I should have followed my instincts that night, when the only thermometer that got my attention was connected to our furnace. Why would I care that it had been drizzling all day and the temperature was hovering around thirty-two degrees when I was on the couch, snuggled under a warm afghan?
"I'm going over to Ann's," Todd announced. “Do you want to join me?" We've made a habit of walking across the road and having short visits with our retired neighbor several nights a week.
“I’d love to, if I didn’t have to go outside. You know I’m allergic to subzero temperatures.”
“Oh, come on,” Todd chided. “It’s a balmy 32 degrees, a heat wave for
Minnesota in January.”
“Something tells me I should stay inside.”
“Are you hearing those voices again? That’s your inner wimp speaking.”
“Just tell her I said ‘hi’ and that I’ll see her in the spring."
“Suit yourself,” Todd said, which only made me feel guilty.
"Wait a minute. I’ll join you." I should have listened to the cautionary voice rather than Todd’s.
“This isn’t so bad,” I said as I stepped onto the driveway. “It’s almost pleasant. Your were right, dear.”
"Be care . . . " Todd was a couple steps ahead of me when he realized our driveway had turned into a skating rink.
My feet flew out from under me. I've had a lot of practice falling, and have managed to hit the ground numerous times without breaking any bones. I credit the chronic dizziness provided by my medications for this well-honed skill. All four limbs started flailing like a windmill in a blizzard. My legs, arms and head were all racing to see which could hit the ice first. My right hand took first place, left hand took second, and my forehead took a solid third.
The stars I was seeing couldn't have been coming from the sky, since my cheek was plastered against the ice and my eyes were closed. As cold as it was lying on the ice, my wrists felt like they were on fire. I tried to push myself up with my hands, but quickly realized that was a bad idea.
"I think I'm okay," I said after analyzing the various pain levels throughout my body.
“You always say that when you fall. This time you don't sound very convincing."
As soon as Todd hoisted me to a seated position the stars became more intense.
"Wait a minute." The twinkling lights behind my eyelids subsided and getting into dry clothes took priority. Todd helped me to my feet. I took a few steps, but had to lean against the wall when the stars returned. My knees started to buckle.
Todd got his arm around my waist before I had a chance to hit the ground a second time. Once we got through the door, I sat on the entryway bench and waited for the Northern Lights display going on in my head to subside.
Todd helped me into dry pajamas and I attempted to lie down. When I tried to ease myself down with my "good" hand I promptly sat up and decided an emergency gurney would be more comfortable.
Three hours later I was sent home with my sprained left wrist wrapped in an ace bandage, my fractured right wrist in a fitted brace, and orders to rest for two weeks to let my body heal.
After a week the pain in my wrists was diminishing at the same rate that my boredom was increasing. By Friday, cabin fever had set in and I was looking forward to watching our nephew play in the high school basketball game.
Hopefully we wouldn't witness him getting injured on the court, as he has been prone to do.
I walked into the gym carrying a slice of pizza in my good hand and my coat draped over my bent right arm. There were open seats in the second row. Thank goodness I wouldn’t have to climb any higher. In the end it wouldn’t matter. I didn’t make the first step—which I discovered too late—was a several inches higher than the norm. My foot slipped back onto the gymnasium floor while the rest of me plunged forward.
While I was trying to decide which bad arm to catch myself with, my braced arm decided for me. But before it could come to the rescue, I felt the bridge of my nose crunch against the edge of the step, seconds before my fractured wrist came crashing down in a futile attempt to break my fall.
Meanwhile, my knee was taking its own beating on a lower step. The thin crust pizza slice that flew in my face did nothing to cushion my fall, but deposited a tomato-y film across my glasses. The frames held up well, considering that my face took most of the beating. My braced forearm and right knee cushioned the rest of my fall. Aside from the intense pain, there didn't seem to be any further damage done to those related bones, just some ugly bruising.
Through all of this, my sister Kelly stood between me and the hundred or so basketball fans so they could focus on the game and not the side show I was providing. She was afraid I might have had a seizure. Given my track record over the last week, that was a very good possibility.
Once we sat down in the second row, my head felt like the basketball that was being dribbled down the court. I asked Kelly if she had any Advil. She didn't, and leaned forward to ask the women sitting in front of us. No luck.
"Never mind. I'll be fine."
"The Johnson's are on the other end of this section, five rows up," said Todd. "I'll check with them."
"I'm okay. I can wait until we get home."
He came back a couple minutes later. "They didn't have any either."
I finally convinced Kelly and Todd to let it go. Two minutes later the friend of a daughter of someone’s neighbor tapped me on the shoulder and handed me some Advil. News of my headache had gone viral. I'd probably be watching reruns of my fall on YouTube the next day.
Our team lost. My sister assures me it wasn't my fault. At least our nephew didn’t get injured.
I thought I had fulfilled my quota of falls for the year, but the law of gravity wasn't finished with me yet. The next morning I was sitting on a folding chair at a wedding shop, waiting for my daughter Laura to come out and model a bridal dress. I tried to stand up (my first mistake) to see what was keeping her. The button on my back jeans pocket caught on the back of the folding chair. The chair and I plunged to the floor with the grace of a child belly flopping onto a sled.
A collective gasp rose from the women in the room. Thankfully, I didn’t take any wedding gowns down with me.
“I’m okay,” I assured the store staff who had scurried over to me. This time I was telling the truth, more or less, and stood up almost as quickly as I had fallen. Despite my clumsiness, our dress expedition was successful. For the rest of the afternoon I remained upright, conscious, and coherent. Until that evening.
I was sitting in a living room chair, minding my own business when my daughter came upstairs and asked if I was okay.
“You were acting a little strange.”
“So what else is knew? You’ve always thought I was strange.”
“Yes, but this was stranger than normal.”
We eventually figured out that she had witnessed me having a mild seizure, something she hadn't observed in years. I try to be subtle when having these, with varying levels of success.
I had an appointment with my neurologist the following Monday. After telling him about my misadventures, he ordered some diagnostic tests to rule out any number of disastrous possibilities. I'm pretty sure they won't find anything serious but I'm glad he wants to make sure everything is functioning correctly.
He put Todd in charge of keeping me upright and prescribed frequent hand holding, door opening, and general gentlemanly behavior. Meanwhile, I'm focusing on healing, as well as honing my balancing skills.
After showing my bruises to a friend and recounting my walking woes, she commented that I was in awfully good spirits, considering all that had happened.
“I could laugh about it or I could curl up in a corner and drown in a puddle of tears,” I said. “And I’m trying to keep my head off the floor as much as possible.”
Two days later I showed my bruises to my family doctor on a follow-up visit for my first fall. He wasn’t so impressed. “When deciding whether to use a brace or a cast on a broken bone, we assess the risk of the patient,” he said. “If a young boy comes in with a broken arm and his parents say he likes to skateboard, he is considered an unreliable patient and gets a cast.”
“Well, I’m not a teenager, and I certainly don’t skateboard.”
“True. But because you’ve had three falls in two weeks, I’d consider you an unreliable patient. Before you go to the x-ray lab, the nurse will come in and discus color choices for your cast.”
“Aren’t you going to read the x-ray before you slap plaster on my arm?” He was gone before I finished the question.
“Plenty of people consider me reliable,” I grumbled as Todd escorted me to x-ray.
“Will I be able to type with this thing on?” I asked as my doctor as he wrapped wet baby blue gauze around my arm. Thank goodness I didn’t have to settle for lime green.
“Sort of.” He was smirking.
The doctor prescribed a month of dish duty for Todd. The nurse gave me strict orders not to use my cast as a weapon. Hopefully my balance will improve and I will heal quickly. But until the ice melts, we’ll be driving to visit our neighbor across the road.