Falling in love, or falling on purpose out of a perfectly good airplane, both of which I have done, are terrifying and exhilarating! Falling because of a physical disability like cerebral palsy (CP), is scary; frustrating; embarrassing; painful and inconvenient. The recovery time interrupts my routines and pursuit of goals.
Although I am used to falling, my family and friends constantly worry and urge me to slow down and simplify my life. If falling and pain are not enough to scare me, stopping my activities and staying home surely are.
I remember taking walks, catching my toes on cracks in sidewalks and ruining favorite pairs of pants. I remember running with my friends, tripping and falling on my face. I remember opening heavy doors and almost falling backwards down stairs. I remember walking to classes at college, falling off edges of sidewalks into dirt and having to go back to my room to change my clothes.
Falling at work turns my propensity for falling into a legal dilemma. Do I tell emergency room personnel I fell at work or at home? If I tell them I fell at work, I must prove it happened due to unsafe working conditions. If Workman’s Comp says it was due to my disability, I struggle to convince my medical insurance to pay the bills.
Once I fell on my face at work, incurring a bloody nose and facial injuries. At the emergency room, the doctor probed my injuries and asked me if it hurt. I said “no”, so she sent me home. I learned that I had broken zygomatic bones in my right eye and severely damaged a cranial nerve. The reason I had no pain was because my face was numb.
Since the accident happened at work, I was required to file a Workman’s Comp claim. It was extremely difficult to convince them that they should cover the costs. Their position was that the fall was due to my disability, rather than unsafe conditions at work. Eventually, my medical bills were paid.
After that, everyone at work worried about my falling. I began using my walker indoors as well as outside. This cut down on my falls, but nothing I do will ever eliminate them. Falling is one of the ugly realities of my CP.
One month last summer, I had a higher than usual number of falls. I looked for an explanation for this increase, but the only difference was that I had begun providing full-time child care. However, I have done full-time child care at other times in my life.
One morning, while waiting with my husband and grandson to get into a movie theater, I got tired of standing. Shifting my weight on my feet, I fell backward landing on my head. This scared my husband and grandson and ended any thoughts I had about watching the movie with them. I urged them to stay, and off I went in an ambulance to the emergency room.
That same month I took another severe fall in the bathroom of a mall before a financial class my husband and I were attending. I closed myself in a stall. Parking my walker, I turned to sit on the toilet. Instead, I tripped, flew through the air and struck my side on the seat cover container. This drove the wind right out of me. When I could breathe again, I could hardly speak, sit, stand or walk. The people in the bathroom were terrified because they couldn’t get into the stall to help me. Despite the pain, nausea and concerns of my husband and friend, I chose to stay for the class because it was required as part of a grant program in which I was enrolled. Missing it would have delayed my progress.
Falling is, at the very least, inconvenient and painful. One of these days it could be fatal. I agonize about this aspect of my condition but have found no fool-proof remedies. In my next blog I will share some solutions I have found.
Do you have similar experiences? What are they and how do you cope? How do they affect your family and friends? I would love to hear your stories. Perhaps together we may gain greater control over this aspect of our lives.