I Broke My Wife’s Hand (30 Month Update)

March 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Our Recovery Journal

Broken Hand - 30 Month UpdateIf we stop and reflect on exactly how we are living, it becomes apparent that our life has evolved based on how we have conducted ourselves in the past.  The reality of today is generally a result of the choices of all our yesterdays.

On a typical day, we go about our business without worrying about all of the decisions, large and small, that have molded us into who we are.  If life is going well, most of our days fit into the category of “typical days.”

When something goes wrong, our immediate response is instinctual.  We address the concern as quickly as possible.  Problems that are easily fixed teach us small lessons.  They have no lingering effect on our life.  Food dropped on the floor, arguments between siblings, and unwanted (permanent marker) wall art are common problems in my house.  Annoying on the surface, these problems have little effect the way we live.  They are addressed and we move on.

Some problems are more than skin deep.  When we encounter a serious problem we cannot always repair what is broken.  The fracturing of a friendship, betrayal of a child’s trust, or a poor decision with alcohol or drugs can lead to massive alterations in the fabric of our life.

When dealing with a big problem, we are automatically thrown off our game.  We envelop ourselves in a shroud of doubt.  When the problem has come from one of our decisions, we bury ourselves under a mountain of blame.


The Power of Blame

Life would be a lot easier if we could limit our worries to things we can control.  It would be less stressful if we could judge ourselves on intentions and effort rather than the resulting outcomes.  Even the best laid plans can be derailed by people and realities that are out of our control.

It is human nature to be results oriented.  All of us second guess personal choices that led to unwanted conclusions.  Even if our decision played just a small part in a bad outcome, we still place the full share of blame on ourselves.

The weight of blame is a heavy burden to bear.  It manifests as a prosecuting attorney who attacks our value as a person.  When something bad happens, it becomes easy to question the decisions that led up to the poor result.

The blame that accompanies our personal tragedies can become a wedge that divides us from our confidence.  Blame of self can quash our desire to pursue positive action.  It can dismantle our dreams and result in despair.


Bumps in the Road Change to Boulders

I recently made a small decision that contributed to a terrible result.  If logic had its way, the sensible thing would be to accept reality and move on.  Unfortunately, blame is a more powerful force than logic.

In case you missed the title up above, our setback is a broken hand.  Common sense dictates that Jess simply refrain from using the hand for a few weeks… but common sense does not consider the additional complications that Jessica has in her life.  Common sense does not realize that everything is magnified for a person who has suffered traumatic brain injury.

A normal person has enough balance to maintain use of all their other limbs.  For them, a broken hand simply means walking carefully and limiting the chance that items come into contact with the hand.  Unfortunately, Jessica doesn’t have the muscle control needed to alter her gait.  As far as protecting her broken right hand, it is a task made more difficult due to complete vision loss in her right hemisphere.

The added handicap of a broken hand eliminates many activities from her day.  For the time being, she’ll be unable to wash the dishes or load the laundry.  The thought of walking invites more apprehension and a greater fear of falling.  The pain in her hand will last for days, but the fear in her heart will linger far longer.

Setbacks like this are magnified on someone like Jessica.  After a few weeks, the fracture will be repaired enough to begin attempting more activity.  The real danger comes when her brain gets used to the body’s limited capability.  The residual period of inactivity will result in a learned helplessness that will take months to overcome.  An event like this is a bump in the road for a normal person.  For Jessica it is a boulder blocking her path.

The fact that her bumps change into boulders is the reason we put so much energy into injury avoidance.  A messy house is a potentially risky house, and the kids have learned to move quickly when dad yells the words “move”, “clean”, or “fix” to describe the object(s) in our path.  One of the ironies of this month’s event is that the broken bone came in the midst of our largest assault on clutter since Jessica’s original trauma.


Santa’s Gift Encourages Change

When things in our life unfold at an acceptable pace, we lack the impetus to seek change.  So it goes with our homes.  As long as our home meets our minimum basic standard of “liveable” we have little desire to put big effort into big changes.  The thought of spending a weekend painting is a most undesirable idea.  When we become used to our furniture, the thought of making changes never really crosses our mind.

Once we are happy with what we have, it takes an outside influence to convince us to change.  For a long time, we were content living as we had for years.  Things would still be that same way if it weren’t for the generosity of Santa Clause.  Last month, he was lauded for his brilliance in distributing presents.  This month, he is responsible for upsetting the hierarchy of furniture in the Turka house.

043While we love our daughter very much, she is not old enough to really appreciate what she has.  There is something inherently wrong with a child having a nicer bedroom than her parents.

Two hours after her Christmas morning furniture discovery, the girls began drawing up the blueprints for new and improved rooms.  The best course of action was actually to reorganize our existing furniture to allow both girls to move into rooms that looked brand new.  Abby now had a matching set and Elise claimed the best pieces from both of the old rooms.


If Walls Could Talk

It had been a long time since I redid the girls rooms, and the project entailed patching, painting, scrubbing, and steam cleaning.  When finished, they were thrilled to have a brand new beginning in a space they were proud to own.

Instead of being happy about our accomplishments, I found myself looking at the state of the furniture, walls, and trim throughout the rest of our house.  The nicks in the baseboard and the scratches in the wall began to taunt me.  As the days passed, the intensity of the problem began to grow in my mind.

These imperfections prosecuted the way my family was living.  Looking at them was a constant reminder that life was imperfect.  We are forced to so much time in the house, and the possibility of better living lay siege to my sensibility as the family provider.  We declared war not only on our substandard master bedroom, but also upon every room that we could afford to conquer.

This project was directed by the best possible deals that could be found on furniture.  After years and years of living with secondhand stuff, we pursued the best pieces that could be had for a reasonable price.  One by one, each room was cleared, painted, and then refurnished.

It had been years since we had the opportunity to look at our rooms as a blank slate, and the results were fantastic.  Our newly painted rooms no longer taunt my eyes.  Our house now feels more open as we replaced what we had with pieces that were best able to contain and conceal our clutter.  The fall risk was reduced as our home became closer to zen than it had ever been before.


I Broke My Wife’s Hand

Finally I found a bed and dressers that suited our needs.  The only potential problem was the height of our new mattress.  It was about 3 inches taller than our previous mattress.  Jessica needed a boost getting in the first night… and the next morning her feet had a hard time finding the floor.

We purchased this bedroom to better suit her needs.  Her clothes were more accessible and her dressing area built for utility.  Her clothes were moved onto a short dresser and her chair positioned so that she could access her drawers instead of laying everything out the night before.

Noting her difficulty in getting on the mattress, I intended to switch it out before we went to bed the second night.  I decided that having her sleep on this one was not the best solution for the long term.  In the back of my mind, this mattress introduced a potential fall risk.

That second night followed the same pattern as many of our nights.  Activities were managed and the approach of bedtime was met with exhaustion.  My conscience argued that I was too tired to tackle this project right now.  My conscience won the argument.

My phone rang early the next morning.  Jess had fallen getting out of bed and was unable to get up.  The reflex that you or I would use to soften our fall just didn’t come quickly enough to her brain or her stroke-affected arm.  She was stuck on our bedroom floor in a great deal of pain.

In addition to the higher mattress, Jess was also dealing with weakness in her leg.  It had recently been injected with botox, which is meant to relax it and relieve muscle tension.

I had seen her get out of bed independently for over six months and was not overly concerned about her doing it one more time… but this time ended up being THE time.  The decision of leaving the current mattress in place for one more night became THE decision.

The hand looked bad.  Really bad.  The bruise was big.  Really big.  Life will be much more difficult during the next few weeks, and the lingering effects of this fall will remain with us for months to come.


The Weight of Blame

Even though the fall occurred when I wasn’t home, I blame myself completely.  Other factors may have played a role in this, but somehow that doesn’t make me feel better about my role.  All that matters is that something unfortunate happened… and that the “something” might have been preventable.

This fall may have been destined to occur.  It may have happened regardless of anything we decided to do or not do.  Life just got much worse, and I have to live with the fact that my decision played a part in it.


Regaining our Mojo

Onward and UpwardDuring a good month, life proceeds with two steps forward and one step back.  A major setback such as this one eliminates any potential progress and opens the door to the possibility of additional complication or injury.

The daily grind of major recovery amplifies both the good and the bad in our life.  It is a life where the tiniest victory is savored, but a single mistake can set us back for months.  A life where we try our best to appreciate the positives… and train our mind to deal with everything else.

In the big picture, the additional work and worry of our current status will represent a small piece of our recovery timeline.  Today’s job is to step back far enough to get a look at the big picture.

It is easy to blame ourselves for the decisions of our past.  Easy to regret the unintended consequences that have resulted from our actions.  The faster we come to terms with our past, the better the chance of having a positive future.  The next time I write, I hope to have accepted reality and moved on.


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2 Responses to “I Broke My Wife’s Hand (30 Month Update)”
  1. Leanne Parise says:

    Jason, I hope that you are starting to forgive yourself for what you see as “your fault”. You can’t be with Jess 100% of the time and this fall could have happened even when you were at home with her. I understand the setback is devastating to her progress but please don’t blame yourself!! Accidents are no one’s fault!! I will continue to keep Jess, you, and the girls in my prayers. Remember life isn’t a sprint – it’s a journey!!!!

  2. Brenda Biearman says:

    Do not blame yourself for Jess’ fall. Falls are a huge safety problem in hospitals that we can’t seem to conquer. We have restrained patients, lowered beds, changed footwear, changed medications, have bedside aides, do hourly rounding YET STILL there are falls ( although decreasing in incidence)still occur. Jess will heal -you and your family are doing a great job!! She may have lost some progress, but she will regain it – the path has been made!

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