I took to them like ducks to water.
“I’m so lucky” wouldn’t be the first thing I expected to hear from Mirjana, now living with pain and mobility challenges secondary to an adverse reaction to her antibiotics.
I interviewed Mirjana as she sat with serene beauty, in front of one of her numerous large paintings of BC’s rainforest. Mirjana has an amazing ability to be grateful and appreciate each moment life hands her – the good and the less good! She finds joy from being connected to the outdoors by capturing the natural world in paint, as Mary Oliver does in poetic prose… “All important ideas must include the trees, the mountains, and the rivers”.
Mirjana’s sage demeanour is founded on her ever-growing curiosity about the nature of things. She continues to remain open to the lessons she needs to learn, to become more appreciative to life’s wonders. As with many SideStix users, Mirjana uses her Stix part-time to access nature, satisfying her need to not only stay mobile, but also to honour her spirit.
What is your definition of Defy Convention?
Mirjana – You need to follow that voice inside of you because that is the motor that runs your life. Sometimes the voice will go against convention. You just have to roll with it.
What challenges your mobility and how did you overcome those challenges?
Mirjana – We’ll we always had a very active lifestyle… In 2015, I got some antibiotics for a lung infection I was dealing with and unfortunately for 3% of people, there are major side effects. In my case, it affected all of my major joints and it really crippled me. I could barely move and I lived in pain. So that was pretty bad.
My daughter, last year, said to me, “You know Mom, we have this company on the coast, who create devices that help people to move. You should maybe try it out”, so I did.
What shocked me, when I tried them out, was realizing how bent I had become, from not moving around and being in so much pain. When I used them, suddenly I needed to stand straight. It was such a revelation to me. I didn’t realize how much I had deteriorated. Well, I have to tell you that I took to them like ducks to water.
I absolutely love them. They helped me to rebuild my posture. What happened was that my left leg, somewhat dragged behind me. I couldn’t control it very well. Now my leg is completely fine. My SideStix helped me to rebuild that strength. For so long I couldn’t go anywhere. I could barely make it one block down the street. Now I can go for walks and it is absolutely fantastic. I just love it!
What is your passion in life?
Mirjana – My main passion would have to be my family. My husband and I have the most wonderful relationship. We have children and grandchildren, and all of these are the people who we love very much. They are our priorities in life.
When we first came to BC, in 1968, we just fell in love with it. It is so beautiful and we wanted to explore it as much as we could. And we did. Every moment we had we went hiking or canoeing and we just love it. We had a wonderful life. It was simple but it was great. That has sort of been a core of our life. When it happened to me in 2015… Losing my mobility was a horrible thing. It changes your life so profoundly. When it is a prolonged case, it goes beyond physical. It affects you on the inside as well. I think to move, is to live. I think if you can move it brings freedom to your inner being. That is why I love the SideStix so much because that is what they gave back to me.
I also have a creative side to me. I like to paint and sometimes I write poetry. It’s just for the enjoyment of myself, my husband and our family. When I retired, I decided, because we had been to so many lovely places, that I was going to paint. I was going to replace all of the art in our home with my own paintings. These are places we have been to and they have lots of memories for us. I have done that and it is really neat.
Do you have a studio, where you paint?
Mirjana – No, no, just at home. Now that the kids are grown and gone, I use one of those rooms to paint.
What is your favorite thing about your SideStix?
Mirjana – It is a combination of things. Because they are made so well, they give me a sense of security. They also give you a sense of, “Oh, I can do stuff”! I think this is very important. And I was also thinking about our aging population. Many people with age, begin to lose their mobility. Or they may be afraid to fall and so they don’t do things. If they had SideStix, their lives would be so much better. They give you a sense of security, ability, and of support. You don’t have to be afraid. You can take risks. That’s what I love about them.
Just curious, did you have any hesitation adapting to SideStix? Because they are forearm crutches?
Mirjana – For me, no. I could see their benefit so I couldn’t care less. I remember in the beginning, when I first got my SideStix, I saw some friends and they looked at my SideStix in shock! I said, “These are helping me. I can move again. These are great”.
With them (my SideStix) I can move as fast as anybody else. Without them I was in pan and could barely move. And also, you don’t need two all the time. You can use just one. Right now I have a problem with my hip, and eventually it will have to be replaced. If I use just one, to support that leg, even that is so helpful to me. I take two whenever I go walking. Two of them help my rhythm and it just feels good!
What is your idea of a perfect day?
Mirjana – To be outside. Somewhere in the forest or up on a mountain, or by the seaside. We just like being outside. If that isn’t possible, I like being outside in my garden. I love gardening as well. We have a very nice garden.
What ways do you stay motivated?
Mirjana – You know, I believe in God, but I am not a religious person. I have a personal relationship with him and that has changed me. Because of my faith, I have become more grateful and thankful for everything that happens in my life… Even the bad things, because they teach me. I try to embrace everything.
Everyday I wake up in the morning and I think, “I am so lucky. I have a roof over my head and a comfortable bed. I can get out of that bed on my own and I can get out of my house on my own”. Those are the things we often take for granted, but they are so big because that is the basis of our enjoyment in life. You can embrace whatever is waiting for you each day. If I dwell on my past, that is no good. If I only look ahead to the future, I miss what is making me happy now. Live each day enjoying the best of it. That’s my philosophy.
Do you have a message for other crutch users? Or those with an impaired mobility?
Mirjana – I would like to encourage those out there, to hang in there. There are times where pain is great or when things don’t work out very well. But, hang in there because it will improve. You have to be persistent. Be like a dog with a bone. Keep at it and keep at it. You may be surprised where you will arrive.