It has been a long, painful, journey both literally and figuratively since I had a bad fall while in California. It has also caused me to rethink a few things; the fragility of my health, the risks of wintering in the USA, and the wisdom of never again using the expression “A pain in the butt.”
As I write this, I am reclining on a bed in the living room of my eldest son’s family home, and I must begin by thanking both my sons and my daughter-in-law for their invaluable help during my time of need. Ken and Julie flew down from Edmonton to San Jose when they learned of my accident; they both helped with the very practical needs that I had, including getting me in and out of cars, in and out of bed, on and off the toilet, and so on. Until you have to ask a family member to help you in these most personal of activities, you don’t realize how fragile is your independence.
I also have to thank my roommate, Melissa, who was present at the moment of the fall and did all the right things. She got me seated in a patio chair while we figured out how badly I was hurt. Then, at my request, she went through my papers to try to find my travel insurance. We weren’t able to locate it right away and decided that the situation demanded immediate medical assistance anyway. She called for the ambulance and help arrived very quickly. Melissa also made visits to the hospital, contacts with my family, and rented the necessary aids to living on my return. We did eventually discover the insurance documents and she began the process of communication with the insurers.
The hospital in San Jose found that I had a broken left wrist and a fractured pelvis, and they discharged me after a few days with a cast on my arm. (I answered more questions about insurance than my health during those few days, but I’ll leave those thoughts for another day.) Melissa had a prior commitment the day I was to leave the hospital, but my niece, Lynn, drove up from Monterey to help with the discharge from hospital and the drive home. Thanks, Lynn! It took a couple of days after that for Ken to get a prescription for painkillers, to get the prescription filled, and to get a document that said I was fit to travel
After Julie arrived to help me fly home, we got contradictory information on how best to arrange that. The airline said the insurance company would make all the arrangements but it transpired after a couple of days that the insurers expected us to do the bookings. Again, Melissa stepped up to the plate and found us seats on a plane that was a direct flight back to Edmonton. The seats also provided enough room for Julie to stand in front of me, put her arms under my armpits, lift me out of the wheelchair and into the plane seat. The only seats providing that much room were in first class, but at that point I was not counting pennies. I won’t go into detail about how much help I needed en route but suffice it to say that Julie is a rock star.
After we arrived in Edmonton, we drove directly to the hospital and explained the circumstances. I cannot tell you how good it feels to be able to simply hand over your health care card and know that everything will be taken care of. If I could have bent over I would have kissed the ground. It took a while for me to have my injuries assessed and for me to be admitted into the hospital, but once that was done I had the American cast removed and another one put on my arm in its place. One of the medical team at the time said that the cast I came in with was the worst he had seen. I thought that was a dig at the US health system, but it transpired that the fault was with my arm, not the treatment I had received.
Before I was due to be discharged from the Edmonton hospital, though, I was given another x-ray which found that the new cast was also insufficient for the task. Subsequently, I had surgery to insert a plate with seven screws in my arm and wrist.
While I was in the Canadian hospital, Ken was driving my car and luggage back to Edmonton for me. It is a four-day drive and I think he found, as I do, that being alone on the road is quite a pleasant experience. At least, he hasn’t complained!
At this point in the storytelling, I have to confess that I haven’t always been the nicest person to be around lately. In particular, I must apologize to Melissa, Julie, and a nurse in Edmonton for giving them the rough edge of my tongue (or texts) sometimes. You didn’t deserve it, and I am very, very sorry. You have all responded with good grace to my bad manners, and I want you to know I appreciate that. I will try to be a better person in future.
My younger son, Jamie, had arranged for a hospital bed to be installed for my return home, and I used it for a couple of weeks before deciding its construction was not ideal for someone with a fractured pelvis. It was made up of metal bars and springs under an inadequate mattress and in the end, I decided to return it. Instead, we brought up the box spring and mattress from my basement suite. I cannot yet get up and down stairs, so I am temporarily taking up space in the main floor living room.
This bed would have been a big improvement to my comfort level, except that, without the adjustable hospital bed’s mechanisms, I was left to my own devices to sit up without the use of my left arm. As you may have guessed, I really messed that up. Just as the pain from my pelvic fracture was starting to subside, I managed to cause a bad sprain to a muscle in my “good” hip. Now it is giving me the most trouble and so my return to active duty is delayed again.
In addition to providing the necessary aids to daily living, Jamie took on the herculean task of gathering up all the receipts and bills from the US hospital, pharmacy, Ken, Julie, Melissa, and me, whether on paper, online, or in our credit card statements. He has since organized all this information on a spreadsheet by date, by currency, and by payer, and passed it all along to the insurance company. It remains to be seen how they will respond. (Some of their agents are easier to work with than others.)
The good news is that I am getting better. Since my post-operative checkup, I now have a removable cast on my left arm which allows me to do some gentle exercises with my hand, including typing! I am very, very happy about that. The sprained hip muscle still hurts but not so much as it once did. I am able to walk a few steps without the walker now, so there is light at the end of this tunnel.
Thank you to everyone who has wished me well, and to all of you who have checked in to see if I have posted anything new. There will be more stories and miscellaneous thoughts to read about in the future.