LIVING WITH A DISABILITY
Dealing And Living
With Your Disability
When you realize
that your disability is going to be permanent, you probably will
express many different feelings from shock to fear to anger to
self-pity. There is no "guideline" way to feel or react. People
generally react according to how much their disability is going to
affect or change their everyday life. Those who accept and make
adjustments for their new reality will have an easier time coping.
If you have
developed a disability, acknowledge your limitations, but
concentrate on what you can do and how you can
strive to accomplish even more. Set realistic goals, and
meet them (this will build your self-acceptance). Approach
life as a challenge, not an effort or existence. Remember to work on
turning your fears into your strengths.
A Letter from an RN
with a Disability
I would like
to start by letting you know what qualifies my contribution to this
web site. I am a 45-year-old RN who suffered an injury to my right
hand in February 2002. I now have a physical impairment, which
prevents me from working in the SICU where I had worked for ten
years prior to this injury.
I have been
able, so far, to continue work in the nursing field but my patient
contact is almost exclusively limited to phone calls i.e.
Pre-procedure, post-procedure and relating results of biopsies. While some may say you�re still able to
work, I have to say that mentally I do not find my job fulfilling or
As an SICU staff
nurse, I was responsible for the total care of one to two patients
per shift. In the SICU where I worked there are no support nursing
staff, therefore, the RN is responsible for the most basic to the
most critical needs of their patients. I loved that one on one
contact and I couldn�t imagine ever doing anything else as a
profession. Sure, there were those times after an extremely
stressful twelve hour shift that I though to myself, what in the
hell am I doing here? Couldn�t I have come up with a better plan
for a four-year college degree? But I would be right back at it the
I tell you there
is no greater reward for a critical care nurse than to have someone
stroll down the hall to the nurses station or call in on the
intercom and ask if they could come in to see nurse Judy, and then
you look up from your charting and there stands a patient that you
spent many twelve hour shifts running to literally keep them alive.
After the big bear hug and they tell you what�s going on in their
life now, that�s when you remember why you�re doing this.
After spending ten
years in the same SICU, I�ve had plenty such contacts. True I had
some bad times there, any critical care nurse that tells you they
don�t grieve over the loss of their patient is either lying or they
have some emotional detachment disorder (in my opinion). If I woke
up tomorrow and my right hand had miraculously healed, can you guess
where I�d be?
Incidentally, I am
or I guess I should say I was right hand dominant. While I don�t
pretend my disability is comparable to that of someone who has
suffered a brain injury such as a stroke, I do feel I have somewhat
of empathy for that person. I have those times where I feel
inadequate in all aspects of my life. I am a type "A" personality,
therefore; I have an innate need to be in control.
I feel that my
disability has taken much control away. One small example is when
ordering from a menu at a restaurant. I am limited as to what I can
order. Now, what I�m going to say is going to make those in the
medical profession cringe. (Yes) I admit it, I love my BEEF. But, I
have yet to order a steak or prime rib while eating out since my
injury because that would require my husband or someone else to have
to cut up my meat. Because of my need to be perceived as totally
independent, I cannot bring myself to let people in public see me as
being anything less. Now your thinking you need help. And you�re
right and hopefully someday I�ll get to that point where I can order
that prime rib and enjoy every bite after my husband has cut it up
for me. But for now, I guess I�ll remain a closet beefeater and only
have this at home after my husband has grilled it for me. This may
seem silly and I admit it even seems so to me after writing it down.
But, I don�t believe I�ll be planning an evening out at the local
steakhouse anytime soon.
I guess what I�m
trying to explain with all of this frustration. As a health care
professional and someone who has had two relatives both in their
early thirties struck by CVA�S, I had been quite familiar with the
life altering outcomes of physical disabilities but still I was
totally unprepared for personal loss.
In my opinion� one
of the most important factors in the healing process is the feeling
of self worth, self-esteem, confidence in yourself or whatever you
want to call it. And one of the major ways to achieve this is with a
good solid support system. I am one of the lucky ones; I have a true
gem for a husband and a wonderful family. Also, I have my
professional background, which gives me an inside track in regards
to available resources. If you aren�t one of the lucky ones than
talk, yell, scream�whatever it takes until you are heard. Talk to
your doctor, therapist or nurse (we listen pretty good).
As a parting
thought, just a bit of information for family members, especially
those in the role of a caregiver, Don�t coddle your loved one.
Sometimes we need to struggle to achieve even a little goal, such as
opening a pickle jar. So what if we end up spilling half the juice
on the counter, we will then get to achieve another by cleaning up
our mess. I don�t have all the answers. But, I am confident you will
find what you need from other contributors to this web site.
Judy Kinser, RN