Dealing with a health setback during college

Though she contemplated dropping out, Margaret Gilmore completed her senior year with a broken foot and ankle. But it wasn’t easy.

…

Margaret GilmoreIt was my first day back on campus at the University of North Carolina after my senior year study abroad program. Fall classes were starting in three days and I hadn’t finished moving into my off-campus house. I was moving boxes into my room on the third floor when I took one wrong step on the stairs and crashed to the floor.

I immediately knew something was wrong when I couldn’t get myself back on two feet. A few hours later, my doctor informed me that I broke both my foot and my ankle, and needed surgery immediately.

Breaking a bone is never easy to recover from, but breaking a bone during college presents a unique set of challenges, since so much walking is involved in getting from class to class. Lucky for me, my professors were sympathetic toward my situation and gave me extra time to catch up on the schoolwork I missed when I was out for two weeks after my surgery.

Unlucky for me, I was enrolled in three art classes, and knew I would fall behind if I couldn’t actually get myself to the studio, where I’d need to be on my feet a lot. It was stressful, and I contemplated postponing my graduation and taking the semester off to recover.

The financial side: ridesharing, rent, and more

But while taking time off probably may have been easier, there were a lot of financial components at play. The main money issue: rent. I was paying $710 per month for my house and didn’t have time to find someone to sublet from me on such short notice, since most students had already found housing for the semester. So, I decided to power through.

Of all the potential obstacles facing a college student on crutches, my biggest concern was getting to and from class. Rideshare programs became my lifeline, and I used them three or four times a day. While I was incredibly thankful for the service, the cost quickly added up, since the minimum charge per ride for the one I used most often was $4. Although a pricey decision, it was the best I could do unless my roommates were available to drive me to and from campus.

Beyond financial setbacks, I had to make social compromises. I missed attending UNC’s football games, and it was a little dangerous for me to go out on the weekends on my crutches, so I opted to stay in and watch Netflix instead. I also had to drop my position as a writer for the school newspaper: In order for me to meet my deadlines I would have had to travel all over campus to interview people — a near impossible task on crutches.

Despite the hassle, I received an incredible amount of help and support from friends, and even strangers, on campus — it’s amazing how many fellow students held doors for me or offered to carry my backpack when they saw me struggling. Though it was quite a setback, I’m proud to say I finished my year on time with exemplary grades, and I was even able to walk on two feet at my graduation ceremony.