Sunday, February 10th, 7:30 a.m.
I had just taken a shower, my hair was still damp. Wearing my dark blue winter coat, I headed outside to get the newspaper. It had rained overnight. I dodged the puddles on my sidewalk. The top of the driveway was wet. I continued to walk to the sloped part of the driveway, where unbeknownst to me, that part of the driveway was a sheet of ice – black ice. One moment, I was walking carefree. The next, both feet came out from under me. I was airborne and landed on my upper back. Then my head hit the concrete, as did the rest of my body. The dreadful noise of body meeting concrete is not a sound I will soon forget.
The pain was excruciating. Although I could feel my fingers and toes, I could not lift my head or move my arms. I keep telling myself to breathe. But breathing brought pain as well. I could feel the cold now. My jacket was not fully zipped. And for some reason, I was not wearing my gloves.
I heard a car approach. They stopped at the stop sign a few feet from me and then kept driving. As did a second car. Every car entering or leaving my neighborhood must pass my house. There is no way they did not see me. I was a dark blue blob in the middle of an off-white concrete driveway. Had I been sprawled in the snow, a person might assume I was making snow angels. However, there was no snow. And I was in the middle of the driveway. People do not just lay down on their driveways in the middle of winter for the heck of it.
When I landed, my arms were positioned very close to my body. My right hand was next to my cell phone. Not sure how long it took, but somehow, I punched in 9-1-1 and hit the speaker button.
The 911 operator assured me help was on the way. Within seconds, I heard the sirens. The firehouse is behind my house.
The paramedics, Nathan and Van, get kudos for their efforts. Poor Nathan almost fell trying to reach me. He pinwheeled before regaining his balance.
I pleaded, “Please don’t fall on me.”
He laughed. “I won’t fall on you. But wow! This is slippery. No wonder you fell.”
I thought to myself, Duh!
They covered me with warm blankets. Apparently, my lips and fingers were blue. On their hands and knees, they strapped a collar around my neck and secured me to the backboard. However, the ice made any movement treacherous. So, after a brief discussion, they slid me down the icy driveway, on the board, until we reached the sidewalk. They apologized as tears streamed down my face.
I will not name the hospital because I was not thrilled with the service. Normally, the service is better, but I was not the only black ice victim that morning.
The nurses wanted to cut off my jeans.
Oh hell no. “These are my favorite jeans. Don’t cut them. I’m sure you can get them off.”
“We’ll try. But we might have to cut them.”
“I can move my legs. I can’t move my arms.”
“We’ll give you some pain meds and then try.”
The drugs barely took the edge off. Not good.
They removed the jeans with minimal effort while discussing the best way to hook me up to everything.
I volunteered, “You can cut my sweater off. I don’t care about the sweater.”
“Well, we just need to get your bra off for the scans and X-rays.”
“The easiest way to do that is to cut off my sweater.”
“Nah, I think I can get the bra off without removing your sweater.”
“Really. I don’t care about this sweater.”
“I’ve done this a thousand times.”
But I thought, This is a bad idea. She’s going to kill me.
She pulled on my sweater to get a look at my bra. “Oh, it’s a Victoria’s Secret bra. I’m positive I can get it off without cutting anything.”
“I’m sure it would be easier if you cut off my sweater.”
“I can do it without removing it.”
“I know it can be done, I’ve done it myself. But it’s going to be difficult since I can’t move my arms to help you.”
“Don’t worry. I can do it.”
Not wanting to be classified as “combative,” I stopped arguing. I was amazed at the elasticity of the bra straps, but alas, they still were not elastic enough. She wrenched my arm and pain shot through me like tongues of fire.
Tears flowed again as the nurse triumphantly pulled the bra through the arm of my sweater. “See? Piece of cake.”
Worst cake ever.
After taking my vitals and information, the nurse confirmed the name and phone number of my emergency contact before sending me for a CT scan. The technicians transferred me to the table with several jerking motions which only increased my discomfort. Then I was returned to my room and left alone, with no call button and no way to reach one. Finally a technician came in to say I needed X-rays. The petite X-ray tech was going to try to transfer me to the X-ray table by herself. I adamantly told her not to touch me until she had help. The other tech was not much bigger. With great effort, they moved me.
I prayed to God for strength. The pain radiated through my back, up my neck and down my arms. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.
For the second set of X-rays, they rolled me on my side and told me to hold that position. Well, if I was not already paralyzed, these women were sure to complete the job with all of the pushing, tugging and twisting.
I was moved for the umpteenth time and returned to my room. I asked the nurse for more drugs and if my emergency contact was coming.
She said, and I quote, “You didn’t tell me to call her.”
“Are you kidding me?”
“No. I am not allowed to call unless you specifically tell me to call. Do you want me to call?”
For the love of God and all that is holy. “Yes. Please call her now. And please get me some drugs.”
So, after being alone for seven hours, my loved ones arrived.
The CT scan and X-rays showed no broken bones. So, around the eighth hour, they removed the neck collar and discharged me. Never mind that I could not lift my head yet and could barely move my arms. The doctor said I needed to drug myself up really good, and eventually I would regain mobility.
When I got home, I expected everything to be the way I had left it in the morning. The little things were, however, the paramedic who retrieved my purse had turned off the television and all of the lights. Apparently, he knew I would not be back right away.
It took almost two weeks for me to regain mobility. Although, it still hurts a great deal to move in certain directions.
I owe an enormous debt of thanks to my friend who checked on me every day, not only to bring me food, chocolate, my mail, and yes, that cursed newspaper, but to make sure that I was really okay. I feel truly blessed.
So let this be a lesson to all of you! Beware of black ice!
And if you ever see a person sprawled on the ground, stop and ask if they need help! A little kindess can go a long way.
As for me, I will avoid my driveway like the plague as my recovery continues.
Sunday, February 10th, 7:30 a.m.