It’s a pretty safe bet that most nurses have no patience with their personal health issues. I’m no exception as I try to manage a persistent bout of vertigo that occurs only when I walk a distance. I’m fine otherwise. Yes, I’m seeing a specialist. Fortunately, it appears related to vestibular and inner ear function, not something scarier. However, this problem has made getting from place to place in my hospital and community a challenge. As my physician sorts out the situation, I’ve come up with an effective adaptive strategy: trekking poles.
I’m a long-distance trail hiker. For nearly 20 years I’ve hiked with two trekking poles for improved balance on rough terrain, knee stability when carrying a heavy load, and upper body strength. They’ve journeyed with me on 100-mile section hikes of the Appalachian Trail and on more than 100 miles of the Coast-to-Coast Walk in England’s Lake District. So when I started hanging onto walls and handrails at work because suddenly my world tipped, out of the closet they came. They gave me ambulatory freedom—something I’d clearly taken for granted.
First, as a nurse leader, I had to get over feeling like I looked ridiculous walking down the hall in my hospital with rubber-tipped trekking poles. It’s indeed an unusual sight, one that’s inspired some interesting commentary and personal insights. A physician colleague smiled genuinely and exclaimed, “You are a trooper”— for keeping on keeping on, I guess. Another colleague looked at me askance and asked, “Why are you here?” Without breaking stride, I politely replied, “Because I enjoy my work.”
Several coworkers shared how they’ve been inspired to purchase trekking poles for aging parents with back, hip, knee, or balance problems who’ve self-limited their mobility due to fear of falling or not wanting to be seen with a cane. I know of at least one older couple who decided to take up traveling again. I’ve even bought a set for a previously active 80-year-old relative who started confining herself to her home after a bad fall. She now feels more confident about venturing out.
I’m glad some good has come from this bump in the road and my rather nontraditional approach to dealing with it. My advice for dealing with adversity? Don’t stop...adapt.