Jo returns home at last

Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
Jo Foster. Picture by Tony Johnson.
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I have been allowed to stand up for the first time in nine weeks. Last week I was given the precautionary go-ahead to begin the transfer from my wheelchair to crutches by the surgeon. It was a massive relief. It’s been a trial for all of us.

Being out of the chair meant I could move back home, get out of my parent’s hair and regain some much-needed independence, albeit on a tiny level. Psychologically it was what I had craved.

I am not able to lift, bend or spend more than a few minutes walking on the crutches until my pelvis and the screws are able to cope with the weight. The alternative was using a zimmer frame which I tactfully declined.

Working is still completely out of the question but after my meeting with the surgeon a rejuvenated excitement rippled through the family and I’ve since been driven to watch the horses working on the gallops a few times this week without a word of complaint. Temptation is great being so close to the horses. I watch the staff pulling out each lot and a yearning to join them hatches inside me, but I have to turn away. Prioritise. I’m top of the list at the moment.

I asked my surgeon how long it would take before I could walk unaided and he shrugged his shoulders. Then I asked him how long it would be before I was healed and pain free.

He replied honestly: “I really can’t tell you. This case has been quite unique in a lot of ways. I have only ever operated on a couple of breaks similar to yours so we must wait and see.”

He explained he had rarely seen the pelvis detached from the spine without serious spinal damage occurring, most people he had dealt with were left paralysed. “I must have some strong vertebrae,” I joked, elated at the thought of finally ditching the cumbersome bulk of a chair. “You have something strong,” he replied.

Waiting in the hospital I had serious wheelchair envy when I saw a light, athletic sporty number zoom past me. It was the ‘Porsche 911’ version of chairs as opposed to my weighty ‘Austin Allegro Estate’ variety (ask your parents if you don’t know what that is).

The last nine weeks have been a valuable learning curve. I have learnt many things from my situation; people are nice to you when you are in a wheelchair, they move out of the way, hold open doors.

On crutches they see you as a work dodger. Secondly, I cannot mentally cope with being confined or incarcerated. Another week would have driven me utterly insane.

It’s so far removed from the freedom I’ve always had, growing up on the farm. Being close to nature is as important to me as breathing.