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Published July 9, 2019

THE VIEW FROM MY SEAT

Cats want to play after my fall; I have different priorities

By Ernie Williamson / The Bulletin

Falling. It’s every senior citizen’s or paraplegic’s worst nightmare.

My latest fall occurred after boasting in a column about how well I had adapted to wheelchair life and how independent I had become. Well, maybe not so much.

The statistics about falls are alarming. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

• 3 million older people are treated in emergency rooms each year for fall injuries• More than 800,000 of those are hospitalized.
• More than 95 percent of hip injuries are caused by falling.
• Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries.

Only days before falling, I had called the company that services my wheelchair and made an appointment to have the brakes checked. I was having trouble tightening them.

Because I couldn’t get an appointment for a week, I made a mental note to be extra careful transferring in and out of the wheelchair. I probably transfer 25 or 30 times each day.

I wasn’t careful enough that Saturday morning. As I was transferring from my bed, the wheelchair slid away. I fell to the floor, wedged between the bed and the chair.

Every once in a while, when I am feeling good, I get the feeling that I can walk. Falling is a not-so-gentle reminder that I can’t.
This fall might not sound like much. After all, I didn’t fall far. But falling any distance when your legs don’t work is scary and painful. Your legs don’t get out of the way, and you end up bending them in ways they don’t want to go. It takes effort just to get untangled.

As is usually the case, I couldn’t have fallen at a worse time. My wife had a Saturday morning doctor’s appointment, and my phone was being charged in the other room. I felt like I was in one of those medical alert device commercials … without the device.

While on the floor, one of our cats came in carrying a toy. She wanted to play. Just what I needed. Not now.
After recovering from the shock of the fall, my quick inventory concluded no bones were broken, although I may have hyperextended a knee and toes.

The real challenge would be getting back in the chair. Even with training, it’s not easy going from the floor to a wheelchair without using your legs.

After failing in several attempts, I considered remaining on the floor until my wife got home. However, with my last ounce of energy, I pulled myself up into the safety of my chair. I was sweating and breathing as if I had run a marathon.

This makes four or five times I have fallen since becoming paraplegic seven years ago.

The worst fall happened on a hot summer day as I was running errands. I had forgotten to put the anti-tipping bars on my wheelchair , and when I went up the ramp into my van, I tipped over backwards.

I tumbled out of the chair and ended up on my back on hot pavement in a shopping center parking lot.

That was the fastest I ever climbed back into my chair. After that fall, I promised myself never again to remove the anti-tipping bars.

After the most recent fall, I promised myself to look into getting a medical alert device.

(Ernie Williamson welcomes reader input. Please contact Ernie at williamsonernie@gmail.com)