Everybody is sharing heartwarming stories of Christmases and Hannukahs past. Not me. I'd rather tell about the time I fell down my basement stairs.
If I'm lucky there will be a moral to this story. If not, maybe you'll get a giggle or two at my expense.
I think it should be pointed out that most people who fall down a flight of stairs are drunk. And it is quite possible to break one's neck during an execution of this maneuver, drunk or sober.
The day, more than a decade ago, began inauspiciously enough. Get up, get my younger daughter up, make her lunch, drive her to school, go to work, work all day, come home. I don't know where the kids were when I got home, but they weren't around for some reason. Wait a minute, one of them was in college I think, and the other was playing a sport or working.
Before checking the mail, I put down my purse and took a basket of clothes down to the laundry room after almost tripping over it. In retrospect, it would have been smarter to change clothes first, but the basket bugged me.
Going downstairs, I noticed that the light on the way to the basement was out. It is located about four steps from the top and about a foot above a stair.
Still in my work clothes, which included a skirt and patent leather heels, I decided to change the burnt out bulb. I got a new one, and, while hunkering down, holding the new light in one hand, I started unscrewing the cover over the fixture.
Somehow, some way, my foot suddenly slid out from under me. Propelled by the slippery surface of the shoe, the next thing I knew my whole body was suddenly turned upside down and heading for the basement floor.
As my backside hit each one of the stairs with a resounding ker-thunk, ker-thunk, ker-thunk, I remembered stories of other people who had fallen this way. All dead. Usually the survivors didn't make the news. "You can die from this," I thought, unable to stop the momentum, lightbulb still in hand. I couldn't reach the railing. There was nothing to grab to stop my headlong rush to the bottom. I was a passenger on a train with no brakes.
The back of my head hit the basement floor pretty hard. The tile softened the blow, but I'm not sure how much. For some reason it didn't hurt, but it did sound funny. I still don't know if I was knocked out or not. I do know when I opened my eyes I was looking into the laundry room and I could have sworn I had landed facing the other way. The lightbulb was shattered. Hmm. Note to self: You are not dead. Or paralyzed. And don't wear those shoes to change lightbulbs any more.
My neck didn't hurt. My butt sure did, though.
On reflection, I must have been unconscious because I was having a hard time getting my bearings. I wasn't dizzy, but I was out of it. I knew I had to get upstairs, but when I got to my feet, they didn't seem attached to my body. My vision was iffy at best. I remember squinting while I tried to focus.
I held on to the railing with my right hand and braced myself with my left. Slowly i began to drag myself up the stairs stiff-legged like a robot. I don't know why, but it just seemed easier to move that way.
When I got to the phone in the kitchen I leaned against the wall with my rear end against the refrigerator and didn't have a clue what to dial. We didn't have 911 service yet. So, I called the operator. "O." How hard could that be? Well, it rang and rang, but no one answered. Hmmmm. I stared at the wall again, trying to think, which wasn't happening very easily.
Somehow I noticed a piece of adhesive tape with EMERGENCY NUMBER POLICE/FIRE written on it. I'd left it there for babysitters years before and never removed it. I had to dial it more than a few times because I kept transposing the numbers.
When i finally got through, which seemed to take forever, I told the operator that I had fallen down the stairs and needed some help. I tried to talk normally, but I couldn't. My speech was slow and slurred; I must have sounded drunk or stupid. "I fell down my stairs and I think I hurt myself." There was some blood, but at least it wasn't gushing.
I told the operator I would meet the paramedics outside.
"Stay where you are, we'll come to you."
Nope. "My house is a mess, I'll meet you outside." Typical female. I even changed into fresh clothes. But I felt like I was in slow motion, like someone with a serious neurological disorder. I WAS a person with a serious neurological disorder.
When the paramedics got there, I was sitting on the front step like a little kid waiting for the bus. They stabilized my neck and one by one they started asking me questions about two inches from my face. I thought it was because Iwas talking so softly, slowly and hesitantly. That was part of the reason, I guess. But talking funny made them think I'd been drinking so everybody was trying to get a whiff of alcohol on my breath. As I recall, it was more Cheetos than cabernet.
At the hospital they began picking glass out of my head, my arms, my hands, and my neck. They did a CAT scan of my head, gave me a tetanus shot, and presented me to the attending physician for release. He checked out my head one more time and said they missed a spot, so I got several stitches, too.
My daughter came to take me home.
Two days later a pair of headlight-shaped bright yellow, green and purple bruises showed up on each of my butt cheeks. I should have had a picture taken.
Three days later I was still talking funny, like I was under water, but gradually I was able to speak normally again.
Two weeks later I went back to have the stitches taken out. I was running a low grade fever for some reason and they didn't know why.
Two days after that I began to have symptoms of the flu. My joints ached. I was running a temperature of 101 or 102. I did notice that there was an inflamed area on my pinky finger where some glass had been removed.
Another day passed. Jim Henson was on the cover of People Magazine. He had just died of a strep inflection that he ignored, thinking it was the flu. The flu I had was getting worse. Then I suddenly remembered, wait a minute, I don't get the flu. Even when it knocked out half my high school twice, I never got it. [Knock on wood.]
Here's where the second of the two most important courses I ever took in school kicked in. The first most important was high school typing. The second was microbiology in college.
I suddenly realized that my inflamed finger was probably an infection caused by some glass that hadn't been removed and it was festering under the skin, pumping out evil toxins and the like from staph or strep bugs coursing through my body. Untreated, death was an option. Second note to self: Next time make sure they remove all the broken glass and clean the wound.
I remember calling my doctor who agreed I didn't have the flu, but probably some kind of systemic infection coming from the inflamed finger.
He put me on a powerful antibiotic that was first used to treat a drug resistent strain of gonnorhea in soldiers returning from Vietnam. That may explain why the pharmacist asked me whatI was taking it for when I went to pick it up. No, I haven't been "working" in Vietnam.
The infection cleared up very quickly. The bruise on my butt took a little longer.
The moral of this story is when you're heading for a fall, don't let your ass hit the floor on your way down.