|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
It had been a couple of years since I had fallen. Back when I was a semi-walker, cane user, or scooter rider, I would fall more frequently because I was upright more frequently. Now that my only two positions in life are sitting or lying down, I rarely fall. It’s one of the paradoxical benefits of my creeping paralysis.
My most complicated transfer is that one from the toilet to my wheelchair. It is the long division of transfers, the Rubik’s Cube of disabled maneuvers. My movements are well practiced, however, and when properly executed this process goes off without a hitch. At this house, with this toilet, I enjoyed an unblemished record until last week.
The critical step in the process is when I reach with my left hand for the left armrest of my wheelchair. When that connection is made, all I need to do is pivot my body a little and drop backwards into the chair. Once, about six months ago, my hand slipped off the arm rest, but fortunately I fell right into the wheelchair. I wasn’t so lucky this time.
When my hand missed the armrest my entire body began nose-diving toward the hard bathroom floor. There was nothing for me to do except mentally brace for impact. I landed flat on my front side. I was somewhat shaken up from the fall and literally buzzing from the shot of adrenaline coursing through my veins. Nevertheless, I calmly began to solicit status reports from different parts of my body. I noted several areas of discomfort and irritation. Amazingly (if I was religious I might say miraculously), I didn’t sense any significant pain. Apparently, I had survived the fall very well.
As luck would have it my son Zach was home on his college break, and he responded to my request for assistance. The first thing I asked him do was pull up my pants so that my bare ass was no longer exposed. I’m not sure which of us was more relieved when that was taken care of. Next, I had him roll me over on my back and place a pillow behind my head. I reached in my shirt pocket, pulled out my cell phone, and called Kim at work. I knew that it would take two people and some ingenuity to get me back into my wheelchair.
The three of us brainstormed for configurations that might get me off the floor. Zach and Kim did some pulling and tugging on me, but it always resulted in pain in my shoulders or lower back. My body has become very stiff over the years, and any pressure applied in an unusual direction is not well received. Eventually I remembered that after my mother passed away five years ago we had taken possession of her portable Hoyer lift. My mother was a quadriplegic and used this device to transfer from her bed to her wheelchair and back again. I thought that someday I might need it for my own routine transfers. That day hasn’t arrived yet, but it was time to try out the Hoyer lift to solve this particular conundrum.
Kim and Zach rummaged through the attic and the shed, found all the parts, and assembled the unit. Kim rolled me on my side and laid the canvas sling under my butt. Ever so slowly Zach worked the lifting lever while Kim supported me. It wasn’t pretty – we didn’t really know what we were doing. But eventually I was high enough so that we could slide the wheelchair underneath me, and release the lift. We uttered a collective sigh of relief. Kim went back to work. Zachary went back to his video games. I went back to my beloved computer.
Perhaps a normal person would have been flustered, embarrassed, or disheartened by this experience. I’m glad that I’m emotionally stunted and not a normal person. As I’ve written before, I have a genetic predisposition toward emotional resilience. For example, at several points in the Hoya lifting process, much to Kim’s annoyance, I would call a time-out and have Zachary shoot a picture with my iPhone. Even in that stressful situation I was thinking ahead to this future blog post. In my mind, I imagined I would come off as outwardly composed and reasonably handsome throughout the whole episode. However, the photos instead revealed an old, fat guy who looked and felt like a beached whale. So I deleted them all. MS has taken so much from me, but a smidgeon of vanity remains.
So, how far have I fallen? An isolated event such as this one doesn’t necessarily signify new disease progression. In fact, given the complexity of this transfer, a fall was statistically overdue. I’ll simply try to be more careful during that critical part of the transfer, and maybe buy a couple more years before I fall again. If I’m wrong, and I am losing my ability to execute this transfer safely, then we’ll simply need to get creative. It won’t be the first time or the last time we’ve done that.