How can you respond, control your life, and business when a sudden accident leaves you disabled?

By Chad E Cooper

First, when suddenly faced with an emergency situation that instantly limits your physical life, begin by assessing where you’re really at. If you find yourself in emergency surgery with weeks of recovery ahead of you, what can you do? The shock kicks in which means emotion is driving the show and logic isn’t ready to take control. The trick is first to accept the emotion and not to make it worse than it is, but also don’t make it any lighter than it is either. Find your rational mind within the pain killers the doctors are giving you and ask questions so you have the facts necessary to come up with a plan. Maybe you need a second opinion on your diagnosis; ask about your recovery options.

Deciding what the outcome you desire is the 1st step, then plan what are you willing to give in return to get to the outcome? Believe it or not, even if you just woke up from a car accident or heart attack, you can calm your brain and take a few moments to asses your situation. If you have family there with you, ask them to write things down if you can’t, so you remember it later when the drugs wear off. Start with a checklist which you might even want to create before an unexpected event happens so you are always prepared. Being prepared can take much of the stress out of an unexpected incident.

1. If you were injured in a car accident will you need an attorney? And who?
2. If it requires additional procedures, do you need a second opinion?
3. What will your insurance cover? What are the gaps in coverage?
4. What to do about work, can you take the time off or work at home?
5. Who do you have to assist you in taking care of yourself at home?
6. Will you need any specialized equipment prior to getting home like a walker?
7. Who do you want to be contacted by the hospital staff?
8. Do you have a medical power of attorney and medical directives in place? Does someone else besides you know about these documents and where they are located?
9. Do you carry a paper listing all your medication allergies?

It can be very hard to gather your thoughts when your in a great deal of pain following an accident. However, the cost of not doing these steps are far more severe!

The number one thing I see why people often struggle with these difficult issues or circumstances is they don’t feel that they need to write things down on paper. You can’t clearly separate your choices without writing them down. Once you see what your options are, then you’re ready to look at the consequences for each piece. When we say consequences, we often think of that as being punitive, but consequences are upsides and downsides to each possible choice. What do you gain by each option, and what would you it cost you?

Let’s take a step back, because it’s also important to acknowledge that you may need to go through a grieving period for whatever loss you encounter. Allow yourself to get upset if you need to get upset. Then decide when you’re done doing all that. It’s not healthy to ignore…if you broke your arm… acknowledge that you broke your arm. It hurts, it’s going to affect your life for a period of time. But the sooner you decide to go to a doctor and get a splint, a cast, or surgery, the sooner you are on the road to recovery.

Once the immediacy of the injury is behind you, you will have a recovery process. One of my clients had knee surgery and had the prescription of resting and doing physical therapy. Some people think their only option is to not slow down and ignore the problem. Often we don’t want to admit to ourselves or bosses that we need to take time off to heal. Perhaps we are afraid our employer portrays us as being weak or may replace our job while we’re out. Since my client choose to ignore the healing process and the doctor’s recommendations, he has now been back to have his knee scoped at least 2 additional times which could have been avoided.

As an alternative, I myself had major hip surgery. We both did research prior, we both declared our purpose for the surgery was to return to an active athletic life. The difference was that I remained in the cause of my future rather than living in the effect of my surgeon. If you are told “you’re life is just going to be less from this point forward…” stay in the cause of your future and keep researching until you find the doctor that aligns with your outcome; to remain physically active. Otherwise, you begin accepting what others will offer you and settle for the bread crumbs of life. I went through several doctors, until I found one that would use stem cells to accelerate the healing and a recovery plan that would return me to normal activities AT MY STANDARDS, not the doctors

Taking control of your strategy is critical and once in place, acknowledge the importance of physical therapy. Just like a Formula One driver, you cannot win the race without carefully planned pit stops. Your physical therapy prescription will be your pit stops. We may be tempted to skip the full post therapy plan because our insurance is only going to cover a bit of the cost, leaving you with the bulk of that bill. Yet physical therapy might be just what you need to get going again. The scary part about that is for many people they may not have the funds, or believe they don’t have the funds to be able to recover through the necessary process. But if we actually look at post injury statistically, it’s actually a better return on your investment to do the physical therapy for a couple of reasons. Many people find that they already have the tools needed right in their own home to do effective physical therapy at no cost to them. If you have to tools already, stay in cause and respectfully work with the experts to work on an alternative solution that saves you the money but keeps you in the program.

Physical therapy also has a psychological effect that gets you back on your feet sooner. This will enable you to get out of the various levels of depression associated with this helpless feeling in recovery. Weight gain and just not having a zeal for life can also slow the healing. Anything that prevents you from saying, “well, at this age, I just need to accept that sometimes you go slower” or any other limiting belief needs to be challenged. If you skipped the persistence and consistency of the recovery plan, you’re more likely to be prone to re-injury.

I invite you to change the focus from this being an excuse or your being a victim, and instead standing still in your situation. Look at what all your options are and write them down. We can’t always control our environment and we can’t control other people, but we can come up with alternative options until we find a workable path forward. Sometimes we are in an accident at no fault of our own. Do you really want to argue with reality? The more we argue with the ideal solution that isn’t matching up with our reality, the more we’re driven to insanity and anger. Sometimes life just throws you a curve ball and you have to work with or around it.

Once you make the decision to be at cause of your own health, regardless of how you got put in that circumstance, you have the ability to get your control back. The alternative is waiting for the decisions of somebody else to decide what that outcome is going to be and possibly settling for less. Listen to your body and the experts and trust their experience but verify it is right for your specific situation. Don’t push recovery for the sake of getting back to work faster or “my family needs the break from caring for me…” But truly listen.

When a friend of mine was in her early 30s she tore the rotator cuff in her shoulder, she was a barber. Her arm literally locked up in an upward position for weeks. The doctor told her that if she continued with that kind of job, it would continue to do the same thing even if it was surgically repaired. The doctor recommended that she find another line of work. After assessing her options she decided to leave barbering and entered Real Estate school. She became one of the most successful young agents in Alabama. Life can make you learn to be flexible, so don’t fight it.

Become clear as to outcome that you desire. What are you really driven towards? Let’s say you’re really driven to saying I’m going to stay in this career. Or want to continue at whatever physical pace that you have come to make your norm. Then look your options? I can tell you when I shredded my shoulder I had 3 surgeons tell me, oh you have spinal injury, you need to do spinal surgery. I trusted them, but no one could verify the root of the problem was my spine. I respectfully refused to take their diagnosis. I choose to continue my research until I found the solution that actually allowed me to get to the outcome I needed for my lifestyle. As a result, I am still fully active. It took patience, writing out my options, staying in cause, and being clear to communicate my outcome. I challenged experts, fought my own ego, overcame the minor depression of being idle, and it was hard. Because I wrote down my outcome, and I knew my purpose, I was able to stay the course and claim victory.

The biggest challenge may be that people tend to live in the effect, waiting for someone else to tell them what they need to do. They wait for the surgeon, a family member, an employer, or their insurance company to tell them their best or only course of action. When in reality it may be the best course of action that serves them, rather than the individual that’s injured.

Let’s step back to the emotions for a minute. Many people falsely believe they don’t need to acknowledge the emotional piece of their situation. They think, oh I’ll just logic my way through it. I’m smart and can just use my brain. You need to acknowledge right now you may have very heightened emotions. Are you feeling angry at someone or something that caused this to happen to you? Feeling guilty that someone has to take care of you, depressed that you feel you many be a burden to your family, or freaking out on how much money this will cost you? Stop and feel where you are, go through the emotions and allow them to surface and pass. Let’s call it an emotional storm and like all storms it will pass and you will be able to see clearly again.

What do you do with your ego while all this is happening? The part of you that says, I am stronger than this, I can walk on a broken leg, I don’t need to take pain pills and can still work. Its especially important to set at goal so you have strength in the “purpose”. This isn’t simply about discipline. I invite you to find a goal that’s bigger than just you. Find something that is so worthwhile that you are driven to recover fully and in the right way. It’s not to get back to normal. Many of us need to go and stretch beyond that. For me when I shredded my hip, it was recovering so I could do a New Zealand missionary adventure and lead a team through making their dreams reality.

The biggest risk that I see is that people don’t ask the final question. When you come down to resolving which option is the best to move forward, you also must ask the question, what are you willing to give in return for this outcome you want or desire? Because if people don’t answer that question what ends up happening is they aren’t prepared for Murphy’s law knocking at their door. They aren’t prepared for the unexpected medical costs. They aren’t prepared for the amount of physical discomfort that will be part of going to physical therapy. What are your limits, what are you not willing to give in exchange?

When you work through the emotions, write down your options, trust and verify the experts are aligned with your goals, make decisions and take action towards your real purpose, and acknowledge what you are and are not willing to give in exchange for your outcome, you will achieve returning to the game of life healthy and stronger.

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  • Chad E Cooper

    Chad is a coach leading a life of example, retired at 35 years old, he coaches and mentors across several fields in order to inspire others to grasp their dream