That Last Step Was A Lulu

by John A
(Tyler, TX)

The morning of April 15 , 2016 started out as a usual day while preparing to do some do-it-yourself projects around the house. For the past week I had been painting and preparing the house trim for a fresh coat of paint that I had purchased at a nearby Sherwin Williams paint store. All the paint had been scraped and power washed to clean off the grime. By this time I had already completed 50% of the painting job on the house.

However, there was one small area on the soffit over the back patio where I had found some wood that had begun to rot and needed repair before putting on a coat of primer and paint. So I brought all all my implements of “destruction”, as I would call them, and laid out all my tools on the table in preparation for a project that would take about an hour to accomplish.

After getting all my tools, I went to the garage and brought out my step ladder that was more than adequate to do the repair.

After using one of those small electric oscillating tools to cut out plywood that had rotted, I was making trips up and down the ladder to fit in a new piece of ply wood as a patch and getting ready to nail it into place.

Then I heard the city's garbage truck coming down the street and thought to myself that I forgot to put the garbage can out by the street. That's when my problems began. I thought I had stepped down to ground level when in actuality I was up about two feet on the ladder.

I remember stepping back and that last step was a lulu. I came crashing down to the concrete patio floor on my left side. My wife heard all the commotion from inside the house and came out the back door where she saw me lying on the patio. She asked if I was all right and I said that I could not move my left arm or get up. I felt glued to the cement.

Well, the next thing I knew was that a couple of neighbors showed up to help while the ambulance was on the way. The sight they encountered was not pretty. My left elbow was shattered, the ulna (left arm bone) was sticking out the back side of the arm where my elbow should be.

Once the EMT's arrived, they were immediately in communication with an a doctor at the emergency room. The gave me a pain killer to ease the pain in my arm and left side of my body so they could begin splinting the arm for transport back to the hospital.

The EMT's were two pretty stout fellows but they were not nearly stout enough to lift my 275 lb 6'+ frame on to the gurney. So they slipped a special board under me and asked if I could help them to get me to my feet. With some grunts and a few choice cuss words from me, I was up on my feet and placed onto the gurney.

While on the way to the hospital, I think the ambulance hit every bump in the road it could find. Every jar of the vehicle as it hit a bump sent pain throughout my entire body.

Once at the hospital's emergency room, the nurses and doctors were scurrying about coming in to take x-rays, blood pressure, etc...ya know, the whole nine yards of stuff they do in the hospital emergency room.

Then an technician comes in for another set of x-rays on my chest. And once I realized they were taking pictures of my chest, I knew something was definitely planned for some surgery. The chest x-ray also revealed that many of my ribs were cracked on the left side.

The orthopedic surgeon came in a few minutes later an introduced himself. He explained what was going on and that immediate surgery was required. My operation lasted about two hours to put my left arm back together. Now I can say that I am a proud owner of an Ace Hardware store located in this injured arm with a plate and seven screws. For all I know, there may be some lag bolts, washers and nuts in there as well. There's enough hardware in my arm to drive the TSA crazy when I go through airport security.

Subsequent to the surgery, I spent my time for the next month in the rehab hospital learning to walk again and dealing with a severely injured left arm that had lots of muscle and nerve damage. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that my left knee was fractured in two places along with having a torn ACL. And each time nursing staff came to get me out of bed each morning, the pain from the bruised and crack rib was excruciating. But, there was little they could do for that other than give me some pain killers that did little except for put me to sleep.

After being discharged from the hospital, I spent another two more months in outpatient rehab to continue strengthening my left knee and arm. Each day I went to rehab, it was a day I could expect a whole lot of pain as the occupational therapist would work her magic on my arm, while the physical therapist put me though painful exercises to strengthen my leg muscles. Despite enduring a lot of pain each session, I realized I was getting better each day.

Now it has been four months since my fall and I am still in recovery. Both the left arm and knee are doing much better, but still have a way to go. Most likely my recovery time will take another three to six months. I go to the gym three times a week and continue the rehab exercises that were given to me by hospital staff. And I'm beginning to enjoy life again and my better half and I are getting out and doing things together.

As a bit of advice for all those DIYers out there, be careful in what you do in your retirement years. I was fortunate to have walked away from this fall, while others may not and experience something more serious. Falls from ladders are some of the major causes of injury for those of us in our retirement years. Many of those falls end up in death or permanent disabilities that can place tremendous emotional and financial burdens on the family. All it takes is a brief break in concentration of what you are doing that can result in a serious accident. We aren't spring chickens anymore and must realize our limitations that we can't do things we once did. Instead, pay for someone who is much more agile and younger to do those jobs that we once were able to do.

The most important lesson learned from my fall is that I don't bounce like I once did. And now I joke about my arm "Ace is the place for the helpful hardware man".

On a more serious side, I owe my recovery to a loving wife, Alicia, who helped me through the entire ordeal. Without her, recovery would have been much more difficult. She took on many of the tasks I once did around the house, whether getting the PC operating after some glitch, taking care of financial matters I had traditionally done and many other tasks to numerous to list. Alicia did it all and she learned tremendously from those experiences. I am truly blessed to have a wonderful wife as life's partner. If there's was any doubt in my mind about the presence of God, I need to look no farther than my wife. He placed a beautiful angel into my life 14 years ago.

Comments for That Last Step Was A Lulu

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Dancing Ladder
by: Joe W.

This story reminds me of the time I sold a 6 foot step ladder to my next door neighbor who was in his 70's. In this case he was using the ladder to pick some apples from his apple tree. And, as you might of guessed he reached up to pick some of the apples on the taller branches. When he reached up the ladder moved and he fell down with the ladder. Miraculously he wasn't seriously injured except for some bruising and a sprained arm.

I think that many seniors including myself try to multi task even though it's often impossible to do more than one task at a time. In this case, thinking about getting the garbage in the right place and secondly getting down the ladder quickly is multi-tasking. So, getting down the ladder is Task No. 1. If this is accomplished successfully then Task No. 2 is getting to the garbage truck first asking him to wait until you walk to the house and bring the garbage out to him. I guess it's easier said than done.

Take care of your health it's extremely important for a happy retirement life.

Joe W.

New Career
by: Char/TX/USA

What a story! So happy it has turned out as well as it did and you are on the mend! God bless your wife, I am sure her silent prayers were heard in that you are again sharing special time together.

Perhaps you will in the future replace your ladder and Ace tools with a pen (computer) as you seem to have quite a flare for writing with a sense of humor.

Wishes for full healing and healthy days ahead!

Balance As We Age
by: Ricardo

John from Tyler, so sorry to hear of your accident. It is SO important to practice "balance" as we age. Hopping on one foot, walking backwards at a slow pace, ANYTHING that reinforces stability is MOST important as we age!

My morning ritual as I brush my teeth, shave, etc. is to balance on one foot and then the other, I also will walk around the block, slowly backwards.....people will stare at me and think that I am a bit wacky, BUT it reinforces my stability as I age and I feel more comfortable and agile because of these practices.

As we ALL know, falls are one of the worst problems that seniors experience. So, practicing stability, EVER so slightly is VERY, VERY best to you, "John from Tyler", AND we need to ALL remember that our responses are nor nearly as positive as they once were.....IF you are uncomfortable mentally OR physically, performing a task that was once easy, DO NOT DO IT, ASK FOR HELP, there is no disgrace in asking for help, we are ALL aging, and at times need assistance with tasks that we used to take for granted!

Your story is a lulu--in a good way
by: Elna Nugent, Lenox, MA

John: So many people can learn from your story-- I included--because my three sons who live nearby hide the ladders in my house so I won't use them. Now I get it.

Some day, as crazy as it seems, you will look back on this serious accident with an element of gratitude. Look what it taught you and look what it taught your wife.

Many many blessings to you both.

Unlucky fall
by: Sheila White, Cambridge Ontario Canada

You are a great writer John. Thanks for the warning... remember my husband going up on the roof to fix a broken tile but he couldn't get down because the ladder had blown over!

He was banging with his hammer to alert us, but we all thought it was part of the repair! He wasn't too happy at that!

Thanks for Sharing
by: Lynne/Virginia

Thanks for sharing your story, a potent reminder to us we are not invincible even if we feel good and get on as if we are much younger. The pain must have been horrific. Life can and does change in the blink of an eye. Only cliche because its true.

Your advice to DIYers is spot on, especially the "All it takes is a brief break in concentration of what you are doing that can result in a serious accident."

Aye, life is better all around when someone has your back. Kudos to you for sharing the important role your wife played/plays in your recovery and your gratefulness to her for being there for you. It was heartwarming to read.

I hope all the best for you in your continued recovery.

WOW... thank you John!
by: Wendy

What a story to share... re-reading your story, it shocks me how a two-foot fall can hurt someone so deeply. Two feet isn't much, two feet falling on your back is horrifically devastating!

My husband is a big roof climber, going up to clean out the gutters, even in the slippery snow in winter. THE END happens now. Yikes Yikes!

Thanks ever so much for sharing your story -- so many lessons on how life can change in an fleeting instant.

Car accidents, heart attacks, slip and falls all change life drastically -- live each day, retirees!

We aren't getting any younger -- and bad things happens to good people every day!

p.s. Many Thanks to Alicia for stepping up and doing what needed to be done to get John back to his new normal. I'm sure your anxiety level was sky-high as John's was... time for you both to find life again!

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