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. Literally.
Boomers, allow me to explain. Ladders and I still aren't on speaking terms. Sure, I own one, but it's not like we get along. We really don't. Not since
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 (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 five years, THREE surgeries, 12 titanium screws, three titanium plates, four titanium rods and two bone grafts to overcome.
Charlotte displayed her mastery for understatement.
She should have answered, "you look like you've been run over by the 9:15 to Mobile."
Hey, you know I'm not the handiest of handymen. It's just that I can't help proving it to everyone from emergency room doctors to orthopaedic surgeons.
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 I'll share with you now:
Lesson #1: Gravity is a bitch.
Lesson #2: Falling doesn't hurt. It's the landing that gets you.
Lesson #3: You're in real trouble when morphine doesn't cut the pain.
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 was inside the house and heard my THUD and found me lying on the deck. Our conversation went like this:
Charlotte: "WHAT HAPPENED?"
Bob: "I fell."
Charlotte: "Do you think you broke anything?"
Bob: "I think I sprained my ankle."
Charlotte: "Is that all?"
Bob: "I dunno. Let's get to the hospital."
Bob: "How do I look?"
Charlotte: "Not good."
Charlotte displayed her mastery for understatement. When I asked, "How do I look?" she should have answered, "you look like you've been run over by the 9:15 to Mobile." Looking back, I appreciate the fact that she tempered her reply. Any additional information might have sent my wracked body into total shock. I didn't need encouragement.
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. 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 the nurse (politely) 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.
The on-call ortho doctor arrived and looked at my Xrays. He "Hmmmmed" and "Ahhhhhed" and "Ohhhhhd" his way through them. From what I could decipher in my semi-morphine induced haze, this was no ordinary sprain.
He dropped the multi-broken-bone bombshell on me while admitting me to the hospital. The ortho doctor made it sound serious, but not serious enough for him to hang around. He was the on-call guy and this fracture - er make that fractures -- would require someone with a whole 'nother skill set. As I am known for doing, I tried to make light of the situation as a way of finding out just how badly I'd hurt myself.
"I guess this means my days as an Irish step dancer are pretty much over," I said.
"Uh, huh," ortho-doc replied.
"Tell me doc, is this the worst one of these you've ever seen?" I asked.
"It's in the Top FIVE," he answered.
"Top five?" I thought. "TOP 5!" what did the other four look like? Fatalities?
Somewhere in there they knocked me out and put my foot and leg in a temporary cast. That's when the morphine finally kicked in and I drifted off to drug-induced dreamland.
So that's my cautionary holiday tale Boomers. You see, 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."