What Being on Crutches for 5 Weeks Taught Me About Tech

Yes, I know, I’m going to pull the injury card this week. But honestly, five weeks is a heck of a lot of time to be without two working feet and you’d be surprised by how much free time you suddenly have when you become immobile. So here’s the lowdown on what the #crutchlife has taught me:

Disclaimer: For those who don’t know, I suffered this unfortunate injury because I missed a stair while walking. So not only have I had a lot of time to contemplate the digital world, I’ve also been contemplating whether or not I should be allowed to enter the real world if I can’t even walk properly.

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I assure you that my fall was much more graceful than this, except I didn’t exactly get up afterwards.

The Watch

Ironically, I bought an Apple Watch one week before I fractured my foot. I was SUPER excited to try out the new LTE features. I was stoked to run without needing to bring my phone and listen to music through my watch. I also couldn’t wait to track my movement and calories burnt in the improved Workout app by doing non-traditional exercises like the stair-stepper, elliptical, etc. My original plan was to report back on my opinion of the watch’s new fitness capabilities, but I may or may not have jinxed myself. So here’s what happened instead:

In case you didn’t realize, when you use crutches your hands become occupied with the crutches and can’t fulfill any other duties while you move (clearly an issue during our class snack time.) You can’t do something as simple as carry a glass of a water, a laptop, or a phone. It doesn’t exactly help the fact that you’re injured, especially if you’re forgetful, like me. Now back to my story.

For the first two days of my injury I was restricted to the confines of my room and prohibited from leaving it as it would warrant too much movement. During this time, I spent all of my hours either eating in the kitchen or on my couch watching Netflix. Since I apparently was too focused on my food and Grey’s Anatomy, when I crutched between these two locations, I unfortunately frequently left my phone on the other side of the room and only realized by the time that I sat down. (#FirstWorldProblems.) Luckily, instead of being rendered phoneless, my Apple Watch came to the rescue.

Fortunately, my watch was always strapped to my wrist and didn’t need to be carried; it remained by my side as my personal assistant. It vibrated each time I received any sort of notification: new Snapchats, GroupMe messages, or Twitter developments (#IS6621!!!). If I decided to be a good student and break from Netflix/iMessage capabilities on my laptop to do homework, my watch vibrated each time I got a new text or call. For those who may not be able to carry their belongings with them, the watch allows you to stay connected and updated. We frequently assume disabled features on the phone mean augmenting the five senses, such as reading the small print or hearing a noise notification. But there’s an additional category of disabled that constitutes someone who might be able to see and hear their phone, but not transport it. Because of the Apple ecosystem, my watch allows me to still perform most of my usual phone functions even if my phone is 20 feet away. It’s all about accessibility.

The Food

While a watch may be able to notify you about your most recent Instagram “like”, cooking isn’t exactly in the watch’s repertoire (yet). As my friend Riley realized, dining halls aren’t an option for the #crutchlife if you can’t carry a plate. In a dorm kitchen you can at least try to momentarily bypass crutch restrictions by siting on counters while using the stove-top or ask someone to throw something in the oven for you.

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But then how does one grocery shop if they can’t push a cart? Pro Tip: If your grocery store is handicap-friendly, use one of the electronic carts.

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I was clearly amused when my mom forced me to stop my shopping so that she could document the moment.

Take-out is certainly an appealing option to bypass the cooking dilemma, but now there’s the issue of actually retrieving the food: you’ll need a friend to meet the delivery man for you. However, handy apps like Food Tec Solutions let you track the food delivery and order seamlessly online. Thanks to Google Maps and the Internet, my mom pitied my injured self and wanted to order me dinner since I could barely cook for myself. From her laptop all the way in New Jersey, she quickly looked up an Italian restaurant in Brighton to deliver me gnocchi. (If you haven’t already, definitely order from Fiorella’s Express. It’s great and has free delivery.) When the app alerted me that the food was three minutes away from arriving, I sent my roommate outside to greet the delivery man. Dinner was served.

The Medicine

I hate to admit it, but my Type-A self wanted to immediately diagnose my injury (since I clearly have such an extensive Pre-Med background.) I spent way too long browsing WebMD as well as Google Image searching every foot bone and ligament known to man. I even tried to read my own MRI by popping the CD into my computer and looking at the images (As an aside, I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you actually DO have a Pre-Med background. It’s really just a lot of black and white lines. You may as well just wait the three hours for your follow-up appointment instead of questioning each shaded region of your foot.) Without computers, how else would we cure our incessant curiosity in our world of instant gratification?

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After realizing that I should probably stick to Software Engineering, I began using technology to rely on actual medical professionals. Through my insurance’s online portal, I looked up nearby Podiatrists, Orthopedists, MRI radiologists, and Physical Therapists. How my mom and dad found doctors when they were in college, especially ones that were covered by their insurance, is beyond me. A quick Google search then allowed me to verify how close the office was to campus.

To show just how beneficial technology was for my foot, consider this: My original podiatrist tried to tell me that my twisted/swollen foot was “fine” because my X-ray didn’t show any fractures, despite the fact that these symptoms hadn’t subsided after four weeks. After some Google searching, my mom and I concluded that I should get a second opinion since multiple websites said that X-Rays aren’t always conclusive for feet because there are too many bones. My second doctor then confirmed Google’s suggestion to get an MRI to see if there were any other fractures. There were, in fact, fractures. My talus bone thanks you, Internet.

Lessons Learned

It’s amazing how technology can simultaneously expand and contract our ability to connect. If you can’t carry a phone and text your friends, does that leave you out of the loop? Companies need to think beyond regular accessibility features like voice-activated text or enhanced zoom. Apple Watches give a voice to the hand-less and the ability to always stay updated. Food delivery apps might seem like they only help the lazy millennial who doesn’t want to cook dinner tonight, but it’s also great for those who physically cannot cook. For a business, having a presence on Google isn’t enough. As evidenced by the five (yes, five) doctors that I’ve gone to for this injury, you NEED to exist on multiple channels: Google Search, insurance portals, etc. I want to know that the doctor is relatively close and that it won’t cost me a fortune to get treatment. In this on-demand world, an online presence is vital for survival.

Lastly, Netflix REALLY needs to up their Halloween-movie-selection-game. I was a bit disappointed to find that I couldn’t watch Halloweentown, Hocus Pocus, or any of the other classics. The poor souls who can’t go “trick-or-treating” need to celebrate the holiday somehow when they can’t leave their room.

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Even Hocus Pocus agrees, @Netflix

10 comments

  1. So sorry to hear about your foot and I wish you a speedy recovery! I really enjoyed reading this post–I think it introduces a unique perspective for looking at the tech world. I think you raise an interesting point about food services doing more than enabling lazy millennials, or helping out immobile college student. It got me thinking about how it might benefit a family with working parents who don’t have time to prepare a meal for dinner every night. Instead of going to a fast food restaurant they are now able to order a healthy meal and have it delivered to their home almost instantly through these services. I am also glad that devices like the Apple Watch made daily tasks easier for you while injured, and while I see many of the benefits, I am still skeptical of the device in general. There are obvious benefits for you to have the device around your wrist at all times, however, in general I think this is making people even more attached / glued to their digital worlds. Having an AppleWatch around your wrist at all times seems like it would make it a lot harder to disconnect.

  2. I appreciate the perspective of you brought to the applications of technology has when life throws you for a loop and lands you on crutches around BC’s stair-filled hilly campus. Overall, you seemed to have used technology to your advantage, finding appropriate medical care and being able to feed yourself, though you are unable to cook. Hopefully your foot will heal soon, and you will be able to test out the fitness functionality of the watch.

  3. I really liked this post Kaitlin, and I wish you a speedy recovery as well!! I think it is really interesting the point you brought up about how technology sits at that dichotomy of “expanding and contracting our ability to connect”. It can either help us connect more, or hinder our ability to effectively communicate with others, especially if it does not contain the proper features. I also really agree with @hollywarendorf – since I have had my Apple Watch I feel more addicted to my phone. For example, when I am in class and it buzzes, I constantly find myself looking down at my watch face to see the new notification and then I have the urge to pull out my phone in class – I am 100% more distracted in general.

  4. Really cool post! I think this is one of the added benefits of technology that we, or even the people that made it, don’t necessarily think about when we think about a product such as the Apple Watch. One of the reasons that we like technology so much is that it makes everything (like finding a doctor, for example) easier, but in some cases for many people, these benefits don’t just help the lazy, they help a lot of people do a bunch of different things that they would not be able to do otherwise. I think this was one of the best written posts of the semester. Feel better soon!

  5. This is an awesome blog post, and it was truly eye-opening on many fronts. To start, I also hope you get better soon! It’s amazing what we take for granted when we are 100% healthy; even the most menial of tasks becomes close to impossible when you don’t have full access to your arms or legs. There’s no way I would’ve made it as long as you have, but the apps you shared, such as Food Tech Solutions, are an awesome way that technology can be helpful while you’re injured…(if only the delivery drivers could get into our building!!) Services such as AmazonFresh allow groceries to be delivered to your home, eliminating the need to use one of the driving carts at the grocery store. Hopefully, these issues are alleviated for you soon. Great blog post!

  6. Love this! I can definitely relate– I was without the use of my right arm for about 8 months in high school. Being right handed this brought on A LOT of challenges. I used an iPad in class to type notes, but could only use my left hand so I was very slow. I also could walk and move around, but got really good at scrolling through my phone and typing lefty. There were many times where I realized how lost I would be without technology– one of the last motions I got back was grip so holding a pencil was very difficult. Thankfully typing on both a computer and iPad came much quicker and created more legible notes than writing with my left hand. It’s amazing how much technology has changed this– another thing I was thinking about is how easy it is to make the text larger. E-readers and similar devices have made this such an easy fix for people who need enlarged print. It’s crazy to think of how much technology is helping to aid people.

  7. I broke my ankle a few years ago, and had some similar experiences. Instacart saved my life! I could hobble around on my boot in my apartment, at least, so cooking/eating was a little less painful, but I definitely lost weight because eating was just a lot of work. I also stopped using my Fitbit because I was so sad about the information it shared with me. I’m glad to hear that the Apple Watch was useful – it sounds like a great way to keep up with what’s happening attached to your body instead of constantly pulling out your phone. Sounds like you’re finally off crutches? Great news!

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece, very well done. My mom just had her hip replaced a few weeks ago and I’ve been watching her struggle through the same types of things with crutches – the addition of wearable technologies like her Fitbit and Apple Watch really do add to her quality of life too. Hadn’t really thought about the ways that grocery delivery and other food apps have provided a means of accessing things when people are otherwise restricted/handicapped from doing so – I guess I thought everyone else was just as lazy as I am.

  9. NIce post! I find Apple Watch to be helpful while driving, because its an easy way to check if anything is important without distracting you too much or taking your hands off the wheel. While I’m not the hugest Apple Watch user, I do confess that I have worn it nearly every day that I have had it.

  10. Awesome and funny post! Thanks for sharing your insider’s view on technology while being disabled.

    I never even considered a lot of the points you made in your post until reading them (for example, ordering food seems easy enough if you’re on crutches, but how to even pick it up at your door is something that didn’t register). I was on crutches for one day last year on a foot-related injury, and I found them so annoying (and I wound up pulling a muscle in my good leg) that I decided the pain from not using them was somehow more bearable. Though you unfortunately didn’t have that luxury of choice, it’s really cool to hear how Apple Watch and WebMD helped you get through your first five weeks, along with some really supportive roommates and parents.

    I hope you get better soon!

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