I kicked a ladder out from under myself yesterday and fell six feet, landing flat on my back. Luckily, I didn’t land on the ladder, or my tools, or the heat-pump, or the border of the patio. I couldn’t believe it when I felt the ladder going. Fifty years of using ladders without an accident, and now this!? I was pruning an apple tree at the time, and tried to grab the branches as I fell. My upper body was surrounded by them (which was probably why I lost touch with the fact that the ladder was leaning), and I was fairly confident that I would succeed, but I didn’t. I then realized that I was irretrievably falling, and that, given my height, it was going to hurt, and then it hurt. The jarring was incredible and the pain instant, but my first problem was that I couldn’t breathe.
When I finally caught my breath, I made sure that my parts would move, and then I lay there wondering if my neighbors had seen me fall, and hoping they hadn’t because I am NOT the kind of idiot who falls off ladders. The day was turning to night, and the air was getting cold, and all that I had on were coveralls, so I wanted to get indoors as soon as possible. I began the journey on hands and knees as gyrating strings of lightning filled my vision. I didn’t think I had hit my head, so I assumed the pain was the cause of the visual effects. I made it to the back door, but couldn’t lift my hand to open it, so I had to lay on my side to reach for the doorknob. I got back onto hands and knees and crawled across the laundry room in the direction of the kitchen. When I came to the single eight-inch step between the two, I couldn’t raise my arms high enough to cross it, so I returned to my side and tried to inch my way over. I got my head stuck in the corner under the open door (it's bottom being at same height as the kitchen floor), and lay there or a long time shivering (the laundry room being unheated and me being on the floor), hurting, wondering how to get out from under the door, and hoping I could make it into the kitchen before Peggy came home in about an hour. I hoped this partly to spare her the shock of finding me, but also because shivering on a hard floor was making the pain worse.
It being news time, I thought that the TV might distract me from how much I hurt, but I would have to get up that step to get to it. I reflected on the fact that most people would be praying about now, and that I would too if I had the least idea it would help. Finally, my body began to move as if it had a plan of its own, so I let it take over. After numerous attempts, it made its way into the kitchen (I don't know how). It didn’t even try to get back onto hands and knees, but inched along on its side, its goal being a chair in the adjacent den. We passed the TV remote, so I turned it on, but immediately lost the remote, and had to settle for a movie about a little girl and her pig. As my body crawled along, I wondered how it was ever going to into that chair. As it turned out, it couldn’t. I was disappointed, but had to give it an A for effort.
It was past time for Brewsky’s supper, but he was so weirded-out by my behavior that he didn’t even cry. When Peggy came home, my body and I were on the floor in the dark, me wondering where the remote was, it trembling, and both of us watching a little girl sneak a pig into her school desk. Peggy had been shopping, so, not wanting to upset her, I asked about her trip, and she showed me her purchases. Since I never lie on the floor in the dark watching what I calljunk TV, she finally asked if I was okay. I told her what had happened, and asked her to find my glasses and gather my tools. She came back in saying that she couldn’t find them all. I suggested that she look in the tree.
That chore being done, she brought me a 1’x’3 plywood platform that I had made for some long ago project and then saved in the thought that I would probably need it it again for one thing or another. It being four inches tall, I thought that maybe I could use it to get myself high enough to transfer into the chair. With much help from Peggy, I succeeded. I then had her bring me a jar to pee in. I also had to shit, so, again with much help from her and with the aid of a walker that we had bought when she hurt her own back (and then kept in case we needed it again), she got me onto the pot. I sat there thinking about how glad I was that this wasn’t our first date. I couldn’t push to get the shit out, so, giving up on that project, I had her help me to bed. I lay there for two hours, high on oxycodone and listening to relaxing music from the '50s, but the pain never let up, and ice packs, which usually help pain a lot, didn't help any. I had her move me back into the den where I became nauseous, dizzy, and shivered while sweat poured off my body. I thought I might faint, but the sickness passed, and Peggy brought me my supper. We watched two episodes of Cheyenne (1955). It was either that or Peter Gunn (1958) because both DVD sets had just arrived, and I was eager to watch them.
She kept bringing me ice packs, but they weren’t helping, so I asked for a heating pad, and it did help some. After supper, Cheyenne, one Aleve, and a whopping dose of Neurontin, she helped me back to bed where I more or less passed out from the Neurontin. Without it, I don’t know if I would have slept at all. I only had to awaken her once for my pee jar during the night, so that was a relief. Now, I’m up, and here I sit, dependent upon her for everything.
Tomorrow (Monday), I will see if I can get in to see my primary care doc. He’s good about same day appointments (a rarity in America), so I’m confident that I can either see him or someone in his practice, and maybe get a steroid shot. Today, I’ll try to get some movement back. I can use my arms, and bend my knees and back, but that’s pretty much all I can do without the pain stopping me. My biggest worry is kidney damage because that’s where the pain is, but, so far, I haven’t passed any blood. I thought of going to Urgent Care, but would need more help than Peggy could provide without endangering herself, and I sure as hell don’t want to pay for an ambulance or ask friends to help if I don’t have to. Mostly, I just don’t want to go.
Later: I came back and found a video for Peter Gunn. When the show comes on, the red sparkly-looking things in the photo pulse in harmony with the music, making for what is surely the most intense beginning for any show that was ever on TV. I would even call the program surreal, film noire at its best. The above album made the Top Ten. The style of jazz was popular in L.A. in the '50s and is called West Coast Cool.
Update on Monday. The doctor thinks I might have broken one or more vertebra. He ordered stat blood work, stat x-rays, and a stat CAT scan. These tests took four hours because the CAT scan people wouldn’t do their job until the blood work people had done theirs. Their concern was that my kidneys be okay because I had to drink one kind of contrast and have another kind injected through an IV, and both are excreted through the kidneys. Now, I’m home waiting for test results…
My internist’s physician’s assistant called as I was writing the last sentence (nice things happen to nice people, which is why he called at such a fortuitous time). The x-rays and CAT scan showed that my L1 vertebra is crushed to half its normal size (which is a lot), and that I have either a cyst, a tumor, or a hematoma on my left kidney. He ordered an MRI on both the vertebra and the kidney, and said he would try to rush it through, but since it requires insurance pre—approval, it might not happen today. He also referred me to a surgical neurologist to be evaluated for (what else?) surgery. As for the kidney problem, I’ll be seeing a nephrologist if it’s a tumor. Otherwise, it will just require a periodic re-evaluation.
As for how I’m doing, I can’t get even reasonably comfortable in any position, but the longer I stay in a position, the more uncomfortable I become, so I spend a lot of time switching between sitting and standing, being still and stretching, standing and walking, etc. It takes a long time and a lot of painful effort to switch positions in bed, and it’s a much bigger hassle to get out of bed, especially after a few hours, and then when I’m out, I need help to walk until I get limbered up. And, of course, there are my usual pain problems which were being helped by QiGong, something that I can no longer do. As for the good news, at least I can walk now. It’s not pretty because I’m stiff, guarded, tentative, and hunched over, but at least it’s walking. Presently, I’m in slightly less pain because I took a stiff dose of oxycodone (the narcotic that’s found in Percocet) an hour ago.
I’m bummed about the test results, but don’t know enough to know how bummed to be, and am good at not letting my fears run away with me. As for Peggy, she’s in tears and nearly frantic, but she has the ability to bounce back from negative feelings with amazing rapidity. It’s also true that her reaction is partly determined by my own, so if I stay centered, it helps her to stay centered. Fortunately, years of experience (including three cancer scares) have made it easier for me to stay centered, at least in regard to medical problems.