A year after the fall

One year ago, on January 6, 2021, I spent the day horrified as each minute at our beloved U.S. Capitol was shown on television. About 6:30 PM, I was opening the door to let my dogs into the backyard and something came over the TV that caught my attention. I turned quickly to see the picture and as I did my right knee gave way and I fell, with my leg in a peculiar position under a nest of tables. I heard a crack as I fell and realized I was in trouble. When I could catch my breath after comforting my two little furry caretakers, I called my daughter. She was in her office, and I told her that I couldn’t move because of the pain and suggested she call 911. I had promised both my son and daughter to keep my phone with me at all times, and I urge others to do the same.

The ambulance arrived and the first thing the caring attendants wanted to do was to start morphine. I refused and my daughter backed me up, telling them that I would take Tylenol. The pain was excruciating, but I knew it would probably be long term.

I arrived at Marin General Hospital’s emergency room, and I was immediately X-rayed and told I had broken my femur and knee. The attending physician commented that the orthopedist on call said it was not an emergency, and he would see me the next day.

The next afternoon the surgeon came in and asked why I didn’t have a stabilizer on that leg. I could sense his anger as he faulted the ER physician. I went by ambulance to his office a month later and more X-rays were taken at his office. By then the healing process was well underway, though he did comment that my knee was not aligned as he would have liked.

Because of COVID, the rehab facility recommended to me was closed, and on January 9 I was sent to another which had an available bed.

I don’t mean for this to be about me, although it is important to understand where I was in order to explain the emotions of those around me.

The first night in the hospital, as I was awake with my TV on, the staff stopped in my room at all hours, unable to believe what was happening in Washington. Their horror was actually eye-opening because they were honest in their feelings about a president who would not only allow this to happen but encourage it. One of the nurses said to me that he had left his home country because of facing this kind of coup.

On the day I was transferred to the acute care center, I was given a small room where I stayed for two weeks in quarantine. Honestly, it was a nightmare. The physician in charge couldn’t get my order of medication straight and each time I would ask about something as simple as baby aspirin (I have a-fib) she would counter by saying what I really needed was morphine, I suppose to shut me up. I took regular-strength Tylenol every four hours and made it just fine. I needed a clear head to protect myself.

Several of my attendants during the period of isolation had come from Haiti. Though it was difficult to communicate, I had such respect for them. And they, too, came to my room to keep up with the television coverage of the assault on the Capitol. One guy was teary as he watched.

After two weeks, I was moved to the main wing, and I was grateful to have a private room. The burden of care was left to the aides, who were overworked and were even charged $5 to eat any of the leftover food for lunch. Otherwise, it was thrown out. The physicians were almost impossible to contact, and each morning I would have to re-educate the nurse about my medications. My friends were the aides. One morning about 5 AM, I said to the one on the night shift that she looked very tired. She admitted she was and said she would have a few minutes to rest before she started her day job at 8 AM. I cannot express how much respect I feel for her and others who work these hours to take care of their families. I was impressed when talking with some who shared the accomplishments of their children, having made college possible so they could have a career.

I was thankful for my iPad and books on Audible, because they helped keep me sane. Friends dropped off thoughtful gifts at the door of the facility, and I found I would have to call the desk and leave a reminder to get them delivered. With COVID rampant, I didn’t see a single person from outside the facility unless it was on an ambulance trip to the clinic.

My son and daughter called each day, and I tried hard to be positive. I was longing to be home, cuddling Kodi and Zach, my furry companions. It was just short of three months at the facility when I was allowed to leave.

I had physical therapy at home and caretakers 24 hours a day for about a month. My kids had a hospital bed delivered, and I was able to pedal around in a wheelchair in our one-level house, regaining my independence.

And all this time I was thinking about the country and the terrible misinformation being put out. What was and is the most troubling are people who accept without question someone else’s views without questioning the absurdity of the untruths.

I was dismissed, after six months, by my orthopedic surgeon. Several weeks later, I was standing loading clothes into the washing machine and felt my leg collapse, ending up on the floor with a badly injured tailbone. My daughter called for help, and the nice guys from the county helped me up. I remembered my orthopedist saying my knee had not healed as straight as he would have liked. At that time, I could think of nothing but my painful tailbone and being grateful I hadn’t broken another bone.

My knee continued to be extremely painful when rising to stand. I learned that my doctor doesn’t “do” joints, so I made an appointment with another orthopedist in his group. I was able to see him in December, and my son had the chance to finally meet one of the doctors and see the X-rays. It was clear that the knee is very much out of line, and there is actually no fix. Sometimes the popping sound is fairly loud. I was given a brace and a prescription for a wheelchair. I commented on the way out that it’s kind of discouraging when there is no return appointment.

And about the morphine! I survived on the Tylenol and now take two regular-strength tablets before going to bed. I want to be in control of my reasoning as long as possible, realizing there may come a day when I will need/want the oblivion of narcotics. I am not judging others for their needs at all. I am speaking only for myself, being aware of the danger.

This has been good and bad news. I am totally independent and living comfortably, even changing the sheets on my queen-size bed. I can come and go into the yard or to the front sidewalk. My knee doesn’t hurt, unless I am in the process of standing or sitting. Some might see it as wheelchair bound, but I do not. I have many memories of wonderful trips, and I have found I spend a lot of time reading and learning about other cultures. I attend church and many meetings on Zoom. This morning our book club met and had a great discussion. After having lived in Arkansas for 80 years, I am grateful to have the experience of living in California and sharing a home with my daughter. I am a member of a wonderfully inclusive and loving Presbyterian Church, and my faith in our Lord is stronger than ever. From Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God,” I have finally understood the power of that verse. I can be still and hear that voice and know that by grace I am worthy of His love.

And as for the other January 6 anniversary: I keep hearing, in my head, President Franklin Roosevelt saying “a date that will live in infamy.” Let us pray that we will never again see this degree of hatred and violence toward our elected officials who strive to keep the United States a strong nation, regarded with respect, as we pledge allegiance to its flag.

Survival aids (picture from Jan. 2020, by my daughter)