We’re in Sulfur, Louisiana, for the Calcasieu Short Film Festival, where David’s video Alien Whisperer was screened.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make the screening. This morning, before the festival began, I fell in the McDonald’s restroom. And couldn’t get up. I managed to get myself and my walker to the door and call David, who I knew was waiting outside. Imagine his surprise when he saw me walking on my knees, maneuvering the walker with my forearms.
A digression: Please don’t say you’re sorry. I’m sorry enough for all of us. But I try to take these events with a light heart and write jolly posts about them. As long as my bones stay put, I won’t complain. Much.
Two firemen kindly got me into the wheelchair–which resides in the trunk of the car for just such an eventuality, and which I’ve made my peace with–and the McDonald’s manager filled out an incident report. Then David rolled me to the car, where I poured water over my hands. At the hotel, I also divested myself of my clothes. Restroom floors are not known for being pristine, and this one left me feeling particularly grubby.
As I told everyone who passed (while I was sitting on the floor) and asked, I’m physically fine. Psychologically bruised–sitting on the floor at a fast food place, especially at my age, will do that to you. One knee does have a bruise, not from the fall, but because my knees are bony, and walking on them always leaves its mark. It also hurts like crazy while in progress.
I fell because my feet were too close together and I overbalanced. A therapist once told me to walk like John Wayne and to stand like the Colossus of Rhodes, the opposite of what my mother told me to do, so I have trouble remembering to do it. I tried to stay vertical by grabbing the handle of the walker, and the brakes failed.
David said the brakes didn’t fail–he’d fixed a loose one yesterday, and he demonstrated that they’re fine–and said it requires more weight than I placed on it. He said it’s a basic law of physics. It’s like trying to stop with bald tires: the brakes work, but the tires slide.
I told him I should have enough weight to stop anything. And my tires aren’t bald.
Anyway, by the time I finished with the fire department and the incident report, the film was over.
David went into the Brimstone Museum, where the festival was held, and told the director that we’d been held up by his wife’s medical issue. He was kind enough not to say I’d fallen all over the place.
I was disappointed, of course, and felt bad for David. He said he wasn’t disappointed because it’s not his best video and he wasn’t looking forward to seeing it. He also doesn’t like being called up onto the stage to answer questions.
I was also disappointed at not touring the Brimstone Museum. I wanted to see what was on display. The Brimstone Museum in Sulfur, Louisiana, sounds so John Miltonish. David, however, said there wasn’t much on display because they’re remodeling.
Although the trip didn’t meet our expectations, it was less of a disappointment than the time we went to a festival in Houston and learned that the email saying his video had been selected didn’t mean it would be shown. So we went to Galveston.
When I get home, I shall insist my doctor refer me for physical therapy so I can regain strength enough to walk without that brake-challenged walker and to stop falling, or at least to stop having to call the fire department for aid and comfort. When I finished chemo, I was ambulatory, bopping merrily into radiation twice a week so the techs could admire my cute socks, bopping out to the grocery store. During the pandemic, I bopped nowhere. That’s taken a toll.
The whole trip hasn’t been a disappointment, though. In our first real getaway in four years, we drove to Knoxville, then looped back to Sulfur. That was fun. But it’s a story for another post.
I’ll add that yesterday we checked into a very nice hotel and then learned there would be no hot water for three days. Showers were bracing. Today we moved.
I’m told that health is what old people talk about, but I’ll report on mine anyway. Having written one post about falling, I think a second on the topic is warranted. I don’t want people to think I spend all my time crashing to the floor or calling the fire department.
Last week, I stopped taking Valium for insomnia and I haven’t fallen since. I use the walker with confidence. David no long trails me around the house.
He requires me to ride in the wheel chair from the house to the car, and I comply without complaint. I know he has visions of another tumble and doesn’t want to have to deal with the aftermath. I don’t blame him. He had PT for sciatica several months ago and doesn’t want to do that again.
Three days ago, I received the magic chair and like it, although since I’m steadier, I haven’t had to use it. Except once, when lack of Valium kept me awake all night and the next day I felt a little shaky. It seemed a good time to employ the device. After all, that’s why I got it. (After David said I needed it.)
The technician who delivered it was a delightful man. He gave us lots of information, including the fact that dogs, cats, and grandchildren love to ride on it. We have no grandchildren and no dogs, and the cats have shown no interest in going anywhere near it. That’s a relief. I was afraid Ernest would try to eat it, as he ate part of my old exercycle and offered to eat my little foot/arm bike.
I tried out the chair while the technician was here and decided it wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. I guess I’d been expecting it to be like a horse, but no other vehicle is as much fun as a horse. And my knee surgeon won’t let me ride one anyway.
So I settled for admiring the chair from across the room. It really is most attractive.
I told David he could navigate and I would stand on the back.
He has become a skilled driver, although he says he has a way to go.
He hasn’t mastered turning around without clipping nearby objects. Fortunately, the only casualty has been a cardboard box containing 3-ring binders that was sitting near my recliner.
I’m not so competent. That shaky day, I drove from the bedroom to the living room and made it across the room to retrieve the hole punch from the bookcase, and back to my real chair, made a 180-degree turn, all without incident. No running into doors or the column in the dining room or anything.
Then I did what I knew I should not do. I drove it into the bathroom. It’s a large enough room to accommodate the machine; nevertheless, I managed to scrape the door and knock most of the paint off the walls. On the trip to the sink, I forgot my bare feet rested on the foot thingy, and I ran my toes under the cabinet doors. And yelled, “Ouch.”
I later told David that when I say, “Ouch,” that loudly, he’s supposed to break in and rescue me.
(I started to write loud in the previous sentence but changed to loudly for the sake of correctness. I taught English, and some of my students might read this. Loud, however, is the right word.)
Warning: The next paragraph contains possibly sickening detail.
To quote an aunt, I sat there in excruciating pain. One big toenail was split across, and the other toe split above the cuticle. They bled like a stuck hog.
I’ve never seen a stuck hog, but I take the word of those who have.
I drove out with less grace than I’d driven in. David got out Band-aids and the Neosporin and taped me up, and I put on socks, and David draped ice packs across my toes. I swore I’d never wear shoes again.
I also swore I would never use the chair again.
And I named it The Spawn of Satan.
Oddly enough, the toe pain quickly subsided. The next morning, preparing to go somewhere I wanted to go, I put on shoes. They didn’t hurt either. Neither did walking.
When I removed the bandages, the toes looked fine. Nothing was split, and there were no scars. I rebandaged them. I may soak them in Epsom salt anyway. Just in case I missed something.
In fairness, I withdrew the label Spawn of Satan. The wreck was not its fault. I shouldn’t have taken it into a small room. I should have practiced. I should have worn shoes.
I’d thought about asking the technician if I should wear shoes but didn’t. I didn’t want to hear the answer.
I’ve never believed in wearing shoes.
The moral of my story: Stay off the Valium, use the walker slowly and carefully, let David follow if he wants, and continue to admire the magic chair from across the room.
I heard about an 84-year-old woman who frequently falls. Her daughter figured out she’s falling because she likes having the firemen visit. The firemen said they don’t mind and that if it becomes a problem, they’ll say something.
I’ve always been a pretty good faller. My fourth-grade teacher said if you relax when you fall, you’re less likely to break a bone, and Mrs. Fricke had a habit of being right. So I relax. I’ve never collapsed. I go down full-length. Mrs. Fricke didn’t mention the possibility of hitting one’s head on a blunt object. So far I’ve been lucky.
[Disclaimer: That had better be the right video of Marlene Dietrich. Some things one cannot control.]
In the first place, if you’ve been reading, you’ve noticed that two posts about Geoffrey the squirrel disappeared. After a little research, I decided it would be politic to take them down.
We still have Geoffrey–in fact, we have at least four Geoffreys, who share the name because we can’t tell them apart. I think the Geoffrey that spends the most time on the patio looking in at Ernest and William is the initial Geoffrey. The one dove is still named Geraldine. She looks in, too.
A grackle has added himself to the mix. I haven’t chosen a name for him. I was thinking of Hairy Black (as in Harry Black of the Jungle, starring Stewart Granger, but Stewart Granger was a heck of a lot better looking than this bird, and I hate to besmirch the memory of one of my favorite men to gaze at.)
My book is beginning to look like a book. Or like a manuscript. I’ve been writing scenes I’ll have to insert here and there, and pieces of scenes have to be inserted here are there–I hope I don’t have to discard any, because they really are darling–In short, there’s a lot to be done. But it looks doable. That’s a good feeling.
When people ask how I’m doing, sometimes they’re making a polite opening sentence, but since I have a health issue, sometimes they want to know how I’m doing in that realm.
I usually say, “Fine.”
Depending on who’s asking, I tell them the real situation, which usually starts with, “Fine,” but I add some detail.
We’ll, here’s some detail. Some is funny. If you like that sort of thing.
What happened at the New Braunfels Civic Center after a book fair was pretty awful at the time, but told correctly, it can be hilarious. I shall not tell it, though. Maybe in four or five years.
Anyway, I’ve been doing fine, sort of. But I can’t walk without a rolling walker, and that probably won’t change, and sometimes David has to haul me around in a wheelchair. We have two wheelchairs–one for transport, which has no wheels for the rider to use, and one real one I should be able to roll around myself but haven’t learned how because we use it only for rough terrain. It has more oomph.
Or did. The rubber wheels fell apart and strewed pieces all over the carpet. It looked like a semi whose tires are disintegrating and leaving strips of rubber all over the highway.
So yesterday a new wheelchair arrived. Which makes it three wheelchairs. I have not ridden in it. I have no desire to ride in it.
The transport wheelchair is for roaming around on smoother surfaces. The rider can’t navigate it. It’s not as sturdy as the real wheelchair. I don’t want to ride in it either.
The reason I’m walker/wheelchair bound is one of the meds I’ve taken every three weeks for six years. It makes me wobbly. (I finally got smart and googled side effects.) It gives me other problems, too. The doctor said I could take a vacation from the drug, but studies show . . . I said, Heck no, I can live with the side effects. Keep up with the drug.
Anyway, lately, I’ve been falling. Two separate weeks, I fell three times. Last week I slid off the bed. We bought a mattress with coils to the edge, but I’ll bet it doesn’t have them, because when I sit on it–it’s a little high–I have to scoot way back to keep from sliding off. I’ve fallen for other reasons, too.
The falls can sound amusing. But getting up is not funny, because it’s difficult to get up, even with David helping. I’ve been too weak. David’s back is only fourteen months younger than mine–I married a Younger Man–and I see no reason for him to risk injury getting me off the floor. After the bed thing I told David to call an ambulance.
Four delightful firemen arrived. When they got here, I was sitting against the side of the bed with a pillow behind me. I told them if I had the energy, I’d feel embarrassed. They asked if lifting me would hurt my shoulders. I said Yes, the left one, but I didn’t care.
They also asked questions. Was I dizzy? Nope. Did I need to go to the hospital? Nope. How did I fall? I was reaching for the handles of the walker, which was too far from the bed, and moved too near the part that doesn’t have coils, and slid off. They took my blood pressure. It was 122/77, the best it’s been lately.
Anyway, since I couldn’t get around the house without a chaperone, David suggested we get a chair that moves around the house under its own steam–I won’t use the brand name–and I said, “No. No. No.” My rationale: I did not want to be dependent on such a chair because I would stop trying to walk and doing my PT exercises.
Then I realized I was thinking like my uncle’s mother-in-law. She could hobble around the house but couldn’t get out. Her daughter wanted to get a wheelchair. No, no, no.
Mrs. C.: “They say once you get into a wheelchair, you never get out.”
Aunt: “But, Mother, you wouldn’t use it all the time. Just when we go out.”
Mrs. C.: “No. They say once you get into one of those, you never get out.”
Aunt: “But, Mother, if you had a wheelchair, you could go shopping. You could go to church. You could visit your friends.”
Mrs. C.: “NO.”
So I reversed my decision. This chair would let me move around the house without supervision.
And, although I hate to admit it, the thing could be fun.
I’ve always thought those scooters at the grocery store looked like fun. And the drivers seem to feel they can ignore the traffic laws of the state of Texas and the dictates of Emily Post. When they back up, they don’t consider a shopper might be behind them; they just back. When they go forward, they’ll clip you; they’ll mow you down.**
I don’t complain. It comes under the category of funny.
But back to the new chair, which is set to arrive next week. To combat insomnia caused by another drug (whoopee!), I’ve been taking a low dose of Valium at night. Then I remembered the big not-bad drug changes the way the brain reacts to soporifics.*** Which means the sleep aid sticks around in my system for days. And made me feel rather blah. And weak.
So I stopped taking Valium. I now get around quite well. I still use the walker but no longer need David to keep me off the floor. And I’m careful, careful, careful.
I assume I’ll still need the chair at times. I might need it all the time and permanently. My nurse practitioner told me not to become dependent on it and stop walking and doing my exercises. She sounded a bit like Mrs. C. I told her I’d thought of the possibility and would not fall into that trap. I didn’t add unless it was fun.
I’ve learned a lot about mobility and handicaps in the past few months. Automatic doors, ramps, handicap parking spaces, mirrors, and a number of other things. They make a difference.
**SeeEdgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. One of Charlie’s lines was, “I’ll clip ya, Bergen . . . I’ll mow you down.” That Charlie was a ventriloquist’s dummy who wore a top hat and a monocle made it extra funny. So did the fact that he was Candice Bergen’s brother. So to speak.
***Soporific—causing or tending to cause sleep
I include the definition of soporific because I was in my thirties when I learned the definition. It appears in The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies, by Beatrix Potter:
It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.”
I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit.
They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!
This is evidence that very young children can comprehend long and unfamiliar words. You read to them, go back over the context, ask, “Does anyone know what soporific means?” If no one volunteers, define the word, go back over the context. Lots of little people will have learned a new word.