This is the time of year when every homeowner gets to unleash his inner Griswold. Some of our neighbors wait all year to string light strand after light strand from every conceivable gutter and gable. The rest either hire someone to do it, or skip the whole exterior lighting escapade.
I fall into that category.
Lemme 'splain. Ladders and I still aren't on speaking terms. Sure, I still own one, but we haven't gotten along since
When Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.
That was the day I extended my 12' aluminum ladder as far as it would go and PROPPED IT UP ON A BENCH to reach even HIGHER. No, I wasn't getting an early jump (make that, fall) on putting up my Christmas lights. I was doing a little home improvement project that would "only take a minute".
That minute took me two years, two surgeries, 12 titanium screws, three titanium plates, assorted wire and two bone grafts to overcome.
You're in real trouble when the morphine drip doesn't cut the pain.
Hey, you know I'm not the handiest handyman. It's just that I can't help proving it to everyone from emergency room doctors to orthopedic surgeons.
If I lean just a little to the left I can get it...aaaaahhhhh!
It wasn't like this was an accident. Well, yeah it was, but I had plenty of warning before my luck ran out. I've spent years cleaning gutters and installing the occasional Christmas lights with plenty of near-misses. A slip here...a tip of the ladder there...nothing I couldn't recover from by grabbing on to a window sill or gutter to avoid total disaster. It was just on that warm, sunny day in September that my luck ran out.
As I stood there perched at the top of a 12' foot ladder, poorly braced and balanced to achieve an additional height of about 14', I realized I'd made a horrible mistake. That realization came as the ladder slid out from under me, leaving me to hang (briefly) from an exterior window shutter.
That's when I learned three very important lessons:
1. Gravity is a bitch.
2. Falling doesn't hurt. It's the landing that gets you.
3. You're in real trouble when the morphine drip doesn't cut the pain.
You're holding the ladder aren't you Marge...Marge?!
I dropped 13' down to wood deck and put the full force of the impact on my left foot. The fall shattered my heel and ankle and broke the little finger on my left hand. Charlotte heard my THUD and found me lying on the deck.
The emergency room doctors and nurses were efficient and did their best to make me comfortable. They'd paged the on-call ortho doctor and he'd be there soon, I was told. All I could think about was getting something ANYTHING to ease the pain.
My entire foot felt as if someone was holding a blowtorch to it. It never let up and the heat/pain grew with each passing moment. A male nurse entered the room and I asked if I could get something for the pain. He said he'd get a morphine drip started and I'd be feeling better in no time.
A half-hour went by. No ortho doctor. The pain now felt like my entire leg was being slowly fed into a blast furnace. I was blacking out periodically and when I came to I asked when they were going to start the morphine drip.
"We started it an hour ago," he said.
Internets, that's when I knew I was totally screwed. When morphine doesn't take your ass out, you're in real trouble.
Somewhere in there they knocked me out and put my foot and leg in a temporary cast. A week later I was out of the hospital and starting round-after-round of surgeries (3 so far) and months of physical therapy.
When you fall off a ladder like I did, you may be lucky enough to survive.
You could also be paralyzed or wind up with an injury that looks like this:
One thing is certain.
No matter how funny Chevy Chase makes it look in Christmas Vacation, or Wylie Coyote makes it seem in all those Roadrunner cartoons, it has the potential of introducing you to a new group of friends. Trust me, you don't want to meet them.
They're the ones you'll see standing around the Pearly Gates. The ones I call the "Ladder Day Saints."
Note: I wouldn't be walking today if it wasn't for two truly wonderful surgeons, Dr. Cory Collinge and Dr. Keith Heier. You guys are the best. Merry Christmas!