Falling For It

I fell in the shower last week Monday. More precisely, I fell out of the shower last week. On the way to the floor, I bounced off the toilet bowl using my mid-back as a springboard.

I am of an age where falls in the home are starting to seem pretty scary. In truth, I’ve fallen like this before, but was more lucky in the past: I missed hitting the toilet the previous time, managing to roll out of the fall with nothing more serious than a bruised ego. This time I was six inches farther to my right when I fell, and was in intense pain for about ten minutes. Last time, the shower curtain slid off me as I fell. This time, it stuck to me like glue, and I brought the curtain with me, pulling the curtain rod down and half-tearing the anchoring fixture on one side out of the wall.

The thing about back injuries is, you can’t do much of anything. It hurts to bend over. It hurts to turn or twist. It hurts to reach across my body with either arm, though my injury was on my right side. I had to pass through a substantial pain zone to stand, or to sit. My sleep was fitful at best; nearly every movement brought stabs of pain to shock me awake again, and I couldn’t sleep on my right side at all. I called in to work, telling them I wouldn’t be there on Tuesday. I also was due to work the polls for the primary election in the afternoon that day, and had to notify them that I wouldn’t be there, either. That’s a big hit: for people working part-time jobs, not working means you don’t get paid. Because of a simple slip and fall, I was now out some regular pay, plus the “bonus” money from working the election. I’m fortunate in that we aren’t in financial straits by any stretch, but I think of all the people who aren’t so lucky, and how, after something as relatively trivial as an in-home fall, they could easily lose a substantial portion of the weekly income and suddenly be stuck in a cycle of debt that it’s almost impossible to break.

I iced my back, and took ibuprofen. By the way my pain reacted to the treatments I was using, I was pretty sure the injury was a bruise. Deep, yes; bone bruise, possibly. By evening, I wasn’t in constant pain, which told me no broken bones were involved. Tuesday I spent the day taking it easy. I did manage to get out to vote: T picked me up after work and drove me over. I got a few looks from the staff I would’ve been working with, as if to say “you don’t look very injured,” but then, none of them saw me trying to get out of (or into) the car, either.

Getting up from lying or sitting positions was mostly okay, but by Wednesday, when there was still a fair amount of pain associated with movement, I made an appointment to see a doctor on Thursday. I went in to the day job on Thursday morning, and found that standing for the better part of four hours, while not painful in itself, was more tiring than usual. After my shift was over and I had lunch, I drove myself to the clinic.The doctor concurred with my expert medical opinion: that it was a deep bruise, and she advised me to keep doing what I was already doing to treat it, and to be patient: deep bruises like this can take weeks to fully heal. Kind of a non-event, really, but still: I don’t want to be one of those guys who refuses to go to the doctor for any injury, and ends up dying from an infection, or internal bleeding. I know too many men like that. I made up the spare bed in my office so my pitiful moaning wouldn’t keep Tracy awake at night.

So here I am, a full week later. My back still hurts at times, though my range of motion has improved quite a bit. I think back fondly on things that I took for granted before my fall: wiping myself after using the toilet is excruciatingly painful, as embarrassing as it is to admit, though so far I’ve managed. I’m also a little shy about showering, and went three or four days without over the weekend because of nervousness – and the fact that I was already limited in my mobility: I have a greater chance of falling again just because I’m in a weakened state right now. This entire incident has given me pause. I’m nearing the top end of middle age, and will be in old fart territory sooner than I’d like to admit. While I don’t think a walk-in tub (“As seen on TV!”) is in my immediate future, we may need to consider a stainless steel grab bar (or two) in the shower. I’ll be all right; it may take a week or two, but my back should be healed up soon. Until then, I’ll be keeping a lower profile, and not turning any handsprings for a few days.

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