From Chicken Soup for the Girlfriend's Soul

An Arm for a Friend

Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.

Oprah Winfrey

The doorbell downstairs rang again. My Vicodin-induced daze slowed me down significantly, and I was still several steps away from the buzzer that unlocked the main door in our apartment complex.

Every little move was killing me. Too weak to lift my good arm, I just leaned against the buzzer. It buzzed and buzzed. Somewhere deep down my subconscious registered the hurried steps up the staircase, my apartment door opening and a blonde head appearing.

“Good job, darling,” the blonde head smiled as she gently put her arms around me and led me back to the couch. Was this Victoria or Anna?

I couldn’t tell. Since my accident and the subsequent surgery, everything was a blur. I was aware that there was a constant stream of visitors through my apartment, but I did not realize until later, when I got better, that my girlfriends tag-teamed to take care of me.

Just a few days before Christmas, on our way to a ski vacation, our Jeep hit black ice and rolled over. Miraculously, all of us—my newly married friends, their dog and I—survived the accident. The only serious injury any of us sustained was a shattered left arm—mine.

After a series of emergency helicopter rides, various hospital stays and a lengthy surgery, I finally stood a good chance of a full, but very long, recovery.

Back in San Francisco, with lots of titanium in my arm and still taking an enormous amount of painkillers, I arrived at the apartment I shared with Stacey, a very nice woman whom I barely knew. I had recently moved in with her on the recommendation of a friend of a friend, and although we liked each other, we each led busy lives and ended up spending very little time together. Stacey was one of the few people whom I actually informed about my accident, as I didn’t want to cause a panic among my friends.

Little did I know, in my hazy state, that upon my arrival she would quickly assess my situation—and with the skill of a trained disaster-response professional, act smoothly and firmly.

“She will be staying in my room,” she instructed David, my doctor friend who drove me home from the hospital and was the only other person aware of my misfortune. “My bed is higher than hers, so it’s easier to get in and out of.”

Too dazed to understand what was going on and too weak to complain, I was led into her room and helped into her bed. I quickly fell asleep.

As it was later recounted to me, Stacey sat David down, questioned him about my state and my needs, and made him promise to call our closest mutual friends to ask them to get in touch with her. She also called all my girlfriends whose numbers she could find in my little notebook by the phone. In a couple of days she had a very efficient little operation going.

Because my family lived thousands of miles away, Stacey and my girlfriends divided up all the duties, making sure that I was never left alone for too long.

Stacey took most morning and evening shifts. She was also the one who did my shopping and laundry, and who gave me a sponge bath every other day.

Friends with flexible schedules would come by and check on me during the day; others would cook for me or take me out to get some fresh air or just simply keep me company.

Still, I spent most of my time with Stacey. She rearranged her social schedule so her friends came over more often; or if they went out, she would plan a night at the movies so I could join them. I was extremely grateful to her, even though I felt very uncomfortable having to rely on her—an almost total stranger—for all my basic needs. Somehow, this awkwardness rapidly disappeared. As the oldest of four siblings, taking care of others came easy to Stacey. She and I connected on many levels—it turned out that we had not only almost identical backgrounds, but also many interests and values in common. We really liked each other’s friends as well, so spending time together was a pleasant change, rather than a distraction, for both of us.

Fully recovered now, my life is completely different from my life before the accident. I changed careers, and now I spend more time on my hobbies and with my friends—especially Stacey. Although my injury took a lot out of me, it also made me reassess my priorities and gave me a great friend who has become a cornerstone of my new life.

Monika Szamko

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