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Broken Grandma – a journey on wheels and feet and back again

Mar 26 2015

About a month ago, a colleague suggested I write a book about my experience being broken. While I’m not sure there’s enough material for a book, I bet there’s enough there for some blog posts, so here goes.

The accident itself – slip, fall, crunch. Shriek! Not much more to say, other than it’s a preventable situation that can and does happen to anybody. Unless you’re paying attention, which obviously I wasn’t. ;>)


End of rant. Now pardon me while I carefully step down from the soapbox, using the conveniently placed handrail…

What I remember first about the hospital ER was the guy on a gurney, covered in blood, in front of the main intake or whatever desk. They kept coming too, people behind us, all with worse problems than a silly broken ankle. We were there for six and a half hours. It was so cold, and I kept drifting in and out of sleep there in the cubicle where I was eventually directed; mostly waiting for something to happen.

When something did happen; the news was not good. Ankle broken in two places. Well, we expected that, sorta, but didn’t know it was two breaks. I had the weird idea it would all be fine in a month or so. HA!

I was relieved for a moment when the x-ray of my hips came back and nothing was actually broken there. I knew I came down hard on that poor tailbone – the third injury in that spot. The first was 20+ years ago hitting a curb on a bike, the second last year falling off a chair I was standing on. I didn’t know that a bruised tailbone, which was the doc’s diagnosis, can hurt more than a break. Not much you can do for it, either. One of the clearest memories I have is of the look on the doc’s face when he told me all that. Doctors really hate it when there’s no pill or anything to prescribe but time.

The only other time I’ve seen that look was back in the 1980s when my doc of the time told me I had rheumatoid arthritis. BUT!!! As things worked out in that case, I didn’t have RA, though it took me the better part of three decades to find it out. I told myself maybe it was wrong this time too, tho I didn’t really believe that. It had already started to hurt, and I had the idea I wouldn’t realize how bad it was going to be for a while.

I soon found that a holiday weekend is probably the worst of times to have an accident of this kind. I’d left the ER with a prescription for a handful of pain pills and an order to see an orthopedist on Friday. That was problematic because I was in Glendale at my son’s house – not home – and not only were most doctor’s offices simply closed for the weekend already, I didn’t want to start treatment in Glendale. As it worked out, husband Paul got me an appointment in Yuma with his orthopedist, but not till Monday. It was the best we could do. My own attempts on Friday to make an appointment with a Yuma doc had failed miserably, as I was not already a patient anywhere so therefore, as the answering services determined, I did not exist. I really don’t know what they expect people to do.

Thursday, New Year’s Day, was not too bad. For me, anyway. My daughter-in-law filled my prescription so at least I had that. My leg was in a splint, which is nothing more than a hard piece of plastic they put at the back of the broken part, and they wrap an elastic bandage around it. Oh, I was so nervous about that! Lying in bed upstairs I was mostly watching TV and sleeping. Except for the few times I accidentally brushed the broken ankle with my other foot. Horrific pain.

Obviously, I couldn’t walk, so even though the upstairs bathroom was only feet away it may as well have been in Kalamazoo. It’s a big house my son has; something in the neighborhood of 3500 square feet. In healthier times I’ve clocked a mile in a day there on my Fitbit, just puttering around, cooking, playing with kids upstairs and down. I hated having to text Doreen every five minutes it seemed like, for help, as she was downstairs in the family room/kitchen on the opposite side of the house. We had no crutches, so it was the Armstrong method of movement. That is, until Sean woke up later (he had to be beyond exhausted, what with staying up all night and hauling me around) and found an office chair w/wheels, so I could be driven over to the bathroom.

They did try to make sure I had the things I’d need within reach (phone, water, etc.) What I found was that of course there’s going to be something you need on the other side of the room. So that’s where the little girls came in. (Age range 8-9, BTW. Four of them.) The grandkids were having a 3-day marathon sleepover, so there were two extra kids there. They were absolutely invaluable in fetching & carrying, changing the TV channel since the remote was missing, and generally popping in now and again to see if I was comfortable. Part of their eagerness to help was the entertainment value for them, I’m sure. They loved watching me make the move down the hall with Doreen. One little girl wondered aloud if that was the foxtrot. We all got a giggle out of that.

The girls all went with Doreen to the drugstore, and they found the sweetest ornament in a markdown bin. The littlest of them wanted to do something to cheer me up. I was touched by that. I brought home the ornament and hung it on the lamp next to my recliner where I’ve been living.

Other than watching four Will Smith movies in a row and discovering I had no appetite, that was pretty much my New Year’s Day.

It was decided that Friday Sean would drive me home. While the original plan was for me to head back on Saturday, I was ready to go home in any case. I’d been there since mid-December in order to help out with the little girls on Christmas vacation, and though Paul and my brother had come for Christmas, I missed my husband, and missed my own much-smaller house – where the only stairs are on the front porch.  Besides, Grandpa had some crutches stashed. I could theoretically have some mobility, and the kids could get some rest.

The three-and-a-half-hour drive in the Nissan Titan, which I call “The Behemoth” was almost as comfortable as being in bed, and a lot more interesting, not to mention the congenial company.

Once I got home though, things got really weird really fast. As Hunter Thompson once said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” 



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Meet Trudy

Trudy W. Schuett chairs the Regional Council on Aging for Arizona's Region IV, which includes Yuma, La Paz, and Mohave counties. She is also a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Aging, and sits on the Board of Directors of Arizona Humanities. She lives in Yuma, but this year spent the summer in Glendale helping out with the grandkids. Carley and Tori are now in third and fourth grade.

Meanwhile back in Yuma, her husband Paul is watching the calendar. In November 2015 he retires from Marine Corps Community Services, where he's been teaching Marines how to fix their cars since 2000.

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