MY LIFE - One step

MY LIFE - One step

One step. Just one small step. That’s all it took to turn my life and the lives of my family upside down, to mark paid to a whole summer full of eagerly anticipated plans, and to instantly turn a taken-for-granted, free-wheeling, independent lifestyle and condense it into the incredible minutiae of tiny little details necessary for basic survival.

That one small step being the one at the bottom of the cellar stairs. The one that I missed as I very carefully carried the large trash can normally used for storage of winter birdseed down to its summer resting spot in the basement. I was turning to the left as I took what I thought was my final step onto the floor when I went down, straight down with both feet twisted under my bottom and in screaming pain as I carefully pulled my legs free and set them out straight in front of me.

Now I know this isn’t going to make sense to anyone, and it doesn’t have to, but I eventually managed to stand on my right leg, quickly realizing the left one was broken, and then, my only thought being that I really wanted to get out of the cellar, pulled myself up one step at a time using my right knee for leverage, until in a cold, pasty sweat, nauseous, and shivering, I made it up onto the kitchen floor, butt-scooted to the step between the kitchen and the dining room, pulled the cell phone from my back pocket and phoned my daughter Kathy in New Hampshire to let her know why I wouldn’t be home when she arrived to set up for the big family party planned at my house for that afternoon.

Calling 911 was next on my list.

Okay, I thought to myself, I will go to the hospital, they will put a cast on the leg, and I will be late for the party, but I’ll be there.


Long story short, there was a major spiral fracture of the left tibia from one end all the way up to the other, plus a fracture of the fibula near the knee, as well as two broken bones in the right foot. The staff in the ER and my own private orthopedic doctor all felt strongly that I needed to be transferred to Rhode Island Hospital, and surgery would be necessary. That was on Saturday, surgery was on Tuesday, and on Thursday I was discharged to home via transport van since I cannot walk. A prolonged stay in rehab was only averted because my family had already planned to do whatever was necessary to care for me at home, and that I am allowed to stand/pivot very carefully on the casted right foot.

Barbara, Kathy, and Kelly covered the first week, then it was Tom and Kathy, then Tom and my grandson Matt. Tom returned to New York and Barbara was joined by Kelly. Kathy was back in the rotation on Sunday, and so it goes, with everyone disrupting their lives and their plans and cheerfully taking care of my every need. I don’t know how I will ever repay them or thank them enough, but all of this was already in the works within hours of my injury.

It wasn’t just their physical presence that had immediately been planned. The girls had already brainstormed the nitty-gritty of my daily care and medical equipment soon began arriving at home. Wheelchair, commode, sturdy bed rail, hand-held shower, nifty transport shower chair with a seat that will slide me right over the side of the tub in one smooth move. The addition of a transport chair slender enough to just about squeak between tub and vanity and to the edge of the toilet on the far side of the small bathroom has made it possible for me to forgo the indignity of the bedside commode in favor of an actual flushing fixture, which may sound like a minor thing until nature forces choices upon you that you would prefer not to think about.

There are dozens of other little things, like accidentally dropping the remote for the TV onto the floor in the middle of the night, needing a refill on my water, not being able to reach almost anything on my own, and even once I’m in the transport chair, not being able to maneuver about on my own because both legs are essentially out of commission.

But as with so many things in life, it’s the little things that suddenly matter. Like the knitters all showing up loaded down with food and good cheer, the neighbors dropping in and visiting for a spell, friends phoning or stopping by just to say “Hello, how are you doing?”

The high point of my day today (last Friday), which I have been eagerly anticipating since yesterday, is the prospect of having my hair shampooed. Right now, it feels like doll hair … old doll hair … matted old doll hair. But my niece Kelly and my friend Brenda will finagle a way to get it all shiny and clean again as I lay crosswise in bed with my head dangling over the wastebasket. Just the thought of finally having clean hair again is enough to make me giddy. Like I said, it’s amazing how important the little things in life can suddenly become.