Whenever I am in a foreign country, I try to speak in the native tongue. Earlier this month, while Eve and I were vacationing in Italy, it was easy to offer a hearty Buongiorno each morning to our Italian friends. Nor did it take much effort to order a double espresso by requesting Un doppio espresso per favore.
However, asking a medical supply store clerk: Hai delle stampelle che posso comprare? - Do you have crutches I can buy? - was not a phrase I practiced in advance of our trip. But when your wife falls and breaks her ankle, you do everything in your power to get her the help she needs.
It was on day 5 of our hiking tour of the Alps that Eve slipped on gravel. As soon as she went down, she knew it was a serious injury. Fortunately, we were not alone. Being participants in a Road Scholar tour, she received immediate assistance from the staff.
With no way to walk off the mountain – nor be carried by stretcher – a helicopter brought her to the nearest hospital. X-rays confirmed two fractures in her left ankle. Two days later, we were on a plane back to California so she could rest and recuperate at home.
God willing, Eve’s condition will improve over time. She is stable and looks at her recovery with a positive attitude. She requires minimal assistance to manage day-to-day.
There are two main take-aways from this accident that I want to share. The first is our gratitude for the extraordinary kindness we received while abroad. The care and concern of our travel group and especially our guide meant a lot to us. The hotel staff went out of their way to make our stay as comfortable as possible. The warmth and generosity of Italians I encountered in unexpected places such as the hospital and a medical supply store was uplifting.
Secondly, now that Eve is limited to using crutches or a wheelchair, I am sensitized like never before to what it means to cope with a disability. I now understand the importance of the ADA act. And when there is no sidewalk or the elevator is a tight fit for someone in a wheelchair, I feel frustration and outrage.
I am chagrinned that it took Eve’s accident to sensitize me to those who live with permanent disabilities. My admiration for their ability to cope has increased immeasurably. May we all be attuned to others when they are wounded and in need of support. Especially in times of vulnerability, human kindness makes a world of difference.