches. It is overwhelming to go suddenly from having two healthy legs to needing crutches in a matter of minutes. I hobbled around on my painful foot for months, avoiding the dreaded crutches or being properly diagnosed. At the time, I had no idea that I had been walking on a fractured ankle.

I had been experiencing pain walking on my foot for many months. With each week that went by, the pain intensified, and walking became increasingly more difficult. In fact, as my job (elementary teacher) required me to be on my feet all day, walking and standing eventually became so painful that I would do anything to avoid it. I knew crutches were in my future, but I put them off for as long as I could. The thought of struggling through my days on those torture devices scared me. Everyone that I had ever known that used crutches seemed so miserable using them that I couldn’t imagine that they would be better than suffering on my painful foot. So, I hobbled around for weeks using furniture, windowsills, cars in parking lots, and anything I was near enough to use as my crutches instead.

One evening, after about a week of having many times during the day where the pain while walking became unbearable, I broke down and slipped a pair of crutches under my arms. Honestly, after taking ten steps using the crutches, I realized it was a massive relief not to have to step down on my painful left leg. By the end of the evening, I was comforted having a way to ambulate without using my sore left foot.

The next morning brought an entirely new light to my newfound manner of mobility. Dealing with getting ready for work, negotiating the bathroom, making my breakfast, lunch, and getting to the car with what I needed for work all became insurmountable tasks that were once done without thought. I found myself exhausted, and the real challenge of my day at work hadn’t even begun. By the time I returned home, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Physically, my hands and wrists were aching from supporting my weight all day. The sides of my chest where the underarm piece of the crutch rested and rubbed was raw and painful. Overall, my body felt like I had be climbing mountains all day instead of having been through a day at work. I was emotionally exhausted from explaining repeatedly to everyone I passed why I was on crutches. It only took a few days of going through this for me to question whether walking on crutches was a better alternative to walking on my painful foot. I concluded that it was because I needed my foot to heal and continuing to walk on it had already proven to make it worse instead of better.

Three or four weeks later, my crutches started to become easier to deal with. My persistence in sticking with using them until my foot healed on its own or with the help of a surgeon coupled with working a job that required the crutches to be constant extensions of my arm all day long made my body adjust rather quickly. My job didn’t allow me to sit on the couch all day with the mindset of this was a temporary situation, and therefore, I will only use them when moving is absolutely necessary. I had to force myself up onto the crutches each morning and make myself use them all day long. In doing this, I slowly began to discover ways to make walking on crutches more comfortable.

After a failed surgery to repair my fractured talus, my first round on crutches ended up being five months. During these five months, I became very capable of getting around. This didn’t, however, mean that I enjoyed it and didn’t face the pain that crutches cause to the body. I suffered with wrist pain. My wrist pain would become so bad that when I first got up on my crutches and attempted to bear my weight through them I would think that there was no way I could go another day using crutches. Over the course of the five months, the pressure on my hands caused my right pinky to lose feeling. During my five-month stent on crutches, I had many days when I would have done anything to get a one-day break from using them. The sight of them next to my bed each morning made me want to roll over and cry. I could not wait for the day that I could throw the crutches into the trash and never touch a pair again in my life.

My crutch usage did not end after five months because my ankle healed or because the pain ended. My crutch usage only ended temporarily due to my surgeon telling me that I had to walk on my leg regardless of the pain. I had to do this to strengthen my leg before going into the next surgery. My bones had weakened from not having weight on them in five months. I needed to have my ankle joint fused together, and the bones would not heal well in their weakened state. The only way to strengthen them was to walk on them. After the first day I walked without crutches, I no longer would do anything to get rid of them. At that point, I would have done anything to have them back. I had to walk on my excruciating ankle for six weeks before I could have surgery. The only way I got through those six weeks was to walk on my ankle all day and reward myself with crutches in the evening. So yes, when the very basic ability to walk is excruciating, the alternative of using crutches seemed wonderful.

During the six weeks leading up to surgery, I spent hours and hours researching how I could make my life easier for the next three-month round on crutches. I invested in some crutch accessories that solved the hand, wrist, and shoulder pain. I found a way to solve the problems and made my crutches comfortable to use. I also learned to view my crutches as a tool that allowed me to walk and get around verses the enemy. After all, my ankle was the problem. The crutches were helping me. The ankle fusion (2nd surgery) still didn’t end my crutch use. Over the next three years, I endured four additional ankle surgeries and spent not months but years on crutches. Now, I use them all the time to walk.

Crutches are a great tool that makes getting around possible when one of your legs is injured or able to be used for walking. Through my six surgeries and constantly painful leg, I have come to value having crutches available to make getting around possible. Of course, I would prefer to have two healthy usable legs, but given that I don’t, my crutches have given me mobility. They have allowed me to be mobile after surgeries when I needed to remain non-weight bearing for healing purposes, and crutches have allowed me relief from pain while walking between surgeries. They now enable me walk with less pain and to live an active life.

Please explore my website to learn everything that I have learned through my research and personal experience. I hope that you can take something from it to help make your life easier. Please revisit the site monthly to read my blog. I will tell my story and share my new experiences.

Please use my contact page if I can provide you with support in getting through your injury or disability. An open ear from someone who has been through it makes a huge difference.


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About Darryl Partridge

I am a husband, father of three and amputee. I was active all my life, a Certified Ski Instructor, DYI enthusiast and Elementary Special Education Teacher. My life came crashing down when I was 42 years old after suffering a life changing ankle injury. I endured six ankle surgeries that forever changed the anatomy of my lower left leg, ten leg casts, recovery time on crutches that added up in the years and debilitating pain. In the end wound up with a deformed lower leg, chronic pain and unable to walk without crutches. Oh yeah, I also lost my teaching job after the third surgery. Being left a 47 year old unemployed disabled father. I took two years to rebuilt my life using crutches full time, achieving a new career in public health and preparing to amputate my leg. I amputated my lower left leg 9/24/14, 15 months post amputation became a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. Follow me on my life without limits journey as an amputee. I now hope my stories will help others find some support and comfort in living with their disabilities. Explore my website .com to read my story.
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