"The lies we want to believe tell us something about ourselves."
-- Eula Biss, Having and Being Had

Sunday, September 27, 2020

After the Fall

     It happened to me about three weeks ago. I was on the golf course. It had rained the day before, but now the sun was shining, with temperatures in the near-perfect high 70s. About an hour into the round I climbed up onto the tee box, and without even thinking about it, stepped onto a wet railroad tie. My feet shot out from under me. Boom! Next thing I knew I was on the ground, lying on my left side, my head swimming and leg screaming pain.

     I lay there for a few moments, shaken. My golfing partners came over and hovered and asked if I was okay. I nodded, and said yes, just give me a moment.

     After two or three minutes I labored to my feet. I was still a little fuzzy. So I told my friends I would sit out the hole. We were riding carts. So I just cruised in my cart down the next fairway, gathering my wits. 

     I was okay. My leg hurt, but I could tell nothing was broken, nothing strained. No bleeding, not that I could tell.

     By the next tee I felt able to resume play, and so I did. I was a little sore for the rest of the round -- about two more hours -- but I didn't feel that I was being seriously hampered. After the game I got in the car and drove home. No problem . . . until I pulled into my garage and tried to get out of the car. My left thigh had swollen up, and I had trouble bending the knee. I had to swivel around and gingerly angle my leg out of the door. When I stood up, my leg was killing me.

     I hobbled upstairs, took a shower and examined the damage. It didn't look too bad. It was swelling up, but my leg seemed intact. After the shower I sat down in front of the TV, put some ice on my leg, and just relaxed the rest of the day.

    In the morning it looked looked like I had a football attached to my thigh. That's how swollen it was. And the black-and-blue was starting to show up. Also, as I was getting dressed, I felt a twinge in my left shoulder. 

     I limped around for the next few days, watching my leg get uglier and uglier. The black-and-blue mark went from my hip down my thigh and extended along the back of my knee. It looked worse than ever. But actually, it was feeling a bit better. I thought about going to the doctor, just to make sure, but I decided, really, it wasn't that bad.

     Slowly, my leg began to heal. I skipped golf the following week, but then played the week after -- being very careful around the railroad ties. Now, today, my leg is virtually back to normal. I still feel a twinge in my shoulder, but that's slowly going away as well.

   I'm not I telling you this story just to get your sympathy. I'm telling it as a warning. Falls are a leading cause of injury in older adults. The older we get the more likely we are to fall, and the longer it takes to heal after an injury. Falls can also be extremely serious, even life-threatening. If you break something and are laid up for a time, it's extremely difficult to work your way back -- if you come back at all.

     According to the CDC, one out of five falls causes serious injury like a broken bone or head injury.  Each year over 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms for fall-related injuries. More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls.

     So please, be careful. I'm sure you know what to do. But if you're like me, that doesn't mean you actually do it. So . . . make sure your stairs well-lit. Keep a light on in the house at night. Get rid of throw rugs and other tripping hazards. Keep hallways and other walkways free of cables and wires.

     Be extra careful of wet tiles in bathrooms and kitchens. Wipe up spills right away. Install grab bars and railings. Do not store things in high cabinets, and whatever you do, do not get on a ladder or stepstool.

     Wear shoes that give you some support, and clothes that won't drag on the floor or catch on something. Be extra cautious if you're taking any medications. Consider doing some strength exercises to improve your balance.

     Are there other tripping or falling hazards we should know about? There probably are, but all I've got left to say is:  Watch out for those wet, slippery railroad ties!

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great informative article. Wise advice. Thank you!

ApacheDug said...

Very sorry to read of your fall Tom, my God that sounded awful. I'm surprised you didn't go to the hospital, but relieved you seem to be okay. And yes this IS a good article; I don't consider myself "old" yet as I'm not yet 60, but more & more I seem to be discovering the dangers of falling. I live in a large apartment building of 98 apts, roughly 30 are elderly and I know a couple personally that took bad falls here, one last winter, one this past summer who are STILL in recovery mode. It's been a real wake up call.

Olga said...

Sounds to me like quite the display of macho stubbornness, but good on you for making it a cautionary tale.

gigi-hawaii said...

I am so surprised that you did not see a doctor. I would have. But, hey, all's well that ends well.

Carole said...

I live alone, and do sometimes worry about what would happen if I fell and couldn't get up. At 68 I feel I'm too young and healthy for a medical alert (I know; that does't make sense!). But I do have an Apple watch which has fall detection as well as a button you press for medical emergencies. It calls 911. So that is my safeguard.

We never plan for accidents of course, but even the most cautious of us are at risk. Last winter I fell on black ice; fortunately no injuries. I then purchased some of those clip on ice walkers to give me better traction during my winter walks.

So glad you're ok with no serious injuries from your fall.

Miss Merry said...

Friday, March 6, 2020. I was standing at my kitchen sink rinsing off the lunch dishes. The next thing I knew, I was on the floor. Did I slip on the mat? Was there a puddle of water? I have no idea. All I knew was that I was in the most excruciating pain of my life and it looked to me that my left arm was lying about 5 feet away from my body and I couldn't move it. My first ambulance ride, pain that a fentanyl drip did not affect at all, a five hour stay in the trauma room of the ER, 3 1/2 hours of surgery six days later. A displaced spiral fracture of the humurus requiring a 6 inch plate, nine pins and 28 staples. Six months of healing and PT. I fell washing dishes. . . I am 63.

Barb said...

Carole I do plan to get a medical alert and I have just turned sixty nine and I promised my kids the medial alert would happen before the end of the year. As it is I just programmed my alexa devices so that I could call my kids if I needed help immediately. I have fallen twice. Once on ice on my front steps that put me in the bushes next to them and once on a walkway where it was not my fault except I wasnt looking as carefully as I could have been (the walk had seperated and was not level. falling is not fun and yes, I did see the doctor and go to the hospital both times)

Kevin in Virginia said...

Tom, your cautionary story is important and timely. Thanks for sharing it as a reminder that while we may think we're as able as we once were, the truth is that carelessness, pride and impatience can result in serious injury. And it takes us much longer to recover these days. Once again, you're doing us a wonderful favor through your writing.

DJan said...

I am still nursing a sore finger after a fall more than two weeks ago. I think I might have broken my pinky finger but did not go to the hospital. I taped it to my ring finger and it's almost well. I might have a little less movement in the finger, but it's good enough. Falling at any age is indeed dangerous. Thanks for the reminder. :-)

Rian said...

Tom, I know that they ask you constantly about 'falling' at the doctor's office. And I'm aware that it is a problem for the aged... so your post is a good reminder. I've been lucky (knock on wood) and at 75 have not been prone to falls. However, several years ago at a hotel in New Orleans we were gathering to go to my MIL's funeral and they had apparently just mopped the floor in front of the lady's room. As I walked towards it, my feet flew out from under me and I hit the ground hard on my left side. Nothing was broken, but the jolt down my back left me with bruises and a headache for days. Now I'm extra careful if I see wet floors.

Red said...

Some of us guys still think were SuperMan and don't take care. I'm glad you're alright and I think you learned a lesson that many of need to learn. You've given us some good information.

Tom said...

Olga & Gigi -- I really don't think I'm stubborn (although my wife might disagree!), I just kind of felt around and nothing seemed to be broken or out of place, so I didn't see the need for the ER. I certainly don't think I'm SuperMan ... I'm about as cautious as anyone can be in trying to avoid the Coronavirus. And thanks for the reminder. I'm going to get some salt in preparation for those upcoming icy walkways.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! So glad to hear that you came through it okay. But yes, your reminder about how falls can be something extremely detrimental to us all as we get older is important. I realize my balance isn't what it used to be and that is why I try to practice (and build that strength) as much as possible. Like so many other things we take for granted, our balance needs our attention. And yes, watch those railroad ties!!! ~Kathy

priscilla said...

Oh my poor hubby! We just finished a big job on our garage & granny flat. The painters left last night. This am, he began repositioning & replacing all the heavy items we have on our patio. Probably not a good thing. This afternoon he finally mentioned how badly both hips felt!! Now after Motrin (which he rarely uses), he tells me the hip pain is mostly gone, but now it's in his back. He's 71. I keep thinking we're really not as old as our years tell us, but I think I'm wrong! We ARE old & really need to watch it, but we're in such "good shape for our ages"!!! ?? Time for some "old people" things to be installed around our home!!
Glad you're feeling better.

Janette said...

My elbow did not feel bad when I shattered it! Not one cut on the outside. It is now bionic.
We are putting in all the things for old people in our next house. It frustrates our nephew (Our builder) that we are acting like we are ready to die. It is what it is. Once you fall once, you don’t want to do it again.
Your article is right on track.

Rita said...

Hi Tom,

Good article. Giving your example of pain and injury is a good lead in to warning people about the danger of falls.

I've written many times about how falls can change the lives of older adults. It can make independent living no longer possible and send them to the nursing home.

Rita

Carol Cassara said...

That is my big fear, too. i am so glad it wasn't serious, Tom.

Arkansas Patti said...

Really surprised you didn't go to the doctor. Bones don't have to be displaced to be broken. What a blessing it turned out OK. Just today after several days of rain, I took a tentative step off my porch on to the stairs and it couldn't have been any slicker if it had been iced. I didn't go any further and just glad my first step was cautious.
I hurt my shoulder years ago and it plagued me until I was told to keep my elbow close to my rib when lifting, pulling or pushing for a while. Worked like a charm.
Hope you are A-OK now.

tahoegirl.blog said...

Thank goodness your leg is ok. i think I would have run off to Urgent care. Falls do concern us as we age. And it seems sometimes it's just wierd random things as mentioned in other peoples comments.

Wisewebwoman said...

I would have gone to emerg. But so glad you are recovering.

Having gone on a few trips in the last few years, I am continually appalled with so many older travelers, bathtubs and showers in inns are unusable for people like me with mobility issues. No safety bars of any kind. I will not climb into such a beast but do my best with sponge baths.

Same with toilets (for women). No grip bar.

XO
WWW

Anonymous said...

Tripping over the dog - especially an older dog who doesn't see or hear you coming and is the same color as the rug! My doctors said this is surprisingly common in our age group.

Rebecca Olkowski said...

So sorry you had to go through that. I've tripped a couple of times, usually while walking my dogs and not paying attention. It's very scary. You were lucky, but next time go to the doctor right away. You could develop a blood clot especially with a lot of swelling. Better to be safe than sorry.

Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged said...

I'm glad you didn't break anything or have any long-term damage. After I did an inelegant dismount from a ladder a few years ago and broke my hip, I've been much more careful. Once you learn that it CAN happen to you, you are much more mindful about where your feet are landing.

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Happy said...

A few days ago Ron Paul (father of Rand) had what appeared to be a TIA while being interviewed. It was a great real time view of what can happen at a moments notice, he was unable to speak or respond to the interviewer. Fortunately he was live on streaming and was immediately assisted. As a nurse I have anecdotally noticed that several elderly with life alerts or other devices do not use them when they fall or have an emergency. The main reason is that they get confused after the event and forget they have the alert device or phone on hand.

Linda Myers said...

These days I pay attention to every step I take. I've developed arthritis in my knee and my hip, and you never know when you step just right (just wrong, I should say). I keep thinking I'm going to get over it, but probably not. We're in our summer place in Washington now, where it's hilly and even more of a challenge.

Still, we're all in this together, aren't we?

Nancy Coiner said...

Yes, the balance thing is so hard. A friend who dances told me it's the "proprioperceptual system" that slows down. (I love that term!) Glad you're okay! My husband has had two spills in the woods (roots or rocks in the path). He now takes his cell phone if he walks in the woods without me.

Snowbrush said...

Tom, I'm so relieved that your fall wasn't worse. If you had been a female, might you have behaved less stoically while with your friends, do you think?