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Small Changes, Bring Giant Differences: What life’s like on crutches?

Getting surgery has some resemblances to getting diagnosed with a disease that will impair your ability to walk for six weeks. Except in reality, it’s not nearly as traumatic or permanent.


You have to be prepared for it, and ready to take on all the challenges that come with not having a functional limb. Doing dishes? Out of the question. Shoes in the closet? Nah. Clothes folded? Forget about it. Exercising caution is the only kind of exercise you will be doing.


Not only are there the obvious physical consequences of being injured, but there are also social pressures that we don’t usually encounter in our usual, healthy, active lives.


Take your regular, everyday scene and add in an injured person. There are two ways of looking at it: an observer’s way, and the victim’s way.


These differences are often lost in the general normalcy of the event. The thoughts that go through the two perspective’s minds differ, so to better understand the elephant in the room, let’s dive into the psyche of both.


Imagine an observer, sitting in a coffee shop, closed off to the world, narrowed in on their own work. Then, suddenly, an injured person struggles on the heavy door and makes it through on crutches, like it’s a big victory. How dare they stain the worry-free environment with their disability! *this sarcasm is instrumental to obvious-ize the bystander’s reaction* The observer must then take notice of the approaching customer, unless they would rather look like a non-breathing, non-living, coffee-ingesting robot. To very few people’s knowledge, this moment is the best for the person on crutches (who I will now on refer to as Crutchica), but totally trivial for the innocent bystander.


I will explain this moment so that healthy and those injured could understand the roles at play in this moment. Human social interaction magic happens every time. A beautiful thing goes unnoticed when you put a healthy person and Crutchica in a room together.


In the Western world, at least, the bystander feels enormously awkward and guilty. I think they feel this way because they are stuck between being a moral, bystander who likes helping those in need, and continuing the illusion that they created for being a busy body who is intensely focused on their work. So, when a distraction walks in that places these two selves against one another, cue instinct mis-circuiting. We WANT to be good samaritans, but we CAN’T because we’re BUSY.


Social standards like this create potentially harmful psychological phenomenons like the bystander effect, and the negative consequences of getting lost in a crowd.


Being a cripple once again made me see this side of human relations, and makes it really interesting to go to public places. It’s different, it’s unique, it’s sometimes exciting. Don’t be misinformed, this isn’t a perk, nor is it an impairment of being on crutches. It is simply whatever you make it be. I, for one, find it fascinating, and will continue to take notes on my sociological findings as I continue to crutch around my hometown and back on campus.


Maybe people on crutches wouldn’t be such a distraction if they re-invented the crutch. This is close! New “iwalk free” crutch design.

Nica is a Senior at Williams College majoring in Biology and taking pre-medical courses. She is a member of Ritmo Latino and GQ A cappella. Her passions include public health, reading, and yoga.
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