How I Survived a Fall Down the Stairs
It Could Have Been Worse
I was excited because I was going to the drive-in with several of my nieces. That was probably the catalyst for what happened that night. My focus was entirely on spending time with them. Try to get any member of the younger generation of a family to spend time with the “Old Aunt.” I’m sure there are many of you who know what I mean.
There was also the excitement of watching two movies at a drive-in on a large dirt lot with other cars while eating and drinking junk food. It was the beginning of summer and there were still a few cool days. The weather was perfect for me – not too hot or cold to sit in a van for over five hours.
I was the slow one getting ready to go. My niece and her three year-old daughter had already gone down the stairs and out the front door. I gathered up my favorite warm blue Berber coat in case it got cold, threw my purse over my shoulder and started down.
On the way down the stairs, I noticed my mail had been placed on a stair near the bottom of the hallway. I picked up the few pieces, and walked back up to put them on my second floor landing. I didn’t want to go back in the house just for the mail. I turned my back to the stairs to put the mail further up my landing. I dropped the mail, and started to feel dizzy. It all happened in a flash. My feet moved, but my sneakers didn’t. I fell backwards down the stairs.
I was always fearful that one day it would happen. It was inevitable. I was older and had become more infirmed over the years. I sprained my ankle the previous year. I fainted once in my house. Both of my shoulders have torn rotator cuffs. Arthritis set in my knees, and all but guaranteed I would eventually lose my grip and fall somewhere. I even went over in my head what I would do if I ever fell down the stairs. I rehearsed it mentally every time I left the house.
The accident felt like a split second had passed. I saw my massive body take a full leap down the flight. I had but seconds to decide what to do. The maroon stairs looked monstrous as I took a free-fall up in the air, then down again.
I saw the hand railing cascade in front of me. I turned and grabbed it. I held on to it for Dear Life, but my arms and hands couldn’t support my body weight. I had to let go.
I heard a loud ‘thump’ as my butt hit the stairs. The noise frightened me. I rolled over every stair, backwards. When I ran out of hand railing and steps, I saw that I was going to hit the wall ahead of me. Fortunately, my baby niece’s car seat was in the corner. It diverted my body to the side. I swung around the stairs past the locked front door and toward the floor. I hit it hard.
All the air rushed out my body as I landed on the floor on my back. Both of my feet rested on several steps, upward. I couldn’t breathe. I closed my eyes and did a mental accounting of my body by moving each part. The left side of my hips, elbow and arm were in pain. My head hurt, but I was able to move my neck. Without a doubt it was for the grace of God that nothing had been sprained or broken.
I heard my niece Kellyn repeatedly call my name from the other side of the door. My eyes were still closed. I knew I was okay, but couldn’t talk. I had no air to speak. I heard my niece ring the doorbell for the first floor. My mother, sister and her two daughters live there. My niece Robyn opened the door. When I heard her scream, “Oh, My God!” I managed to open my eyes, turn and looked at her. I heard my sister inside asking, “What’s happening?”
The turn of events would almost be laughable if I wasn’t in agonizing pain. It all sounded like a Keystone Cops movie. Everyone started talking at once. One niece, Robyn, was inside the hallway, trying to pick me up off the floor. My other niece, Kellyn, was outside trying to get inside. I slowly moved myself a little to the side so she could get the front door open.
What happened next has been burned into my spirit. There was total pandemonium. My mother was screaming that we should call an ambulance. Robyn was alternately trying to see how injured I was, and tugging at my arm to pull me away from the front door. Kellyn outside was asking if she could go around the house and get inside through the back door. My sister Elaine was yelling that Kellyn should get inside by one of the front windows. I had finally gotten my eyes to stay open, and was trying to move my massive body toward Robyn.
Once I was able to move a bit, Kellyn used her key and opened the door. I looked up and saw my little three-year old niece’s head peep through. She gave me one look, smiled, and then started laughing at her big aunt on the floor. It made me laugh through my pain, and gave me some perspective. I wasn’t going to die or go to the hospital. Nothing was broken. My niece thought the entire situation was hilarious. I would probably be okay.
After a while, Robyn held on to me, and I struggled until I was back on my feet. I went inside my sister’s apartment and sat on her large living room chair. I had serious pain on the entire left side of my body, from my head to my feet. Whenever I moved I was in agony. Still, I was determined to go to the drive-in. Even more so to prove I wasn’t an old crippled hag. Meanwhile, another niece had arrived. I could hear her sister Kellyn explain everything that had happened. I bucked up, took some Tylenol, waited awhile, grabbed my cane, and we went to the drive-in.
It was a great Saturday night! I was in pain for the entire trip. Yet, I had fun with my nieces. The two movies, one with Vin Diesel, the other, one of those super hero franchise films, were enormous distractions. I didn’t regret a thing.
The very next day I ordered some sneakers to replace the ones that caused my fall. By Monday, I was amazed that I was in relatively light pain from the fall. But that night, agony arrived in full armor. I couldn’t find any position that didn’t hurt. I let out a small scream every time I had to get off the bed. I could barely move. I could barely talk; I felt sharp pain with every step I took.
Days later, I was horrified by the huge black and blue marks all over the left side of my body. Even though I never hit my head, I had a massive headache every day. My elbows and wrists were racked in agony. I relived falling down the stairs in my sleep every night for over a week.
The next challenge for me was the stairs. Since the fall, I had developed an aversion to them. I avoided leaving the house. I knew that when it was time to use the stairs, it would be dramatic for me. Still, it had to be done. I didn’t want to lock myself in my house because I had fallen down some stairs, even if it was a flight of stairs.
The good news is that I eventually left the house. Overall, I survived relatively well. The other good news is that now I have fallen, I no longer have to anticipate or imagine what it will be like anymore. I bought a new pair of shoes. I tend to be more careful walking up and down the stairs when I leave the house.
Will I eventually need Acorn Stair Lifts to navigate the stairs? I think about it from time to time. Living on the second floor means hundreds of opportunities to fall. I guess I’ll deal with it when I can no longer navigate without trepidation. Until then, I’m not going to allow fear to run my life. I want more trips with my nieces. I intend to continue my life-goal of fun without fear. I just have to be more careful.
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