Over the past year, I have had a number of minor health issues that took time to deal with. Last November, I had a tear in my meniscus, and after some doctor’s visits, I was sent to 10 sessions of physiotherapy. I also had to apply heat and ice, and take anti-inflammatory medication that wasn’t nice on my stomach.
In February, I tripped, fell, and hurt my tailbone. In May, I pulled a muscle in my back while lifting weights. All through the spring, I had many, many trips to the dentist, as I needed a crown and every time I went for the final piece, it wouldn’t fit properly and had to be reprinted.
Last July, before my trip to Europe, I hurt my hip while running. I didn’t get it checked until after I returned to Ecuador, when I had pain in both my left hip and knee. Again, a series of visits and exams later, and a diagnosis of two points of bursitis in my hip, an inflamed tendon on my hip, and some wearing out of my knee. Then, another orthopedist had a second look at the results and suggested I go for yet another exam (to evaluate how I walk). From there, I learned I could improve the way I walk by using arch supports. Measuring and printing of the supports followed, and then I was on the path of training in the use of the supports and getting cleared for exercise again.
Two days into wearing my arch supports, I broke a toe. I spent an evening in the emergency room, and am confined by a walking boot. After the first ten days, I was cleared to start physical therapy (only laser, electricity, ultrasound, etc to help speed up the recovery). After ten sessions of therapy, I’ll have another check, and then maybe will be allowed to walk without the boot, and then will most likely need another 10 sessions of physiotherapy with exercises to restore.
All of these issues are very minor. A few sports injuries, a stupid broken toe, and some bad luck with a crown for my teeth. Yet, I’m surprised to find how much time and energy these things have been taking me. Going for an exam in Quito takes about an entire afternoon. Going to physiotherapy takes about two hours (getting there, an hour of therapy, and returning). Then, there’s the dealing with the insurance company to get refunded for the expenses. All of this feels like quite a hassle to me – and again, these are only minor complaints.
Thinking about how my minor issues already impacted (read: drastically shortened) my workday, has made me reflect on what it must be like for someone who is not well. If these minor things already take up so much of my time and headspace, then I can’t imagine how much more limitations those with serious health issues face – and how ill-equipped academia is for dealing with faculty with health issues. It seems to be more than time to adopt a culture of care, where those who face health issues can temporarily be relieved from certain work aspects, so that they can recover as necessary.