writing

Falling

I never broke a bone until I turned 42. As a runner back then, I’d frequently suffer stress fractures in my feet. Each fracture would start at the base of my big toe and then take a sharp left or right in an “L” shape break   across the top of my foot. My right foot suffered twice from such a fracture, and as if saying “Your turn,” it happened in my left.

I began running when my diabetes levels began to rise. I’d been taking Step Aerobics classes, loving every minute, but my doc, whom I’ll call James to protect the innocent, said I had to sweat like a pig for my blood sugars to go down. So, I picked running, a sport for which you only needed a good pair of running shoes, and out the door you could go. I also had an 11 year old at home, and didn’t want to leave him for too long, so I had to be quick. Originally, I could run 3 miles in 30 minutes. I was hooked. I became an adrenalin seeker, searching for that utopia of “being in the zone.” And, yes, my blood sugars went down.

I’d been running 7 years when I took a really bad fall on a large hill near my home. This hill took 20 minutes to climb, but 10 minutes to soar down. There was a thunderstorm coming, and a few flashes of lightning, all behind me, but nonetheless I didn’t want to get caught in a lightning strike. Traffic was heavy all around, and I knew of a shortcut I could take through a few backyards to get home in ten minutes, if need be.

Have you ever noticed that after a paving job, cement trucks purge one final gust of rock and stone alongside gutters? I never did until that day. Almost at the end of that hill, I tripped over a permanent puddle of leftover cement, and skated downhill on my knees. The actual fall onto asphalt was extremely hard, jarring me enough that my jaw became dislocated, and then relocated on its own. The cement puddle was about four feet long, and at the end, somehow, I was able to rise to my feet and see the damage.

I suffered 3rd degree burns on both knees, and should have been hospitalized in a burn unit, on morphine, I was later told by Ben, a new internist, whose name has been changed to protect the innocent. Both my hands were cut too. I gushed blood. But…This “but” is what a lot of runners keep in reserve while running marathons. But, still on an adrenalin high, I took off for home as thunder grew close.  Yes, I used the shortcut, and dripped blood all the way into the den, where my son and Hubs’ eyes grew round when I said, “I had a little accident.” The skies lit up as I glanced out the window, my own fireworks display for surviving a long run, and a bad accident.

Exactly 7 years later, I had another fall while out running. I wasn’t alone that time, thank goodness, because, although I didn’t land on leftover cement, I did fall on asphalt.

A work friend of mine and I liked to run during our lunch hour, and that’s what we were doing when, in front of the tony Petit Louis Bistro at noon thirty, I didn’t notice that we’d stepped into a slight dip where concrete gave way to asphalt. I tripped into that dip, and out again, landing on an outstretched hand, and both knees. Since there was almost no skin on my knees from the fall 7 years before, I bled profusely. But I couldn’t jump up this time had my life depended on it. I tried, but couldn’t make sense of the pain that radiated up to my thighs and into my left hand. I had gone into shock. My friend tried to help me by taking hold of an elbow, but I nearly passed out. Leaning over me, urging to me get out of the way of cars pulling in to Petit Louis, I didn’t understand why no one stopped to help. I knew there was a fire station around the corner, and urged my friend Joyce, whose name will be changed to protect the innocent, to run and get a band aid, but in the end, I limped into the Roland Park Bakery under my own power. And bled all during lunch.

There was a summer camp in session at the school where I worked, and I figured, there’d be a nurse present to bandage my knees. They were on fire, just like 7 years before, only worse because I’d scratched bone too. And my wrist was surely sprained because I could not use it at all. But there was no nurse, and no bandages. I kept applying wet paper towels to my knees, but my blood wouldn’t clot. One hour before the end of that work day, a teacher walked into the office and asked why I was sitting funny. Peggy O, whose name has been changed to protect the innocent, took one look and ordered me to go to Patient First. (My boss wasn’t working that day.) This time, I actually did. I put my life into the hands of doctors and nurses, and hoped for the best.

They used saline solution to clean my wounds and x-rayed my wrist, handing me a splint for “your sprained wrist.” I was also given a tetanus shot, and Rx for antibiotics. The next day, while I could hardly walk, my wrist could not even stand the weight of the splint. I went to work. And the next day, when I was unable to use that hand to wash my hair, I went to work and called Mark, explained the situation, and then reached out to a hand, arm, and shoulder specialist. On the third day following the fall, I saw a very charismatic specialist who bet me lunch that I’d fractured my elbow. He was right, but too busy to stop for lunch.

Exactly 7 years later, I had another disastrous fall. Not while running roads, but while running during a tennis match. I reached down to catch a low ball, put an arm out to break my fall, broke the wrist, fell backwards on my bum, back, and head, then bounced forward on to my wrist. I shattered it, suffered two compound fractures of the ulna and radius, and dislocated my entire arm, for good measure. I also went in to shock. I could hear people asking me if I was all right but the pain was all consuming. My knees were uninjured, but it never occurred to me to worry about them. Off I went in an ambulance.  I was certain I would die, I could barely stand the pain. Once at the hospital, an ER nurse assessed my situation, and by phone, the ortho on call read my xray and ordered morphine to be given when the ER nurse relocated my entire arm. It was then that I called Hubs to come get me, at SJUMMC, because the doctors were finished with me. (That was the Morphine talking.) Instead, I spent 3 days in the hospital while plats and rods were inserted into my left arm. Therapy for 3 herniated disks began in January and ended in June.

Seven years from now, I’ll be 72. Will I be playing tennis when I fall, or God forbid, will I fall downstairs onto the tiles below, lying there while my dogs kiss me to death? Never say never, because I swear to God, it’ll always come true. But, I have said, bad things for each bone in my body only happen once, given the laws of nature. Unless Mother Nature herself gets in the way and rocks the boat.

 

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