Falling Happens [Part 2]
Falling In Parking Lots– One of my worst falls came when I was trying to help a dear friend named Cathy. She had been dating this guy that we secretly dubbed Dirty D, solely based on the large amount of urinary tract infections he had caused her. This particular infection came hard and it came fast. And by the time I had arrived at her house to go to lunch, she was doubled-over in pain and could barely walk. Upon seeing her pitiful state I decided she needed medical attention. Since she’s one that normally is above medical miracles, I’d have to dig deep.
“There’s only enough room in this friendship for one handicapped person. Get in the van. I’m taking you to the doctor,” I announced. Our lunch date would have to be postponed.
In the van Cathy made full use of the passenger seat. She rocked back and forth, sometimes resting her forehead on the dashboard and other times leaning back against the head rest. Her arms were crossed around her torso holding her stomach always. Now that it was known we were headed to the doctor, the symptoms seemed to worsen while in the van, kind of like how you might become hungrier when you know you’re about to eat. The more she moaned the more reckless my driving became until finally we were at her shopping-mall of a doctor’s office.
“Go on Cathy,” I directed. “It’ll take me a second to hop out of the car.” It’s more like two minutes. It takes almost two minutes for the hydraulics in my van to lower and the ramp to open out of the right side door, and then the same amount of time to close and lock up the vehicle.
“It’s all good dude,” she replied. “I’m just glad you made me come here. I feel like I’m dying.”
In a frantic state and in attempt to be a good friend, I started down the ramp before it was fully displaced on the ground. I also didn’t take the time to hook left my arm on the back handle of my wheelchair, something I usually do for extra precaution. Consequently and thanks to poor driving, one of the front wheels of my wheelchair lunged over the ramp’s edge halfway through my departure making my wheelchair come to a complete stop. I, however, continued to sail through the air proving physics right once again. The landing pad was a parking lot made of black tar.
After the first few wheelchair spills I had trained myself to put my elbows up in front of my face to protect it. There was no time to do anything else, except scream the word “FUCK” before splattering onto the sparkling black tar. After making impact with the ground, I looked over at Cathy who was now doubled-over and sitting on the curb. Her eyes grew as large as saucers.
“Shit, are you okay?” she asked.
“Fuck, I think so. Are you okay?”
She laughed. “Yeah dude. You just ate shit.”
“I know right? Even when I try to do something nice for someone else, it always ends up being about me. Jesus.” I paused to laugh. “Why the fuck do you even hang out with me?”
“Don’t make me laugh. It hurts worse.”
I can’t even imagine what a sorry sight we were, the two of us, sprawled out in the middle of the parking lot, in front of a doctor’s office. But it was enough to stop a middle-aged man dead in his tracks.
“Oh my God. Do you girls need help?” he asked. I couldn’t see him or size him up because I was facing Cathy, but it didn’t matter. We certainly needed an extra hand.
“Yes, kind person. Can you come pick her up and put her back in the wheelchair? She fell out, and I’m in pain and can barely move.”
I never asked the man’s name, or even bothered to look him directly in the face. He was just a vehicle for me, a way to get from one place to another. And as soon as I was in my chair, I was racing to Cathy’s side to pick her up. She grabbed on to the handle on the back of my chair, the one that could have saved me from such an embarrassing fall, and used it to stand up.
“Thanks sir!” Cathy yelled.
“Yeah, thanks sir. You saved my life,” I added, still facing away from the guy. I was hoping if I didn’t look at him he wouldn’t remember me. Although I was gracious. As a thank you, I threw my free arm straight up into the air and waved it in acknowledgement. Then I made it a point to never look back.
In the lobby mirror I could see that both knees and both elbows were bleeding from road rash. A trail of bright red blood made it’s way down my left leg.
“You gonna make it?” Cathy asked.
“I’m totally fine. I mean, we’re at a doctor’s office right? What better place to fall. Are you going to make it?” I asked in return.
“God, I hope so. I don’t know if Dirty D is worth all this.”
He wasn’t, but for more reasons than just the frequent UTIs.
“Seriously, I think it’s time you move on. Also, can you please remind me to never do anything nice for anyone again?”
Upon busting through the door to the doctor’s lobby, the heads in the room naturally turned toward us. Upon seeing our sorry state, one lady gasped and put her hand over her mouth. Since I was the healthier of the two of us, I approached the nurse’s window and began to explain Cathy’s condition.
“Wait. Now, which one of you is the patient?” the nurse interrupted me.
Cathy groaned from the back of the room, “I am.”
“But you’re bleeding,” she continued, pointing to me.
“Yes, that’s correct. But she needs to be fixed.” I pointed to Cathy, and then back to myself. “I’m already broken.”
The nurse stared at me, then Cathy, then back to me. “Let’s see if we can get you girls a room right away.”
I turned to those staring at me in the waiting room and waved.
“See Bonanze,” Cathy began. Bonanze was a nickname she had given me personally. The name had evolved from Jana Banana, to Banana, to Bonanza and finally ended at Bonanze, the name of a chimp in a zoo somewhere. I’m sure of it. “You are good for some things.”
The nurse led us to an open room immediately.
“Yeah, I guess. I’m good for parking, cutting lines and creating drama.”
Falling Onto Sidewalks
It’s no secret. I owe many strangers thanks for picking me up off of the ground over the past decade. I’m always amazed at the kindness people offer in times of need. Someone has always available to rescue me when I fall. One of the most embarrassing times I fell was right outside my high-rise condo. I had gone to brunch on the other side of downtown Orlando with several friends and was just returning home.
I was talking on the phone and driving my wheelchair at full speed. Big shot, I know. Quadriplegics are happy to do one thing at a time, nevertheless two. From afar I imagine I looked like a movie star, wearing over-sized Oliver People sunglasses, appearing busy and important, when all of a sudden the knob of my wheelchair broke right off. As the knob of the joystick flung forward onto the ground, the rest of the joystick bounced back into its neutral off position. By now you understand what happens when my wheelchair stops unexpectedly.
Shooting through the air is exactly how I would describe what happened next, and it wasn’t just me. My phone, the broken part of my wheelchair, my sunglasses, the leftovers that were sitting on my lap—all of it—launched through the air and landed on the solid concrete in front of the parking garage, just behind the backside of my building’s downstairs restaurant. Thankfully there was no one sitting in the outdoor patio to watch me Superman into another terrible predicament.
Upon making contact with the sidewalk, I noticed blood onto the concrete. Then, like the previous falls, I spent the next thirty seconds on the ground trying to comprehend what had just happened and where the blood was stemming from. It’s difficult to know what body parts are injured when paralyzed, so a full eye examination is required. I looked at my legs. There were some scratches but overall my stems appeared to be still in tact with no protruding bones. My arms looked normal too. I took that as a good sign. I located my phone on the concrete ten feet away, and wondered what the person on the other end of the line must be thinking. Then I thought about what she must be thinking I’m thinking, which was Shitballs. I’m fucked.
It’s one thing to fall in a strange place or in the comfort of your home because either you never have to see the person that helps you again, or it’s someone who knows your situation so it doesn’t matter. At the base of condo building, ironically called The Sanctuary, I felt most vulnerable. It was likely whoever was going to help me would spread this story to all my neighbors. I’d forever be known as the accident-prone wheelchair girl… that is if the title had not been given to me already.
The blood seemed to be dripping from a large bump on my forehead. Also lying next to me, besides the drops of red, was a bag of urine, still attached to me, but out in the open for every to see. I cringed, first feeling embarrassed my secret was exposed and then a second time for not being able to do anything about it. Clearly a skirt had not been the appropriate attire for this stunt.
Eventually I came around to looking for help but there was no one around. Maybe I should have wished for someone TO be sitting outside The Beacon. I reached over to my Oliver Peoples, which were surprisingly within grasp. The left lens was completely cracked but the sunglass frame only was scratched. Impressive, I thought. And worth every penny, all 30,000 of them.
“Do you need help?” I heard faintly. I lifted my head off the concrete to see a server standing outside the doorway of the near by restaurant.
“Yes, please,” I called out. And then tried my best to cover the urine bag out of sight. My body felt twisted and like a victim from CSI, sprawled out at the scene of the incident. Reclaiming any dignity at this point seemed highly unlikely. Still, a girl must try.
“Um… how should I do this,” he asked, dropping to one knee beside me.
He was all of 24-years-old, with short brown hair, dark eyes and tanned skin. He was a god-damned Colin Farrel if there ever was a young Colin Farrel to come from Latin America, the kind of server single women wish for when going to dinner on girl’s night out. Fucking wonderful.
“If you could just bring my legs together, and kinda sit me up I guess,” I stammered. “And sorry to gross you out but I need that urine bag to be on top of my legs at all times. It’s attached to me.”
Like a gentleman, the handsome server did exactly as directed.
“Thanks, now if you can just scoop me up and put me back in the chair that’d be great. You can put one arm under my knees and the other on my back, you know, like honeymoon style…”
I wanted to die from embarrassment, and based on the amount of blood dripping down my face and onto my shirt dying seemed like a sure possibility.
“You really busted up your head there. Do you want me to call 911?” the server asked. He had just stepped away from sitting me in my chair and was looking me over, grimacing. Not exactly the kind of attention I was seeking.
“No, no, no. I’ll be fine.” I was lying. I needed medical attention ASAP but first I needed my shoes. They had flown off sometime between me leaving my wheelchair and smacking the concrete.
“Do you mind putting my shoes back on?” I asked. In the last minute, I had asked this man to touch my urine bag, put his hands under my skirt, scoop me off the floor and put my shoes on without even asking his name–not quite the Cinderella fairy tale but close.
I watched the server stuff my feet into my open-toed sandals, to which normally I would have complained and asked him to be more gentle. But considering the situation, I thanked him, and left him standing next to a small puddle of my blood, my blood. I hadn’t noticed it before but as soon as I entered the lobby of my building I could feel my head throbbing. Quickly before anyone else could see me I scooted into the unisex bathroom to take a moment and pull myself together.
Upon seeing my reflection in the bathroom mirror I began to cry. In between tears, I grabbed the nearby paper towels, wet them, and then used them to start wiping away the trails of blood, although careful not to get too close to the open wound. The lump on my head large—so abnormally large it occurred to me I may have done permanent damage, maybe even cracked my skull. I immediately called the friend that lived closest to me and told her what I had done. Someone needed to know where I was going in case I blacked out before making it to the ER.
I was lying in a hospital bed covered in road rash and blood, with the beginnings of unicorn horn protruding from my forehead, when the doctor first walked into the room.
“So what happened?” he asked.
It took me a minute to answer. I needed to sort out what story was the least embarrassing.
I wasn’t wearing a seat belt. NO.
I fell out of my wheelchair. NO.
I was trying to do two things at once… NO, NO, NO.
In all cases, I sounded like what I was—what I am—a crippled handicapped. And it only got worse.
“Are there any other injuries besides the obvious one on your forehead?”
I don’t know.
I honestly can’t tell.
The doctor at the ER was actually an intern who was fulfilling his residency. Like the server, he too had dark hair and eyes and appeared to be my age, which seemed too young to have such authority. And as he looked into my eyes, or more into my wound to see how many stitches I needed, I thought, Really? This can’t be happening. Today is the day that Orlando has sent me its most handsome men?
My doctor was a real-life McDreamy. Just my luck. It’s needless to say but being paralyzed continues to be a humbling experience even after the initial injury is long over. It can be, however, also a way to meet hot men.
After six x-rays and a full body examination, the final diagnosis was six stitches to my forehead. The Oliver People sunglasses had saved my face, and possibly even saved me from fracturing my skull. Although there was going to be no re-do without the glasses to be sure.
For the next few weeks following the accident, I steered clear of the restaurant downstairs of my building. I made a conscious effort to avoid the place of incident and also avoid the server that had saved me. I just didn’t know what to say or how to explain my situation until one year later on a Sunday Funday. While at a party at a friend’s house the server entered the room. Upon seeing him I smiled and nodded my head. He did the same. We remained in the same room at opposite sides but never talked again. My fall would forever be our little secret.