One thing this global pandemic has done for most, other than recoil into a fetal position, is finding ways to navigate its uncertain and unpredictable turns. My ever so strong imposter syndrome is denying that. I kept telling myself that we’re all going through a moment where we’re all scared, uncertain, annoyed and frankly angry to some extent at how everything is unfolding. That there’s nothing I currently have done that warrants an account of courage and agility. However, one good thing that has come out of this pandemic, for me, is a lot of introspection. This past year might have been difficult and mundane, but everything I’ve been through in the past few months was me in disbelief that it didn’t warrant a bit of courage, agility and flexibility. It all started around June, so let me start at the beginning...
I had just finished my undergraduate degree in Psychology in Norwich. In that time, I also received a confirmation to start my PGCE (Post-graduate certificate in education) in primary education with special educational needs in Reading. After such a tumultuous year of being thrown into the deep end of the pool, without getting a chance to breathe first, I made it. After listening to lectures, rushing to write a massive dissertation and essays in the comfort of my sweatpants and anxiety, I just needed a break. I needed to mentally prepare myself for a surgery that is normally unheard of for a, then, 22 year-old, to have. I was born with congenital hips dysplasia. Where, in simple terms, my hips sockets and ball joints would consistently dislocate causing me a lot of pain, to limp as I walk and general discomfort. I received an email from my doctor that I was to finally have both of my hips replaced, in one go, for titanium bones.
If that’s not the closest I’ve ever felt to being like Iron Man, or something of the sort, then I’d be lying. Nonetheless, from finishing in England, to packing everything up, going to Romania to then travelling to Italy for the Terminator transformation, a month and a bit had passed. We’re now in early August. My 22nd birthday just happened in late July, and I needed to get all the paperwork, COVID tests and packing done in order to be admitted into hospital. As the British beautifully put it, I was bricking it. I was going to have the biggest and only major surgical operation done and I was going to be alone for 8-9 weeks in two separate hospitals. The date for my admission to hospital was the 4th of August. A day after my admission, I got woken up at 6am to get blood tests done, dress into my surgical gown and ready to be rolled into the operating theatre.
I did have a nice chat with a Romanian and Albanian nurse, in their respective languages interchangeably, as to how I knew 5 languages and why I am having a surgery this young. I joked saying I was looking for something “spicy” to do in my life. To everyone’s surprise, I was kept awake during my surgery. I did not go under, I was given an epidural, and yet I did decide it was the perfect time to take a nap whilst my first hip was being sorted (don’t judge me, as I had been awake since 6 am and I’ll be damned if I don’t get my minimum 10hrs of sleep). After an hour and a half I was, rudely, woken up from my nap and told I needed to be flipped over to continue the surgery. After another hour, I was fully bionic. From then on the road to recovery began and it was the hardest, mentally and physically taxing journey I’ve ever been on. The day after my surgery I already needed to get up and start walking, even if just a little bit. I have never felt more nauseous in my life. Just sitting up rocked my world. After a few attempts of walking, sitting up, generally trying to eat and sleep, it was time to move to intensive therapy in another hospital. I was the only person in that hospital under the age of 40. Where the oldest person was a small woman of 94, who really put the pedal to the metal during physiotherapy. I was to stay there for 8 weeks to gain mobility, flexibility and confidence in walking normally again.
There were many ups and downs throughout my recovery. Moments where I thought I was recovering faster than I expected and feeling powerful, followed by moments where I’d cry myself to sleep because of how painful my bones were aching trying to welcome a new set of body parts. I recovered being able to walk assisted by crutches for the entire duration of my stay at intensive therapy. I needed to learn how to go down stairs, sit on a chair and how to sleep without crossing my legs or sleeping on my side. I was not allowed to bend over to pick stuff up, walk fast or sit down on low chairs without having a massive pillow underneath. It was hard. I wanted to do so much already. I wanted to feel what it was like to walk without limping or being in pain. I wanted to run properly for the first time. I wanted to stand and walk without feeling in pain or tired. Luckily, that day happened quicker. In September, less than a month after I had my surgery, I was told I needed to come to Reading to start my PGCE course. I was moving into a new city for the first time, had to self-isolate for 2 weeks without meeting a single flat mate for the entire duration and still go to university. It was hard.
The only people I knew were my group members, who until October, I had only met via a screen. After another series of ups and downs, and an accidental A&E trip, recovery needed to be put on pause for now as I headed into placement in primary schools. In the middle of a global pandemic, 2 lockdowns and the rise of home learning, I’ve been in 2 schools for placement. A mainstream one and special needs one, and despite how weird it was at first, it was the thing that saved my mental health. The schools, teachers and children have been beyond welcoming to me and so sweet in taking me in as a teacher trainee. The children I currently teach now, all on the autism spectrum, are by far the most flexible and adaptable bunch of young men and women who have been the first to show me that it’s ok to be a little confused and scared. They may constantly ask me where their friends are, but nonetheless they take each step day by day. They teach me to be agile, whilst sprinting for them on occasion and telling them not to eat dirt, and flexible to sometimes drop a lesson plan and go play in the snow or watch a movie or do shadow puppets. To enjoy the simple things and sing YMCA on repeat or listen to made up stories. Don’t get me wrong, teaching is hard (shout out to all my teachers I may or may not have driven insane) especially in a SEN school, but it became an anchor to both children and staff. To be able to work and interact with kids as well as offering the kids someone to see and something new to learn. For a brief moment, it allowed me to forget what’s going on outside the campus and that the whole world is turning on its head. Nonetheless, the experiences I went through so far I wouldn’t change. I’d still have gone through my surgery, two schools, several hair pulling assignments and all the rest. At least doing all that gave me the courage to say that I did do all that within the span of five months now.
I have done the most for myself and will keep doing so for others. No matter how small, it is important that you do something for you. Whether it’s working, studying, breathing, recovering, exercising, reading, fulfilling a long life dream, or just giving yourself some time to be lazy, do something for you and your mental health. That’s kind of cool and brave, isn’t it?
Read the entire World Magazine Spring 2021 edition here
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