I heard the thud from the storeroom. The sound of someone falling down is an unmistakable one. I got up from my desk, where I’d been working on tweaking my class’ website posting curriculum materials for my students for the upcoming week. I went into the storeroom to find our custodian on the floor on her hands and knees, wincing in pain. Communication was going to be difficult, as her grasp of English was tenuous at best, and my grasp of Vietnamese was nonexistent beyond the word pho.
I asked her if she was okay, and she nodded. I asked her what happened, and gingerly she reenacted it for me, minus the tumble. She’d tripped over the permanently affixed doorstop as she entered the storeroom and had fallen hard on her knees, using her hands to break her fall. Now, our custodian is not a young woman, and I feared she’d really hurt herself. I helped her to a chair, had her prop up her legs, and gave her a bag of ice from our freezer. I then poked my head into my colleague’s classroom to see if she was there (she was) and to ask her what I should do next.
After we talked, I decided the best course of action would be to go find a principal and then proceed from there. I asked my colleague to keep an eye on our custodian (in case she needed anything) and I went in search of a principal.
I walked as fast as I could to find someone. In the average school, this task would not take long. However, the campus I work on is not your average school. It’s a sprawling million-square foot building, and everything is very spread out. Additionally, there are multiple principal’s offices, so I went to the one closest to my hall.
I found the principal there, explained what happened, and he said, “Check with the Aramark office downstairs, someone should be there. Let me know how things turn out.” I hurried off downstairs, taking the elevator as 38 years (and two knee dislocations, plus torn ligaments) of being overweight have taken their toll on my knees and stairs at any speed are generally a bad choice.
No one was in the Aramark office, but I noticed that in the distance, one of the supervisors who is always on my hall was headed to the Performing Arts Center. I tried to keep up with his pace, but couldn’t. At that moment, I felt helpless because I couldn’t run after him to get his attention.
If you’ve ever had that feeling, it’s not a good one. It’s even worse when your helplessness is the result of your obesity.
I walked fast enough to catch one of my students and asked him if he could run after the supervisor, which he did. Long story short, we made it up to my hall with the building’s custodial services supervisor, found our injured custodian back on her feet and determined that she was okay and that an incident report would need to be filled out.
I’ve had wake-up calls about my weight before, but this one cut deep. Someone needed my help, and I could not run to get it.
- The first wake-up call came in the summer of 2002, when I was diagnosed with high blood pressure.
- The second was in the summer of 2005, when I had two cousins under the age of 30 die of massive heart attacks. I freaked out enough to get to a cardiologist’s office, where I had a stress test and blood work done. It was determined that I had high triglycerides (hereditary, based on family heart history) and that meds would be the best treatment.
- The third was in the summer of 2007, when I was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic.
- The next was in April 2010, when at my 6-month check-up, my doctor spoke these words: if your a1c keeps going up, I will have to put you on another medication, which is even more expensive than the two you already take, and it will make you gain weight.
That last one was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was not about to have to take another medication, and I damn sure wasn’t going to PAY for another one. So what did I do?
I decided that it was time to reclaim my health. I’d let it slip out of my fingers, and I’d allowed other people and things to manage it for me and it was very obvious that this particular strategy wasn’t working for me. I couldn’t walk from my car in the parking lot of my building to my classroom without stopping to rest because I was in so much pain. I was getting to the point where I couldn’t even buy clothes in brick and mortar stores any more, because the sizes I was fitting into weren’t on the racks. Worse, the style choices became extremely limited. I couldn’t stand up to teach all day long, and sat nearly all day while teaching from my lab stool. Walking across my classroom got me winded. Using wall-hung toilets were a no-go.
I’d had enough. I spent that summer getting into the right headspace to start the task of taking charge of my health, formulating a plan of attack, and most importantly, building a support network. The latter two have proven critical to my success so far.
In August 2010, I joined Weight Watchers online. I’d followed the WW plan 4 times before, and had been successful, but I despised the meetings aspect of it all. I find it tough to be sympathetic to the common cause of weight loss when no one else in the meeting looks like me or has a significant amount of weight to lose, as I do.
I’ve had good success with the plan so far, losing 90 pounds and counting. What I haven’t done is fleshed out the thoughts that have been through my head as I’ve been working through this. So here I am, blogging about what I believe to be a just war–the battle to reclaim my health. I’m not aiming to be thin, because I’ll never be thin. My bone structure and body type won’t let me.
I just want to be healthy.