I've Fallen & I Can't Get Up

I love my job. I get to help people and I get to drive around all day while I’m doing it. It bites during bad weather, but most of the time, it’s fun. I listen to the radio or crank up some tunes or plug in a talking book. I drink coffee and make hands-free phone calls. I get to go home for lunch sometimes. If I want, I can let my dog ride around with me. It’s awesome.

We’ve had a helluva winter here, frequent snow and lots of changing precipitation, which means that we’ve had every form of freezing & frozen water fall out of the sky, and every form of freezing, melting, slushing and refreezing crap on the ground. Not great for driving around in. Not great for walking around in either. Great for emergency room business and auto body shops. Last week, we had a lot of slush on top of some very hard ice covering a lot of our patients’ driveways and walkways. You learn very quickly to avoid the slush-disguised ice and to walk instead over the snow on the grass because you can get some traction in it.

A week ago, I was seeing a couple of my peeps at a senior/handicapped apartment complex. I went in and saw one of them, then went out to my car to get something before seeing the other one. As I was crossing the slushy but mostly clear parking lot, one of my former patients came over to me and asked if I could help her walk to her car so she wouldn’t fall. I did, and she got into her car without incident. I got my paperwork out of my car and went back in to see my second patient. When I came out again, I carefully avoided all the slushy, icy spots in the lot, including the one about a foot from my car door. I opened my door, stepped on a clear spot to get into the driver’s seat and took sudden flight.

Wikipedia provides a definition for one of the banes of our existence here in coastal, southern New England:

Black (or Glare) ice is ice frozen without many air bubbles trapped inside, making it transparent. This type of ice takes the color of the material it lays on top of, often wet asphalt or a darkened pond. Its difficult-to-detect nature makes it a significant hazard to drivers, pedestrians, and sailors.

Invisible ice would be a better name for it. It’s an accident waiting to happen, and the cause of many a close encounter between a guardrail and your car, or between the pavement and your hip. It makes whatever comes in contact with it move faster than a speeding bullet and, in some cases, leap tall buildings in a single bound, only to come crashing back to earth. That was more or less what happened in my case. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so quickly in my entire life.

When I crashed to earth, I landed flat on my back, and I felt the impact first over my sacram, which is that flat bony shelf just below your waist and just above your butt cheeks. I landed so hard, it literally knocked the piss out of me, or as we say in polite medical circles, I voided, instantly. That scared me. So did the fact that I’m osteopenic. The rest of my torso followed instantaneously and as I lay there, flat out on the cold concrete, I howled loudly, “OW, OW, OW, OW, OW!!!!” I’m not sure how long I kept that up, but no one came out of the building, which may have been just as well since most of the residents are over 80 years old, so other than keeping me company or calling someone, I’m not sure what any of them could have done. In any case, I finally lifted my head, did a quick inventory to see if I could move stuff, and slowly, stiffly hauled myself up. Hanging on with one arm, I started tossing my scattered stuff into the car — my work bag, my clipboard, my documentation, and my Palm Pilot, which slid out of my pocket when I fell. Because now my corduroys were soaking wet, I yanked some protective sheets from my work bag, which we use to provide a barrier between our work stuff and the surfaces of our patients’ homes, and placed them on my car seat. Oh, I’m so practical in an emergency. I drove home, changed my clothes and called the office.

The fact that I had fallen on the job was not without some irony. In my job, many of my patients become my patients because they have fallen. And if one of our peeps falls while they are under our care, the first clinician who visits them afterward has to complete a thorough fall assessment. So, I’m not without a certain amount of knowledge and experience in this realm. However, I did learn a few things from my adventure. But they were not the things I expected to learn, and they did not make me happy.

{See ER: It Was More Fun On TV for Part Two.}


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This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 10:02 pm, filed under Cognitive Dysfunction & Depression, Health & Healthcare, My Work Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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