Editor’s Column: On My Own Two Feet Again

Jill Ferris

“The fracture is right here,” the doctor told me, pointing to an X-ray of my right foot. No sooner had I arrived back on campus this year than I slipped walking down the stairs. I assumed I had just rolled my ankle, but as a trip to the Student Health Center and X-Ray Department at Community Memorial Hospital the next day revealed, I had done more than just that. My fifth metatarsal was broken, as were my dreams of playing tag and climbing stairs.

I spent a weekend on crutches and planned my half-day of classes to minimize the amount of moving about I would have to do. I actually sat through a random class because it was easier than leaving and coming back to the same room a half hour later. Crutches on this campus were a challenge. While I had the speed and power of a monster truck, I also had the finesse and control of a lumbering crocodile. I could “out-crutch” most of my two-footed friends on the flat stretches, but the hills nearly killed me. My arms were never sorer than they were after those three days of crutching. Oftentimes my friend Erin would insist on giving me a piggyback ride as it was just faster than the stop and go of letting me walk.

Fortunately, I wasn’t on crutches for long. I was soon upgraded to the boot cast – a large, black, removable device that allowed me to walk, or rather hobble, on two feet. The boot took on a life of its own as I attempted to deal with what could have been seen as a stiff prison. I dressed it up with a garbage bag for Beta Beach; other times it was adorned with sparkly ribbons or a pin that says “I am loved.” I discovered that the boot made an excellent ‘Gate card and cell phone holder, and I also Velcro-ed a banana onto the boot on at least one occasion.

I’ve been bootless for a month, and it’s been nearly two weeks since the doctor cleared me to run and kick things. I’m back at water polo practice and am glad to know that if I am ever chased by the Boogie Man, I can easily get away.

On the flip side, I was initially scared to run and swim again, afraid that I would reinjure my foot. My life is pretty much back to normal, but I still walk down stairs with a death grip on the railing.

It is really amazing just how difficult it is to navigate this campus with a physical disability. I was pretty self-sufficient, all things considered, even while on crutches. In three days I crutched to essentially every corner of campus, from the Coop to the townhouses. Once I had my boot, I was able to walk everywhere.

In addition to the physical difficulty of the hill, the buildings themselves proved to be challenging. In Alumni Hall there is an elevator; however, to reach it you still have to climb seven stairs. To reach the first-floor classrooms, you face an additional three. Similarly, the Student Union (James C. Colgate Hall) also has an elevator; however, it only runs between the first and second floors. To get to the Maroon-News offices on the third floor, you have to take the stairs.

Many of the other buildings are more accessible, and certainly the University is flexible in making sure that everyone can reach his destination. Academic Support & Disability Services can make a number of accommodations, such as moving a class or lecture to an accessible location. For the temporarily impaired, this might be little consolation, but it is available.

I’m thankful to be steadily on my own two feet again with nothing to hold me back physically. It took a broken foot to show me just how fortunate I am in that regard. My death grip on the railings will remain, however, as I’m not too keen to relive the experience.