I fell on my ass for the first time last night.
Now I understand that absent of context you’re likely to think I’m lying. Any normal adult will have fallen on their ass countless times in their life, both literally and figuratively. Factor in that I’ve played ice hockey for most of my life and it would be nothing short of a miracle for me to have remained upright for fifty-one years on the trot.
There is context however. Hoo boy is there context.
In the evening on August 28th, while walking home from my local internet café, I was struck by a hit and run driver. The impact with the vehicle shattered the fibula and tibia in my right leg. The subsequent impact with the pavement–I landed on my head, not my ass–left me with concussion, a loss of hearing in my right ear, abrasions and contusions over most of my body. In that moment I also inhaled enough dirt into my lungs that I contracted pneumonia.
The upshot of all that was that doctors placed me in an induced coma for two weeks while antibiotics cleared my infected lungs. When I awoke with no recollection of the accident there were a series of metal rods and rubber spacers protruding from my leg. Known as an external orbital fixation the device held my bones in place until I was healthy enough to undergo surgery to have a titanium rod placed in my leg. Shortly after that surgery I was provided with a walker and physical therapy so that I could hop short distances–say to the bathroom–under my own power and without falling on my ass–which gives us the required context.
When I became a sufficiently proficient hopper I was transferred from hospital to respite care, which presented far more of a challenge. In hospital the head was right next to my bed. In the respite facility it was two rooms away. The dining room wasn’t far but there were two heavy doors to be negotiated. There were also two doors between me and the card room where I could connect to the internet. It was not close, however, being at the opposite end of the building. As my strength and confidence grew I spent less time in my room and more online in the card room. Then, last night, life reminded me that I was still far from out of the woods.
At ten-thirty I decided to pack it in for the night. I hopped out of the card room then through the TV room past several patients watching the Clemson/Notre Dame tilt. When I reached the glass door that led to the hall I began to back my way out, a method that allowed me to keep two hands on the walker at all times. Another patient approached from down the hall. I stopped halfway through the doorway in case he decided to open the door for me. When he didn’t I pushed against the door once more. Naturally that is when he chose to assist and, inertia not being my friend in that moment, I ended up on my ass for the first time since I had begun using the walker.
Happily I had the presence of mind to pivot ninety degrees, use the wall to partially break my fall, and to keep my injured leg from contacting the ground. As a result only my pride and butt cheeks suffered any further injury. It was a frightening moment though.
Several patients emerged from the TV room to check on me and offer to get me to my feet. After graciously refusing I asked one of them to fetch the staff, who would know how to accomplish that feat safely.
Once more vertical I was surprised at how I felt. Despite a three-week regimen of morphine or Tylenol drips succeeded by Oxycodone and Motrin tablets I had constantly been dealing with pain. Now I was suddenly pain-free. Well except for my aforementioned butt cheeks. Even better I felt positively spry. The seventy-five foot hallway that led from the TV room to my quarters usually drove my heart rate to heights that required at least one pause along the way if not two or three. This time, however, I zipped down the passage as though Oscar Pistorius was on my heels, arriving at my bed neither breathing heavily nor having broken a sweat.
Obviously my temporary condition was down to the adrenaline my body pumped into my bloodstream in response to my fright. The evening’s medication was almost certainly redundant; I felt almost normal. Laying in bed did not cause my knee to seize up or shooting pains to attack my lower leg and ankle. I was in complete comfort.
What’s more I was as clearheaded and alert as I had been since regaining consciousness. The only downside to my euphoria was that it took me more than two hours to fall asleep. As I lay there, however, I couldn’t help but wonder how nature, so often cruel and uncaring, had shown the compassion to administer such an effective drug after science had struggled long and mightily to help me cope with my trauma.
Humanity dreams of conquering not only this world, finding solutions for global warming and pollution, but also distant planets which we might terra-form to fit our needs. This thankfully harmless little incident served to remind me we are hopelessly out of our league with such fantasies. As complex as our understanding of nature may be she always has a simple countermeasure to put us in our place, reminding us who has the mastery. Perhaps one day we’ll come to accept that and stop falling on our collective asses.