The upside of falling down by Brian Jarvis.

Falls just don’t ‘happen’, to oldsters or younger people. In my case, aged 80 and priding myself on carefulness, it was lack of close attention when stubbing a toe against a slightly higher step. First result – the body was propelled forward against a wall and collapsed in a heap. Second result – head cut and an eventual black eye, but also a dislocated shoulder, several hours in hospital A&E, and concern and worry for partner, friends and neighbours.

Moment of truth: ‘Have you had a drink’, asked the smartly-uniformed paramedic who lifted me off the pathway, and he didn’t mean a soft drink. So did the rather more quizzical A&E assistant, and so did the bright and breezy young doctor, who came to sign me off after treatment. ‘Yes, a couple of scotch and soda’s while writing and working on the computer’ (a letter to the editor, supporting Brexit). No comment from the first two but, ‘Do you find a drink helps with your writing’, the doc was interested. Second moment of truth: ‘Yes’. Silence. Then rueful honesty: ‘But only the first one’. At which he laughed and said ‘So just have one next time’. I like people who don’t criticise my (many) faults.

I’d walked my partner Jane around to her neighbour’s for afternoon tea (she has a ‘walker’). Returned home and wrote on the computer for several hours, then on being phoned, went to collect her. Crash. My partial excuse is that the step IS different being higher than most in our street. Ten minutes later the host came out to find me laid out. Compos mentis there was not. The pain was continuous, persistent and insistent – bearable but with no moments of relief. I think I yelped a few times. The ambulance came an hour and a half later (where aren’t there such delays these days?) Uniformed Charlotte and Daniel, after uncovering me from the mountain of warm clothing put over me by the neighbours, were brisk in questioning but gently compassionate. They determined the injuries, wiped the head blood away – and then ‘Up you get’. Sitting upright inside the ambulance, Daniel further questioned me, and busily typed my answers into his communication laptop as we swayed towards the hospital. I was 15 minutes later handed over to A&E’s Danielle and Stephen. More questions, light shone in the eyes, gently testing the shoulder. Twenty minutes later, first X-ray. Twenty minutes later – ‘Sit on this chair. Dangle your injured arm back over it. Hold on!’ Then yank – and the dislocation over. The relief was instant (the body had its satisfaction over next few days, with soreness, pain and gorgeous multi-coloured bruising). Twenty minutes later, a second X-ray showed there was a chipped bone fragment floating in that left should. I asked if it might be connected with sleeping problems over the months. The current dislocation aside, said A&E’s so-calm Stephen, with a possible rotator cuff tear it could have been causal in night pain and discomfort experienced when lying on a shoulder. Have you seen a doctor? I demurred, at 80, one……. ‘prevaricates….” he said smiling. Danielle said ‘A doctor will give you an all-clear soon’ and wheeled me out into the waiting area and surprise! there was our neighbour Kath, host of the tea party. ‘What are you doing here? which could have been expressed more appreciatively. ‘Gill’s with Jane’ she re-assured me. A few minutes later I was whisked back to see lively Dr. Metcalfe and his final tests. That bone fragment? ‘Ask when you visit Trauma’s consultants in two days time’ was the answer: impressively, anticipating the doc’s okay, Stephen had already fixed me up with a follow-up examination for a recovery programme.

It was now late. Kath fetched her car and Jane and Gill were waiting up, relieved but wanting a step by step account. Starting with that first step – the one my foot caught in. Inattention on my part? Sorry, I would agree with Samuel Johnson: There is a wicked inclination in most people to ‘suppose an old man decayed in his intellects’. On the other hand, did I say that I pride myself on ‘carefulness’? Mmmn…. that’s why I lose so many things…..a dental bridge years ago to the latest, my bus pass. Drink? I’m afraid, as a former journalist, I imbibed the saying, ‘drink responsibly’ means don’t spill it!

Thank you, my kind helpers. Yes, they all got a card saying so. Jane sent the neighbours a bunch of flowers on my behalf – so nice of her!

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