The day started in its usual way. I worked as a cook in a private home. My employer was a 92 year old woman called Mrs. Alice confined now to her marital bed these last 10 years on the second floor of her home.Her physical presence deteriorating although still able to get up to the bathroom, her mind was sharp. She watched the news on TV and would comment in an exasperated tone on all current events. Strong minded and strong willed I think she must have been a powerful matriarch. She held no recourse for human frailty and would scoff if I made any comments. Her home was her castle, located midtown, nestled firmly these last 100 years in a knoll top surrounded by beautiful oak trees. The house was tall and narrow, my bedroom was located high on the third floor reached by a curving staircase with years of hand printed marks trailing along the plastered walls. It was private, I could paint in peace, it was cold in the winter, hot in the summer, but it was mine during my week of work and I enjoyed my time between its walls.
The kitchen was a relic of the past; the stove and fridge purchased in the last 30 years muted in a strange combination of brown and yellow. Certainly a clash with the pale blue walls and bright red flowered curtains hanging on either side of the narrow wooden framed windows. The transoms above were smeared with the bodies of dead flies creating an opaque view to the outside tree branches stark against the lowering grey sky. There were no storms on the windows and I could hear the wind and freezing rain rattling against the single paned glass. Breakfast was the easiest meal to prepare and it didn’t take long to place orange juice, tea and a slim sliver of buttered toast with the morning newspaper on the tray for presentation to my employer.The kettle whistled and I poured the hot water into the coffee carafe, leaned down to smell the enticing aroma and then drank a large cup of my own freshly ground Colombian java.
My cook responsibilities at an end I donned my running shoes and winter coat, grabbed my knapsack and with my cell phone in one hand and car keys in the other. I headed down the stairs to the back door which led to a flagstone patio. I stepped outside and immediately felt the cold freezing rain blowing onto my face and so I sped up my pace to run to the car parked in the smoothly pebbled driveway. The patio stones were slick with rain and black sheets of ice had formed underneath in the cold night air. Only having covered a few strides I found myself flying backwards as my feet slipped, the phone and keys became airborne, my thoughts scattered as the ground rose up to meet first my hip then a jar and shudder as my coccyx made contact with the unforgiving concrete. I lay soaking wet, shaking, the cold seeping through, a rush of adrenaline making me feel light headed and my lower back in a torrent of severe and unremitting pain. I was buzzing all over. In shock I lay prone for a few interminable minutes. Slowly I managed to roll over onto my side and slid painfully along the slick ground to grab my cell phone. I knew instinctively that I had to make the effort to retrieve it for it was my only lifeline to get help. Swiping at my tears I brought the phone close to my face to see with relief that it was working.
My first action was to pull myself underneath the overhang by the back door. Out of the cold rain made it easier to plan the next step. My family and friends lived miles away. The pain was a knife thrust, the imagined little man with his anvil was striking his hammer continuously in my head and the coffee in my stomach gurgled as it swished about ready to erupt out at any time. I called 911.
The paramedics were quick to arrive. I heard the rumble of the stretcher tires moving up the steep driveway, the muttered curse of the lead guy as he slipped and caught himself and slowed his pace. I was impressed by their probing questions and tried in turn to give a clear description of my fall. Different maneuvers were tried, I wasn’t able to weight bear, I needed a complete lift onto the stretcher. A few groans escaped from my lips but I tried to stay focused by deep breathing, in and out, bringing oxygen to my cells. Wrapped in a warm blanket and strapped down I made my first ever foray as a patient into an ambulance. An IV was started and I was given a very small dose of Morphine. A warm all encompassing flush followed and I felt a rush of euphoria. Fortunately for me that feeling lasted along the bumpy ride to the nearest hospital Emergency Department. The pain returned with a vengeance as I was wheeled in and placed squarely in the middle of a chaotic, noisy, busy room filled with medical personnel and many hurt, injured, and complaining humans.
I was transferred off the ambulance stretcher and moved into a private cubicle in the primary holding area. An assessment followed, my vital signs taken and a quick probe of my hip and back by a deft warm fingered doctor. Shortly after I was taken to the Xray Department for films of my right hip. No fracture. Lying stationary on my back I found it bearable, any movement brought tears to my eyes. I kept my eyes closed, I found the human suffering around me constantly imprinting itself on my brain.
After a long day I was eventually given some fruit juice and asked to get up and try to walk with assistance. I swallowed a cocktail of drugs,2 pain pills and 2 NSAIDS prior to standing. A few steps but with that I was discharged from the hospital. The doctor gave a diagnosis of torn lower back muscles and a fractured tailbone with a recovery time of two months. I transferred into a wheelchair and was taken out to a waiting taxi. I couldn’t stand without assistance, stumbling I fell into the rear seat my back in agony, my stomach heaving and my head pounding as the car sped off into the night.