Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River

By Katie East

 

I suffered a fall this week. As someone under the age of 80, that’s weird to say. I know a person of any age can suffer this type of injury, but it’s hard not to imagine that Life Alert commercial when picturing a victim of a fall. For the elderly, falling can mean death. For a 30-year-old, it can mean a long, hard look at the brevity of life and what we waste our time worrying about.

OK, I might be overanalyzing this tumble a bit. I didn’t exactly see my life flash before my eyes, but time did seem to stand still for a minute. I saw what was happening and yet I was powerless to stop it.

As dramatic as I am sounding about this injury, you might assume I had never suffered a major fall in my life. You would be incorrect. I have fallen a lot. I’ve fallen big time. I’ve had more concussions than most professional boxers.

So why was this fall so scary?

Because I was alone, sober, and thinking quickly on my feet. And even then, I still fell. Despite paying attention to my surroundings and trying to correct myself slowly, I was about an inch away from possibly being paralyzed or severely hurt.

It really made me think about how quickly it could all be over due to chance and some concrete steps.

I guess chance was on my side that day. My fall was broken by a styrofoam ice chest—I had been meaning to yell at my fiancé for months to move it. Luckily, our laziness saved me from a scary fate.

Shortly before the hysterical crying and fear of “what might have been” set in, I experienced an all too familiar post-injury feeling: embarrassment. For some reason, no matter how old I am, I always try to play off when I’m badly hurt because I’m too embarrassed to ask for help.

Right after embarrassment, I usually feel a sudden wave of “I’m going to get in trouble for this.” Even as an adult, my brain immediately associates an injury with doing something you’re not supposed to do.

When I was six I tried to deny a concussion, with blood dripping in my eyes, to act cool in front of an older girl. When my Mom, and her entire volleyball game, looked over in horror at my disfigured face I just repeated: “It doesn’t hurt!” A quick trip to the bathroom mirror and a lot of vomit later, I realized it did indeed hurt.

In high school, after causing a very serious car accident I kept saying, “I’m sorry!” as they rolled me by my mom in a gurney. Of course, she knew I was lucky to be alive and anger was the furthest thing from her mind. Hell, even the family of the guy I hit said, “Aw,” as I rolled by in my cheerleading uniform and a neck brace.

When I was walking a dog in New York City, I quickly ran past a doorman in someone else’s building after a dog mangled my finger like it was a dehydrated stick of chicken. I tried to play it cool so he didn’t notice one of my appendages was bleeding profusely. Instead of asking for help, I tried to act nonchalant and hide all the blood. I was 27 at the time.

You get the picture. You experience a lot of emotions during and after an injury. Fear I understand, but embarrassment is one that I just could never wrap my head around. Maybe it’s due to the repeated head trauma I suffered as a child. Who knows?

When I was lying bleeding in the middle of the street after that major car accident, a firefighter sat with me to try to help me remain calm. I was panicked. After one month of driving I had totaled our ’84 Volvo, an impossible feat, and was being rushed to the hospital because I fell asleep at the wheel.

“My mom is going to kill me,” I kept saying.

The firefighter calmly said to me, “You had an accident. That’s why it’s called an accident. You didn’t do it on purpose.”

As simple as his words were they really stuck with me. It’s easy to get mad at yourself or dissect every second of the day that brought you to an accident. It doesn’t matter. The important thing to remember is you didn’t do it on purpose. Just be grateful you walked away from this one with just some mild scar tissue and a story. Not everyone is so lucky.

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