Mountain Equine - Courtney S. Diehl, DVM / Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Healing Slowly

I’m not very patient and this healing business just isn’t happening fast enough.

I cannot bend, twist or lift.  For four months or so.  What I can do is shuffle around the house, rigid-backed, like a military cadet and snatch things from the floor with my long grabber thingy.  I can wear my stiff backed corset like a Victorian matron and watch my posture as diligently as a supermodel, but I can’t do much else.

I have a nifty sock putter-on-ner.  You thread the sock over a wedge of plastic with long handles and toss it to the ground, poke your foot into it, and pull the handles up and, voila, the sock goes on your foot.  I have a tool with three differently shaped hooks for snagging grasping, pulling, pushing, nudging and rotating various objects throughout the course of the day and it has proved remarkably useful.

But this not-bending thing sucks.  Especially when you’re as clumsy as I can be.  Dropping something becomes a complex matter, particularly if a random little girl who finds the grabbers irresistible has made off with my nearest set, and I have to go find another pair.  No big deal if I’m trying to grab  a lumpy object like a wallet, reading glasses, book or object of clothing.  If it’s my smart phone, a pen, piece of paper I don’t want smushed, or a cd, good luck.

Lunges and squats work provided I don’t lean forward.  The act of brushing teeth and leaning over the sink to spit toothpaste is a no no.  Leaning forward to wash dishes, no.  Leaning forward to read, paint, wipe a counter, scrub a toilet, no.  I didn’t realize how many hours out of my day I spend leaning.  Maybe my crappy posture is what got me into this mess in the first place.

To make matters worse, my hip, which has a torn labrum and a large bone spur and also needs surgery, is hurting more and more.  Maybe it’s the new way I’m moving.  Maybe it’s the position of the sun.  All I know is that I used to be invulnerable and suddenly I’m broken and it isn’t cool.

Before I forget about gratitude, let me talk about gratitude.  I am grateful that I live in a country where I have access to this level of medical care and that getting my back fixed was even an option.  I know there are many people in this world without medical options for their screwed up backs, knees, shoulders, hips, etc and have no choice but to live in pain until they cannot function any more.  There are millions without clean water and food, and here I sit, well fed and freshly showered, in clean clothes with a refrigerator full of food, wearing my clean corset and fussing because I cannot bend forward to spit my toothpaste into my sink.

Can you say first world problems?

But I feel so damn useless and therein lies the problem.  Like many others, I’m used to getting my butt out the door in all kinds of weather.   I’m used to working when I’m sick or sleep deprived.  I work when I’m sore or injured. And like many others, I usually don’t take time to go to the doctor to have my various aches and pains checked out.   We work hard.  Of course we hurt.

And now I can’t work at all and it is fucking killing me.  For the first time in almost eighteen years of practicing veterinary medicine, I cannot work.  I can’t help my clients when their horses are sick or injured.  I can’t respond to the stranger with the horse with the broken leg.  Who am I if I’m not my job?

I’m going to get to find out, I guess.  Sometimes I worry about how tied up my personal identity has become with my career, then I think about how damn hard I worked to get to the point where I even felt like a competent horse veterinarian, and I’m not worried.  Then I’m defensive, then I’m frustrated, then I’m isolated, then I’m worried again.

Then I’m mad.  I’m mad at all of the long years that I sacrificed in pursuit of higher training, better skills, better equipment and a better reputation.  I’m mad at sacrificing time with my children, my dwindling bank account, my unpaid student loans, and the disloyal clients who demand better and better vet services for cheaper and cheaper.  And I’m really pissed at the destruction of my back and hip.

OK, back to gratitude.  I live in a free country.  I do not have to hand over almost half of what I make to my government.  I am not living in fear of gangs and drug lords and I have not been sold into sexual slavery.  I had a shot at building a successful business- a chance which many humans will never get, and it didn’t pan out exactly as I’d planned.  So what?  Do I, A: sit on my corseted ass and cry about it, or B: do I simply find another opportunity to use some of my other skills and keep going?

I’m going with B

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Since 2000, Dr. Diehl has provided mobile equine veterinary services in the Rocky Mountains.