Editor Column: Taking health and happiness for granted | PostIndependent.com

Editor Column: Taking health and happiness for granted

In discussing the death of a friend four weeks ago, I wrote how we rarely take stock of those people and things we hold dear until they disappear.

“The good goes unappreciated until the bad surprises us.”

It’s astonishing how true this is, and I was reminded again last week of the fact. At 24, less than a month from 25, and in reasonably decent health, my physical well being is not something I think about often … or really at all. If memory serves me right, I was in high school the last time I visited a physician for a routine check up.

It’s a common mindset for us millennials. During the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, concerns were voiced about the need to get young people, who tend to have lower-health costs, to sign up. Insurance hinges on people who need it the least buying it.

I was reminded of how I take my health for granted just before 8 a.m. Dec. 15. I was shoveling my driveway and in a hurry so I would have plenty of time to get to Battlement Mesa for day one of the public hearing on plans to drill in the community. The weather was suspect, to put it mildly.

Coming from Cincinnati, I’m no stranger to shoveling snow. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I spent about three hours shoveling my girlfriend’s driveway and digging our cars out of the berms that surrounded them on the street.

The Tuesday of the meeting, I had made up my mind to do the minimal amount of work needed to safely roll down the driveway. Two tracks the width of a tire? Piece of cake.

But when I got to the bottom of the driveway, I went to straighten my back and felt a shooting pain just above my waist. I stood completely paralyzed for several minutes and then tried to walk to my car. It took several more minutes to walk the 20 feet to my car.

And it took several more minutes to get in my car. The rest of the day — the hearing started at 9 a.m. and concluded at 5 p.m. — was spent in crippling pain.

But it could have been worse, and I do need to thank the Fern couple. The kind Battlement Mesa residents sat the duration of the meeting before chiming in at the end of the hearing that Tuesday. At the lunch break, the Ferns approached me and asked if I was in pain.

I tried to make it unnoticeable, but I told them I was indeed in pain. They brought me some Advil, or the equivalent of Advil, and it helped immensely.

Later that evening, with my story finished, I wondered how I would get through day two. The pain progressed to the point where I could barely move.

A little more than 12 hours earlier, I was perfectly fine — walking without thinking twice. Now, I was a cripple. I began begging (to whom, I have no idea) for just a couple of pain free minutes.

I thought about people who live their lives day-in and day-out in such circumstances. I’ve met these people, and while sympathetic to their condition, especially when they wince in pain mid conversation, I have never been able to relate until last week.

My back has slowly improved, although it is still stiff and hurts when I make certain movements. The two takeaways from the incident are: I am grateful for being relatively healthy and vertical, and I will be much more cautious the next time I shovel snow.

I hope you consider both of those thoughts, especially the second one.

To help reduce the risks, here’s a list of tips to stay healthy that I compiled from several sources. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Tips to avoid injury while shoveling snow:

Dress appropriately and cover your skin to protect frostbite if you’re going to be outside for a long time. Warming up your muscles prior to shoveling also can help protect against injury.

Use a small shovel, preferably one with a curved handle. The shovel should be comfortable for your height and strength, and remember that a smaller shovel translates to a lighter load.

Separate your hands on the shovel to increase your leverage.

Try to push the snow, rather than lift it. This is easier on your back. If you have to lift then do so with your legs, not your back. Make sure your knees are bending and straightening instead of leaning forward and straightening your the back.

Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder.

Don’t let the snow pile up. Try to shovel after 2 inches of accumulation, but remember to pace yourself. Take breaks and remember to stretch before returning to the winter work.

Ryan Hoffman is happy to hear from you despite his occasional grimace. You can reach him at 970-685-2103 or at rhoffman@citizentelegram.com.

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