A little over a month ago I was getting into the holiday spirit. On Wednesday, December 6th, I decided mid-morning to put up some lights in the lovely palo verde tree in the front yard. Without telling the hubs or asking him to spot me, I dragged the big extension ladder out to the front and set it up underneath the tree. In my poor preparation, I set the ladder up wrong, focusing instead on how gorgeous the solar lights would look wrapped around the tree limbs. My cursory push down onto the base rung of the ladder was totally inadequate. The ground was soft but I ignored it in my pre-holiday arrogance. I’d done the job dozens of times.
Back to the story. I climbed up about seven feet on the ladder and began reaching over to a limb on my left with my arms full of Christmas lights.
The rest is a complete blank.
I don’t remember anything at all after that. I don’t remember falling. I don’t remember my dear Jesse finding me on the ground, insisting that I needed to go to the ER. I don’t remember arguing with him that I needed to make sure I had on clean underwear (I was a child of the ‘50’s when mothers told their daughters to make sure their undergarments were clean in case they got hit by a bus). I don’t remember demanding that he call my regular doctor which didn’t make any sense except I wanted to be in charge. My loving partner is used to my being demanding at times, but it was bizarre that I can’t actually recall being so terribly bossy in my altered state. I don’t remember being covered with dust and debris or my husband using the WaterPik to clean the dirt out of my mouth and gently wiping the earth out of my nose. I don’t remember his insisting that I needed to go to the hospital, then helping me getting into our old SUV, then his driving me to the clinic.
It was only later that he told me he was worried that he would have to call 911 because of my odd belligerence.
I started to become aware of my surroundings as I sat in a wheelchair clutching my purse (another 50’s habit) when the staff at the first clinic we went to realized that I’d lost consciousness from the fall, and so we’d have to go on ahead to the ER.
I do remember people in an exam room asking me who was the president of the United States. I made a screwy face and answered correctly. My expression made them all laugh. They put one of those terrible collars around my neck in order to stabilize me, gave me some strong medication. I went into that dull state of being, now completely aware that I’d broken my shoulder. The collar was ill-fitting and stiff, I was warned not to pull on it. Later on, I was wheeled down the hall and admitted to the hospital for my fractured arm. In the hallway, one of the nurses told another to remove the restraining strap from my gurney. I guess I was in a place where people were often brought in with behavior problems, impairment or even trouble with the law. Egads.
I ended up being diagnosed with a multiple closed fractures in my left humerus. I had broken my left shoulder head in three parts and they were checking to make sure I didn’t have an internal bleed in my belly. According to the subsequent tests they did on me I had not suffered a concussion, stroke, or heart attack. There was no brain damage, only my bruises and wounded ego over such an expensive mistake.
Everyone in the medical field told me it could have been worse. My friends in the medical field all said the same thing. The dear hubby keeps telling me that. Could have been much worse. Now I am starting to believe them.
Long story short-the universe dumped me on my head that day. It was a total cosmic wake up call of paramount importance second only to one or two other life changing whacks I’ve experienced. The old zen parable of “attention!” comes to mind.
I’m recovering well and ready for physical therapy to start up. When all this happened I was working on my novel, a sideline journey using parts of my still unfinished memoir. I’d just started working with a new writing group, new friends I’m cherishing for their ability to withstand their own challenges while sharing stories together.
So on December 6th, I began my four -day journey in the hospital. And I began a new lesson in vulnerability in a way I’d never experienced before. My first nurse was a young good-looking man with four kids. I had to use a bed pan in front of a man I didn’t know. I had to be lifted by people I didn’t know. Apparently I was apologizing for the weight I needed to lose. I mean, talk about being vulnerable. I was worried about my breath smelling bad. What woman isn’t vain to some extent? Grateful for the female nurses who later were assigned to me, I love each and every one of them like sisters now.
I don’t like vulnerability. Yet at the same time, having no control and relying on others forces you into compassion. You become compliant or sweet or you become a jerk. I try to be the former. It is a state of being re-introduced to the goodness, kindness, and relying on the professionalism of others and is a strong reminder of all the qualified people out there in the world. God bless them. I miss the doctors, nurses and staff who tended to me and looked after me. They are all angels and I was honored to meet them. It was not exactly the way I wanted to meet new people, but hey. These things happen.
Vulnerability is described as “the quality of state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Nobody needs to hear about how getting older or suffering from a disability makes us feel especially tender or vulnerable.
Just by following the national politics, most of “us” are reminded daily of a certain vulnerability because of the bully-buffoon in the White House. Those of us who find each other, regardless of whether or not we agree on politics, share our stories of life and death and everything in-between.
With my adorable husband helping me and with the support of friends and family, there is always a way to adjust to not having use of one’s full potential. There are times when I want to feel sorry for myself, but I won’t let it come in full force.
I will share more of my broken shoulder story later on.
Writing prompt: write about feeling vulnerable. When in your life have you felt, or do you feel, the most vulnerable? What images come to your mind? Use descriptions. What helped you get through those times? If you are going through them now, what tools are you using? How does journaling writing, or creativity help?
portrait of the writer after 30,000 words on working novel