"No more wheelchair," she said firmly. "It's not helping. It's hurting."
I couldn't protest too much, as I was ten weeks out from surgery, still unable to walk or even hobble. In a counterintuitive way, what I needed to do was put more pressure on my ailing back leg. In my amateur medical opinion, this extra pressure on the left foot would be analogous to taking off the Band-Aid and letting the cut get some fresh air.
"You have to put your foot down," she said, to which I nodded casually.
"No," she said, her intensity causing me to make eye contact, "You have to put your foot down, give it some exercise, let it readjust to being flat on the ground."
With the foot now having been made into its own pronoun, its own being, I looked at it, wondering if it was an avowed ally or a contrarian enemy.
It started in little ways, I was told--the foot on the ground when I was seated, putting helpful pressure on the long-dormant nerves. And, my physical therapist assured me, I must ditch the wheelchair.
A month into my recovery, I returned to teaching, deciding to jump right back into the school year, not missing any time, not getting a substitute. The four-day week and a teacher's assistant made the teaching manageable, but I was so tired at the end of each trip to the teacher's lounge, to the bathroom, and to the copy room that I decided to ditch the crutches at work. Anyone seeing my reddened, sweating face and hearing my heavy breathing at the end of each "trip" could not have blamed me for calling to claim the wheelchair prescribed by my surgeon.
For another four or five weeks, then, school was navigated by wheelchair, my crutches claimed at the end of each day and used around the house. The relative ease with which I could navigate the school, thanks to eagerly helpful students and colleagues, allowed my armpits to recover and my heart rate to slow down considerably. The burgeoning triceps from all the wheeling were another benefit for the erstwhile-sedentary Jaime.
A day before my physical therapist gave me this tough love and insisted on more crutch-walking, I received a similar talking-to from a friend who told me that the wheelchair was itself a crutch, keeping me from giving more ground exposure to the nerves and muscles of the foot.
"Thanks, Doc," I said sarcastically, but maybe my resistance to losing the wheelchair was more of a mental hangup than a physical one.
A few days later, my wheelchair sits idle, in the school's parking garage in case it's needed again. Though the going is slow, the crutch steps sometimes more like slides than strides, the foot is getting a bit more strength, a bit more feeling.
Thanks, Doc--and I direct this to two people and with no sarcasm--for the tough love.