måndag, april 14, 2008

In the Blink

About a month ago I suffered the second of two falls. The first was a foot skate across a suddenly frozen back porch. During my traverse, I focused on the stairs in front of me and the concrete patio at its base. I quickly realized that if I slipped the four feet to the top of the landing, I would pitch forward, bang my head on the planks, and lay semi-nude and unconscious in the 10 degree air. Because I was only up to let the dog out and it was 2 in the morning, I knew that no one would know I was there - except my "I'm no *bark bark* Lassie *bark bark*" dog - and I would most certainly pass away as the dog whined softly to get back into the warm house. All this went through my brain as my body traveled the short course. I have no idea how, but I managed to throw my upper body weight in a way to send it slamming into a wall edge and breaking my fall. I breathed hard for a few seconds, after which I probably yelled at the dog to hurry up and pee already, and most likely went back to bed.

I didn't remember any of this until 1 1/2 days later when I noticed that my mid-back felt as if I'd been dropped from an airplane onto a bed of door handles. And because people really don't care about this sort of thing unless you really do die, I kept quiet about it. I thought it was fascinating, the part about how much problem awareness and solving can be done in the passage of a second of time or less, but still, no one really cares unless you die. And then mostly they just worry about the survivors.

About the time that my back ribs felt mended, I slipped on a piece of paper left on the hardwood stairs. Up I went, like a respectable cartoon character, and again, the brain went into action. "If I fall this way, then I might tear out my rotator pins. Besides, that half took the biggest hit on my last adventure. Let's go for an ab crunch and try to stick most of the landing on the other side, and yeah, use the forearms and hands. It's a stupid move, but screw it; they haven't been hurt in a while. Oh, and darn it, there's the makeshift dog gate with the sticking out metal parts, all fallen over and pointing up the stairs. I really should try to avoid getting impale...." Down I went, into the stairs. I avoided the claws on the dog gate, but two bats swung simultaneously by a hormonally charged MLB player, cracking across my glutes, shoulder blades, and forearms couldn't have done more damage.

The next day I called for a referral to the ER x-ray room, where I am apparently contributing to a new wing.

The bruising and swelling lasted two weeks. The muscles leading to my neck danced like popping corn whenever I tried to use my arms. I developed a crushing, three day migraine, but with a deadline looming, I couldn't take to bed with a six pack of Vicodin. I used ace bandages and kitchen towels to tie bags of frozen vegetables to the top of my head and across my back and triceps. My kids didn't even blink. Long ago they stopped wondering what I was experimenting with, and ignored the Birdseye bags and Civil War-style attachment apparatus.

"Can someone bring up the laundry?" I asked.
"Grocery store, anyone?" I begged.
"You look fine, Mom. You can do it. Just take off the peas and corn. They'll think you're stealing."

Enough, I thought, and broke open the bank vault for both chiropractic and massage therapy. "I think something inside is way off," I said to both medical practitioners. "Stuff like this doesn't happen to me. As soon as I'm better I'm back in the gym. No more sitting in front of the computer all day."

On my first day back in the gym, I took a couple of shots at the basketball hoop in what I affectionately call my fat burning boots, a pair of platform, curved sole MTB shoes that make me feel like Tiger when I'm on the court. But it had been a year since I could shoot a basketball, and I forgot how the shoes rolled. Too much effort to catch a short ball forced my body into one of those cheerleader reverse "C" contortions. Something low snapped and I stopped breathing for a while. This time, instead of being able to think forward as to how to avoid a worse injury, I only had the chance to fire off a rapid reprimand: "Stupid shoes, stupid me, stupidier shoes. How could I be so stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid." I actually needed a cane for the next few days, but was too vain to visit the Old Broken Body Store.

"Do you know what your hip flexor muscles are?" the therapist asked.
"Am I going to be learning all the parts of the body this way?" I replied.
"You have to start more slowly," he said.

And I'm starting right here.