Well, it happened again. I’d be tempted to say “Damn” or worse, but I just did my annual Lenten confession, receiving forgiveness for cussing. I fell. I seem to be getting every possible clue that my abilities are waning. What’s so surprising, even discouraging, is that this dude believes that he has got it. You know what I mean. Mike drop. I AM on top of things. This firstborn child has never let his responsibilities get ahead of him. If I wanted it, and if I could plan for it, scheme for it, delay gratification for it, I got it.
But this is something I not only apparently cannot plan for; I can’t plan not to have happen. In the last week I have driven up on a curb in moderately heavy traffic, left treasured CDs on top of the car and sailed down the highway, left a container on top of the car the next day (but remembered and retrieved it later), and now fallen flat on my side. And a couple of other brain farts that I now, of course, cannot remember. I just remember that I had them.
So what happened? On February 19 I had laparoscopic gallbladder surgery, and I have completely recovered from that. I’ve been feeling my oats again. Yesterday, I went through the Missouri Botanical Gardens photographing this luscious, bursting spring and sharing the miracle on Facebook. Today, I drove down to Barnes Jewish in St. Louis’ Central West End for my final meeting with Dr. Obeid Ilahi, a fine surgeon and a nice guy. I parked in the Euclid Parking Garage on Level 3, the Bridge Level—something I’ve done at least a hundred times for my disabled spouse or visiting friends. I was a bit late, so I hurried from the car across two lanes and a row of parking space towards the sliding electric doors that open to the bridge. In the middle of this space, I found myself hurtling towards the ground. My foot had not quite cleared the yellow cement bar at the end of a parking space. First my right knee, then a slight roll to my right hip, then another slight roll onto my right shoulder, and finally placing my left hand on the concrete. It could have been a rehearsed stunt, it went down so perfectly.
My first thought was a flashback three years to the time when my foot hit a bump in the sidewalk on South Grand and a similar fall occured. Except that time, not only did the fall sequence unfold, but also my forehead banged sharply on the concrete, my eyeglasses went flying in one direction and my hearing aid went flying in another direction. That time, for the second time in my life, I saw stars and heard birds singing. This time, I noted that at least I had not cracked my skull. Lying there on the soiled, dirty concrete, I did a mental survey of all my joints and limbs, and found no pain! Wha…?
I got up immediately and gingerly began the walk across the bridge, to the main elevators and up to the 8th floor. I kept walking and assessing: walk, no limp, walk, no apparent pain, walk, feeling really shook up … I decide to stop at the Information Booth by the elevators. I told the woman I had fallen. She immediately examined me, but we found no blood, no bruises, maybe a bit of a smudge on my forehead. I now noticed I was feeling some pressure in my chest. The woman wanted me to file a report, but I was concerned about not missing my appointment with Dr. Ilahi. I sat there awhile and monitored my breathing. Pulse and breathing seem close to normal, but I’m still shook up. Again, tentatively, but deliberately I make my way to the elevators and come to Dr. Ilahi’s suite.
I’m still not sure how this is going to turn out, so I check in and give Stephen a quick call. “I’ve fallen, but I think I’m ok. I just thought you should …” One can never complete a call from the bowels of Barnes. Call fail. I decide I just need to go back to the office. Now they are waiting for me. A young woman questions me about my fall, and Officer Kenneth, gun holstered and all, interviews me in great detail about the wheres, whens, whats and hows of the event. Trying to scrounge a scintilla of pride and humor from this situation, I proclaim, “Officer, you would have been proud of me. I did a classic fall and roll.” Officer is not impressed. I try again: “See, I can even stand on one leg.” <<demonstrates>> His stern decorum is not moved.
So now I am finally in the hands of the doctor’s nurse, Alice. I like Alice, she is a generation younger than me, but she always makes me feel like, “Ok, son, it’s going to be ok. Just follow the doctor’s directions and call us if anything goes wrong.” Alice takes my vital signs. Pulse, normal. Breathing, normal. Temperature, 98.7. Blood pressure, 92/177. Woah. I say, “Now I am kind of upset. I’m sure it would be a lot lower the next time you take it.” Alice says nothing to this. She leads me silently to the waiting room and closes the door.
I’m finally forgetting for a minute that I have decked myself. I’m remembering my interactions with Dr. Obeid Ilahi. He’s a trauma surgeon. The first thing I did when I met him was to grill him on why was I assigned a trauma surgeon. Was my operation going to be more difficult? Not particularly, he replied. But Dr. Ilahi and I had hit it off, and I was lucky to go into the operation with confidence. Just as the anesthetologist had started the anesthetic, I saw my surgeon at my feet. I smiled and said, “Good luck.” He replied, “Good luck to you.” Then I went under and woke up minus one extremely hypertropic gallbladder. It all turned out fine. I passed my final exam with flying colors and bid the good doctor goodbye.
Truth in advertising: a couple of hours later, I began to notice some pain/soreness in my hip. I figure I am going to have a sore hip for a couple of days, and of course, I will seek medical help if it does not improve. I am still walking normally, if a bit slowly, and spent the evening playing bridge.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Tonight, I’m not upset. I’m calm. I don’t really know what this all means. Will this just keep happening to me in rapid succession until some senior goof takes me into the hospital or out towards the recently photographed black hole, M87? Will I actually learn from this and begin to develop more measured moves that give me more protection for a while? What frequently amazes me about this adventure of my life is that even though death may be just down the hall—and in this place, that can well be the truth—or knocking at my door, my consciousness seems as clear as a bell, perhaps even more clear that it has been in previous generations. I don’t feel disabled or sick. I feel happy and alive. Thank God for that.