Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Pop-up Sunday

From 2016 to 2018, I made five trips to Greece to volunteer at the Oinofyta refugee camp. I was usually the oldest volunteer by about 15 years. I didn't have the stamina of the younger people, but I had enough wisdom and life experience to be useful. Friends would say, "Why do you do that?" My response was, "We're all in this together, and I won't always be able to do it." That last phrase, "I won't always be able to do it," came from my brain, but part of me didn't really believe it.

I believe it now.

In the last couple of years my left knee and my right hip have begun to act up. The x-rays show bone-on-bone arthritis in my knee and a bunch of confused and compensating muscles and ligaments fighting each other in my right hip capsule. In spite of orthotics in my shoes, physical therapy, massage, and injections in my knee and hip, I'm sometimes walking like the elderly woman I never believed in my heart I would become. I do a lot of e-bike riding and some swimming, but no hiking and not a whole lot of walking for exercise.

Last year I read about the Arizona Department of Health Services. They were looking primarily for volunteer healthcare professionals but also for interested non-healthcare volunteers, to register in advance so they could rapidly identify and mobilize health care volunteers in emergencies.

I signed up and was accepted as a volunteer, and was contacted twice. Once was to work with a Covid screening project on a Native reservation. But at that time the vaccine wasn't available and, as a person over 65, I was in a high-risk group. Then, when Pima County (where we live, in Tucson, in the winter) opened large vaccine drive-through events, I was invited again. But the shifts were six hours long and I'd be on my feet most of the time, which those same feet would not be happy with. Remember "I won't always be able to do this"?

Then the county opened up pop-up vaccine events. By this time I'd gotten both Moderna shots. I was a January recipient of the first dose because I volunteer one day a week at a local health clinic, so I'm considered a healthcare worker. The pop-up events sounded more doable.

So on Sunday I volunteered for seven hours, from 7am to 2pm, at an elementary school near the airport.  No one had to sign up ahead of time;  they just had to be qualified according to the current Arizona status (anyone over 55, plus front-line workers: grocery store checkers, restaurant servers, etc). There was a drive-through and a walk-in. The venue was in an underserved area of Tucson. I'd say 85 percent of the vaccine seekers were Latinx. We had registration materials in Spanish and English. 

The other five volunteers at the walk-in venue were younger, so when I needed to give my feet a break I sanitized clipboards and pens and collated registration materials to put on the clipboards to send back out with the other volunteers. I'd colored part of my hair blue the day before; I figured I'd look more relevant to the younger people than if I just looked like an old grandma. That turned out to be a good idea!

My feet hurt A LOT at the end of the event, and I went straight home and fell soundly asleep for an hour. My whole body hurt until I went to bed that night. 

I may not always be able to do this!


Linda Reeder said...

First of all, thankyou for all of your volunteer work. You have helped many people.
Then I have to say, "Oh, I know!" It seems like my whole structural body is letting me down now. As much as I don't want to walk like an old woman, I am. After my second spine surgery in July, my back still stiffens up. My recovery from my hip replacement in January has gone well enough, but now my right knee and my left hip are acting up. What was that twinge in my left ankle this morning? Why is my little finger hurting? And on and on.
But I will try to go for a walk this afternoon. I will do my physical therapy exercises, I will keep on moving.
Happy Spring to you, even if there is no longer a spring in your step.

Janette said...

Thank you for volunteering!

Olga said...

I applaud your volunteer spirit.

Arkansas Patti said...

You have always amazed me with your commitment to caring and even much more so now that it is no longer easy to do. Thank you. You set the bar high.

DJan said...

I just got my second Covid shot this morning, and the entire place is filled with volunteers like you. I applaud your commitment to volunteer work and hope that you will hold up for awhile longer. You are definitely needed!

Barb said...

I am about there with active volunteering. It's painful to admit

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I am having the same thoughts as you. My whole life has been about never giving up, but I am seeing there will be a time very soon, when my body will tell me no.

Marilyn said...

I have enjoyed your blog for several years and just want to say that you are amazing, having volunteered to help and continuing to help so many people!

I know as we age, we all deal with inflammation, stiffness, and pain in joints, etc, but I have found that, since I changed what I was eating, it made a huge difference and that I have much less pain. It also brought my cholesterol and blood pressure down to normal. Have you seen the documentary The Game Changers? It focuses on well known athletes and their performance and recovery after exercise, but it can be applied to everyone, no matter what age. If nothing else, it's really interesting. It's on Netflix, and I found it can be watched for free if you go to Youtube.com and type in the search bar The Game Changers 2019 full movie documentary. It's about how profoundly a whole foods plant-based/strong diet helps with the joints, blood pressure, blood sugar, vascular system, on and on. Another great documentary is Forks Over Knives--same message also available to watch for free. Wishing you continued good health, energy, and the ability to keep volunteering as you are able.

Madeline Hill said...

I read Marilyn’s post and I can agree.. for about a year we went plant based and a lot of my aches and pains cleared up! I felt better.Somehow we veered off and during Covid I have eaten more animal products and fat grams than in a long time and I hurt all over again.. We are looking seriously at going back to plant based. It’s not that hard and I have a bunch of easy good cookbooks. Still have some meat in freezer from our Covid preparations but I think I can get us down to once a week meat till its gone.

Allison said...

I am sorry to read about Art's sciatica and your knee/hip. Getting old has been difficult. I remember what I used to do, and it's difficult to be happy with the present. However, it is what it is. You're an inspiration with your volunteering.

Joared said...

Your volunteer work is certainly beneficial to many people. Can really appreciate the hip and knee issues. Have had excruciating pain but no one has ever proposed any shots for me to give relief. Must ask them if that’s an option as trying to avoid any surgeries. .i keep going but wouldn't be able to stand as you did or even walk much without support with cane and/or crutch. Hope all continues to go well for you.