The saga of the very shitty little aluminum ladder and massive blood loss.
Some days I’m the Obliviot…
Some days you’re the Big Dog — other days you’re the chew toy
So just for the record, at the ripe old age of 68, I no longer bounce when I hit the ground. I clatter like a centuries old skeleton. No longer the spry squirrel that climbed poles for a living, I am now an aging arthritic squirrel who needs to learn to move a LOT slower.
Earlier this week I was cleaning up some wiring on a wall. I was standing on a shitty aluminum stepladder, standing about 3-1/2 to 4 feet above the cement floor, when apparently I shifted my weight. This set in motion a cascading domino effect that culminated in an ambulance ride to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth, CT scan, 18 stitches, X-rays and LOTS of attention (+ some nice morphine).
Everything happened so fast I was only aware of hurtling to the cement floor like a lightning bolt – which is what it felt like when the back of my skull hit the concrete. As I shifted my weight on this POS 4 foot aluminum ladder, the smaller set of legs spontaneously folded up and the whole thing went right out from under me. I landed on my tailbone and the back of my skull (and apparently my right elbow as well). Anyone who has ever had a scalp wound knows they bleed like crazy.
Well, as I get up from the floor with my left hand on the painful part of my skull, I see LOTS of blood on the floor and more dripping in large drops all around me. I know I have to stop the blood loss or I’ll lose consciousness and about 10 minutes later I’ll be as dead as Nixon. There is not a soul to be found anywhere in sight to help me.
So I apply pressure to my skull and start for the nearest restroom – about 200 feet away – then realize I’m going to need my phone. I dash back for my phone and trot to the restroom as fast as possible. Diving into the men’s room and over to the sink, I grab a wad of paper towels and press them to my skull. It feels squishy to the touch. I’m thinking this is not particularly good. As I look into the mirror, what I see it downright jarring. Staring back at me is a pretty well crafted Halloween costume, coated in blood from the top of its head to its waist and blood dripping down its legs – all over the floor and splattering around the sink area. Rivulets of blood are running down my face, neck, ears, arms and hands in bright scarlet pathways to the floor.
I quickly dial 9-1-1 and tell them what is going on. I have to look up my physical address in my phone and continue with the operator until they tell me EMTs are on the way and to make sure someone is available to flag them down and point them in my direction (it is a big facility).
So I dart out the restroom door and see a woman with a name badge on. As you might imagine she is clearly taken aback by the bloody mess she sees. I ask her to get someone to flag down the EMTs and send them my way. This generates the expected flurry of activity and I head back into the restroom. And with nothing else to do I start trying to wipe off the massive amount of blood splattered around the sink.
I am in Fort Worth.
We live in Dallas.
My wife is in Dallas and needs to know about this mighty quick.
So I dial my bride and the conversation goes something like this:
Me: “listen.” (you know it’s bad news when the conversation starts this way) “I fell and hit my head. I have a lot of blood loss and EMTs are on the way. I have to wait for them.”
My Bride: Clearly shaken she wants to know what condition I’m in, where I will be and every other detail I don’t know. I assure her I’m not losing consciousness and that as soon as I know where I will be, I will let her know.
A few minutes later the EMTs arrive, load me up and whisk me down to the ambulance after I get someone to retrieve my ID, hat, glasses, etc. from the scene of the carnage. They are pleased that I have stopped the flow of blood.
I update my bride by phone and settle in for the ride. The trip to Harris Methodist takes a lot longer that I thought it would. During the ride they monitor my vitals and re-dress my head wound and elbow (I didn’t even know blood was pouring from my elbow).
Fortunately I keep a full list of all my meds and supplements in a Google Drive account. I just show this to the EMT and they have everything they need. I recommend you do the same. Or put it in a note file in your phone.
Just FYI: When you arrive at the ER and are whisked directly into a room, it is pretty serious.
Apparently when you are of “a certain age” and have a massive head wound you get really prompt attention…
We arrive at Harris Methodist ER and I am very quickly transferred to room 5 where I am to spend the next several hours. I find out I am fortunate to have a room, as there are people stacked up in the halls. The ER has 29 rooms that I counted and they are all occupied this Tuesday in July. Apparently early in the week, especially combined with a full moon makes for a very busy ER.
I am quickly surrounded by 5 or 6 doctors and nurses who get all my vitals, triage me, get an IV started and arrange for a CT scan.
The CT shows no fractures or brain bleeds and now I get some much needed morphine. This is the point where I start to feel better.
As they start to work on suturing my scalp they find there is a nice sized hole to deal with through which you can see my skull. It takes 4 stitches to bring the muscle back together (did you know you have muscles between your skull and scalp?) and another 10 stitches to close the triangle shaped wound. An additional 4 stitches in my elbow and now I’m ready for some X-rays to see if all the hardware in my spine (24” of steel rods and screws) is still intact – it is.
Finally around 8:30 PM or so they cut us loose and we can head back to Dallas.
All this fun and games started around 2:30 PM. A total of 6 hours which really is not bad.
We feel VERY fortunate. This could have turned out a LOT worse. I could have broken an arm – or spine – or neck – or knocked a bunch of teeth out. I could be paralyzed now. I could have lost consciousness, bled out and died right there.
So in the overall scheme of things this is not at all bad.
I have a substantial 3 pointed gash in the back of my head and a large bruise in my butt crack (apparently where my tailbone contacted the cement) but all of this could have been so much worse.
While almost everything currently hurts, we are very thankful that my condition is not exponentially worse.
It’s important to be thankful for what you have – or in this case for what you do NOT have.
And we are that. Very grateful for what I do Not have.
So here’s what I always used to ask my daughter in similar situations: “What have we learned from this, Bunny Foo Foo?”
- First and foremost: Never trust your life or health to a shitty, unstable, lightweight aluminum ladder. Not even for a minute.
- Second: Take Your Time. No job, no matter how big or how small is worth your life or health. Slow down and make sure you have a safe environment and work area.
- Third: Don’t work alone in hazardous conditions. You always need a backup.
I want to thank all the people who helped keep me in one piece at STAR EMS, Harris Methodist and everyone who called and emailed to check up on me.