The Healing Process


Last week I cleaned the doors and doorframes that make up the narrow nook of the bath and laundry area downstairs, removing the black smudges left by my time using a wheelchair. On February 4th, I lost my grip on a piece of playground equipment, dislocating my ankle while also snapping off the small bone that sits at the bottom of the tibia and breaking my fibula in multiple places.

A few weeks later I had my first surgery where my bones were put back in place with the assistance of one plate and nine screws were implanted. Towards the end of May the two screws connecting my tibia and fibula were removed and in June, after four months of 100% non weight bearing, I was allowed to ditch the boot and 100% weight bear as tolerated.

Taking that first step was terrifying. I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew I was supposed to lead with my injured leg and crutches. The doing it gave me the sweats. After spending the better part of four months mostly immobile, I was short of balance and my joints and muscles were just so stiff. I remember stepping lightly forward with my healing leg and crutches and not knowing what to do with my left foot. I didn’t know how to draw it forward to meet my right. My entire family was expectantly watching me and I felt like someone who had frozen onstage while being completely in the spotlight. My first steps were anything but graceful. I resorted to YouTube to study videos of people who’ve had a similar injury and recovery.

Since June I’ve gone from crutches, to cane and now to mostly walking completely unassisted. Little by little things things are returning to the way they were before the playground incident. I’m in physical therapy twice a week and I’m learning to get around with my new mobility. I’ve learned a lot over these over these last six months, but these have been my biggest takeaways.

Some days are physically harder than others

Some days I feel I can walk a mile unassisted and others days I can hardly get my walk in sync while walking around the house. I have to be very intentional when I’m walking. I have to make sure I’m putting full weight on my healing leg, while also making sure my steps are equally measured. If I go too fast I find myself walking unevenly almost like I’m dragging along a right locked leg. Some days I’m so tired. Some days my foot and ankle hurt like the dickens and I chastise myself for taking a ride on that piece of children’s equipment. I have to dismiss those feelings quickly because I don’t want to sink down somewhere I’ll have a hard time crawling out of. The physicians assistant told me I just have to keep moving and it’s something I like to keep fresh in my mind. He said I’m at risk for early arthritis, especially since there’s a piece of bone that broke off in my fall that they were unable to repair or remove. I’m learning a lot right now about not giving up and I’m keeping at it because of all the little eyes that are watching me.

It’s on me

“This is your recovery.” Who knew four words could be so powerful? I didn’t. At my last ortho appointment the physicians assistant told me my recovery is all on me. No one else can get me there but me. Not the physical therapist, not my family- me. The right words at the right time are a very powerful thing. He didn’t know I was dealing with residual emotional baggage from this entire process. For nearly three months I was bedridden. I left the house only for appointments and saw few people other than my family. In those early months I had to rely on my adult family members for everything. That was hard. Life is funny because life seemed to be getting real good before the accident. I was meeting new people and putting myself out there in ways I hadn’t before at this duty station. It was a shock when things came to a halt. I’m now in a place where I can do things again. I can move and I can drive. I don’t know exactly where I’m going now, but I know it’s on me. I have the power and opportunity to take control of my life and it really is a gift I may not have received if not for this incident.

I have a pretty family

There are no words to express the gratitude I have for my entire family. My middle son gave up his room and bed for almost for months for me. His bed was moved downstairs for me and my mom and aunt moved into his room during their stay with us. My kids did everything within their abilities to assist me and I’ve seen so much growth within them that my heart swells with pride. My husband worked tirelessly to care for me and our family, taking on all of my responsibilities plus some, to keep our lives going as smoothly as possible. I am so grateful that there really are no words.

The little things

I’ve always heard about embracing the little things in life. I didn’t truly understand what that meant until my ability to do some things was taken away. Today I’m able to do all of the small things and it feels as though the world was given back to me. I can now go upstairs to brush the kids teeth, put the kids to bed and read bedtime stories. I can go outside without all the hassle. I can cook and wash dishes and clean the house without my foot tremendously swelling or turning purple.


Sometimes our circumstances change without our permission. I’m learning it’s how I roll with it that matters. At my first ortho appointment the physicians assistant told me we can’t dwell on the what if. Now that it’s happened we have to figure out how we’re going to move forward. I hope I never forget those words of advice because they’re so applicable to other parts of life.

At times it was really hard, but I’ve found there’s a rainbow if I look hard enough. There really were times I had to squint for that golden cup of coffee in the distance, but I truly believe I walked away from this experience with an expansion pack to the toolkit I’ve been building throughout my life. I will continue to learn through my recovery process. The physicians assistant said it takes an entire year to recover from the injury I sustained, so while this is not over, I look forward to going forward with grace.














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Jeannette Swanson
Jeannette is mom to three kids ages 10, 6 and 4 and a military spouse to a Marine Corps explosive ordnance disposal technician. They've been married thirteen years and her husband has served almost twenty-five years. They're not exactly sure what's next, but they call the desert just outside Joshua Tree National Park home for now. Jeannette loves her Nespresso machine, reading, house plants and crocheting.