My Jenga-Block Wrist
By Guest Blogger Iris Pedowitz
I had just graduated college and was getting ready to spend the summer working at a camp in San Diego, before spending a year abroad. It was to be one romantic, exciting adventure before settling down and getting a grown up job. I was driving to San Diego when I lost control of my vehicle. My wrist was crushed and almost destroyed. The next year consisted of surgery after surgery, and physical therapy session after physical therapy session. I was in a cast for nine months because the bones wouldn’t heal. Three bones were ultimately removed, so now my wrist can’t support my arm. I always imagine a Jenga tower that is impossibly balancing with one tiny piece remaining at the bottom. There are a lot of things I can’t do anymore, but this story isn’t about that.
Nothing really prepares you for getting permanently injured in your early twenties. I decided to take the LSAT since I had a lot of free time, because my full time job at that point was recovering. I dutifully had my doctor fill out all the paperwork so I could get accommodations when I took the LSAT (my injury was to my dominant hand). My request was rejected – I had no history of accommodations, after all. I actually had a surgery scheduled two days after the test date and ultimately was unable to take the test. I tried again for another date and had my surgeon fill out the paperwork. They emphasized my “poor fine motor skills” and lack of strength. The notes from all of my physical therapy sessions are requested. After my physical therapist sent everything, I was told I won’t have to bubble in answers, but haven’t sufficiently demonstrated a need for extra time on the written portion. During the test, I had to take Advil several times to dampen the pain. I decided that I didn’t want to bother with trying to get accommodations for school and gave up.
I started looking for work while I was still in a splint. The small talk interviewers would make usually involved asking about my injury and when the cast would come off — I couldn’t give them an answer as to when it would come off. I never got calls back. I didn’t understand then that I needed to start learning about my legal protections. After all, I was lucky — I hadn’t lost my hand, I could still walk, so it’s not like I was really disabled. Once the cast came off, I started getting calls back.
A couple of years have passed and I still have my Jenga-block wrist. There are a lot of things I can’t do because my wrist can’t support my arm —I can’t ride bikes, catch things with my bad hand, do anything that involves falling. I still hurt myself when I twist it too far opening the door. I’m told I have barely any cartilage left and that there are more surgeries to come. I decided I should start doing yoga; I can just do adjusted moves instead. The first class I attended, the teacher asked what my injury is and I explained. She told me to drink dandelion tea to get my wrist strong. I can’t articulate my feelings – how small and weak and self-conscious she made me feel and how dismissive she was of my wrist. I didn’t know how to advocate for myself. I didn’t know the words to tell her that was she said was not okay. Instead, I didn’t go back to that class.
I started working at a company that didn’t have an employee manual or a human resources department. When I got a wrist pad for my keyboard, my boss made a comment about how fancy I was. Ironically, yoga came back into my life and I upset co-workers when I elected to not participate in a yoga session led by a coworker. A coworker asked if we’d hire someone without fingers, and my boss said, while staring at me, “probably not — they’d be too expensive.” I was beginning to learn my voice and began to speak up. I said he was wrong and that if prospective employees had the skills for the job, that the loss of a limb or appendage can’t be the determining factor because of the protections afforded to disabled Americans by the law.
I’m still learning. I understand that I’m disabled now and I’m stumbling into the vibrant communities around me. I’m learning to be an advocate for myself. I’m learning about sports I can do where I don’t constantly focus on what I’m unable to do. There was a “me” before the accident – a girl who played the harp and loved swing dancing and driving around late at night. There is a “me” now – someone a little more cautious, but who has discovered traveling, cooking and an inner strength I couldn’t fathom. I am learning to be an advocate for this person. To protect her, and fight for her. I’m learning to be this person. A warrior with a Jenga-block wrist.
About the Guest Blogger
Iris is a graduate of University of California-Davis and works for a non-profit advocacy group helping small businesses get their voice heard on legislative issues on both the state and national levels. She was born and raised in central California, and recently relocated to Washington, D.C. This is her first time blogging about life after her injury.