Lessons from a broken bone

I broke my clavicle (collar bone) almost four weeks ago, and you know I look at everything as a learning experience, so I couldn’t let the opportunity slip by before unpacking it for lessons.

Those of you who know about the accident likely expected this column at some point. Before I share the lessons, I’ll first share the story.

I was riding my bike home after dark, by myself. What we believe happened is that my bike lock, which was coiled around my seat post, usually locked to itself, came loose and got caught in my spokes or chain. It stopped my bike instantly, but my body kept going.

I wasn’t wearing a helmet. Shame on me. I landed on my head and my left shoulder, knocking myself out. When I came to, I knew instantly that my collar bone was broken. I could feel the bones moving and was in pain. I didn’t realize I had a gash on my head. I think the pain from the broken bone was distracting me. In my shock and with a level of stubbornness, I walked my bicycle home, calling a friend on the way to take me to the emergency room.

The emergency room staff was incredible. Especially the nurse. She was efficient and kind. The entire visit took just a few hours. I left in a sling and instructions for a follow up appointment with an orthopedic doctor.

The first week was miserable for me. I got inside my own head. My anxiety was high. I felt useless and gross. I hated not being active. I felt bad for abandoning my volleyball team. I was mad about the accident and cried off and on for several days. On day six I woke up, after a night of restless sleep, not having eaten in 12 hours. My blood sugar and blood pressure were low. I got up and was dizzy. It didn’t go away and instead I found myself on the floor, having hit my head on the wall on my way down, and scraping my face on the floor.

Fast forward to today, four weeks after the accident, two more weeks of sling to go. I reflect daily on the lessons I am learning and the impact the experience will have on me moving forward.

I have never been good at asking for help or allowing people to help me. With this injury, I have no choice but to ask for — and accept — help.

I am still stubborn about it, but there are some things that are impossible to do alone, like mow my lawn or put my hair in a ponytail. Something my mom always told me was that people want to help others. It has a positive impact on them.

This experience helped me see that she is right. If you need help, people don’t mind helping. You aren’t a burden on them. When people offer to help, they usually mean it.

It is very important to celebrate the little things. As my bone heals, I find happiness when I can do something, without pain, as minor as the action may seem. The first time I washed my dishes and the first time I was able to go for a walk were causes for mini celebrations that also reminded me to celebrate little successes in life before moving on to the next thing. We deserve it and it helps maintain a positive attitude.

I have some art up in my house that says, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” and another that says, “Don’t pray for life to be easy, pray for yourself to be strong.”

It took me a week to get out of my own mind and the funk I was in over the accident. It seems silly now, but that was my reality then. I’m sure it was a combination of factors, plus it is my nature to be hard on myself. After a few days, I realized that our life is made up of experiences that are just short blips on the continuum of life.

I’m a visual person, so I drew out a line of my life and put a mark for the six weeks of broken bone recovery. It was such a small part of the line.

The key though, is to draw value from the experiences that make up our life and carry lessons with us. Once the pain was gone and I changed my perspective, things got much better.

I know things could always be worse. I am grateful for so much. I’ll hold on to the lessons I’m learning and appreciate the positive impact this experience had on me.

Jackie Krawczak is president/CEO of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs biweekly on Thursdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.