Falling down the stairs
2005-06-19 - 2:18 p.m.

Saturday morning, I got up late. My throat was sore, the left side swollen, and I just didn't want to exit the covers. Finally, 8 a.m. rolled around and the call of the bathroom was too loud to ignore. Since I slept in just my socks (hey--my feet are always cold!), I pulled on a t-shirt and my sweatpants and padded off to the bathroom.

Realizing that my toothbrush was in my New Hampshire bag, packed and ready to put in the car, I decided to lug the bag downstairs and brush there, closer to the exit. I quietly picked up the bag and headed for the stairs.

About three steps down, my stocking-clad feet went out from under me. Boom boom boom down the steps I slid, tailbone to wood the whole way, not stopping until I hit the bottom. Clothes and toiletries bounced out of the bag the whole way, clattering and thudding to the floor. As I fell, I thought, "If I'd put on my damn shoes, the way Flylady told me to, this wouldn't be happening!"

I righted myself at the bottom just as my mom came flying around the corner from the dining room. Kirk was a beat behind her at the top of the stairs, naked but for a t-shirt.

"I'm okay," I protested as my mother reached to help me around the bannister. "I just need to sit down."

She walked me back to the dining room, seating me in the closest chair. That's about the last thing I remember for a while.

I heard them calling my name before I opened my eyes, like they were pulling me out of a deep sleep. "Jennifer, JENNIFER--open your eyes. Jennifer--are you okay? Jennifer, do you know who I am? Jennifer, are you breathing? Jennifer, who am I?"

I opened my eyes, staring at my mother. Of course I knew who she was, but why was she waking me up? There must be something wrong with Will! "You're my mama," I answered her. I was sweating madly. And my head hurt. I heard Kirk speak, "Yes, I need an ambulance at 22 Leonard Street. My wife is having some kind of a seizure."

A seizure? What did he mean? They just woke me up. I tried to think, but my head was very cloudy, and I was extremely nauseous. I turned onto my side and realized I was on the dining room floor. "How did I get here?" I asked my mom.

"I helped you out of the chair," she answered. I shrugged at her. "After you fell," she added. I was silent a moment. "I don't remember falling."

She smoothed my hair back from my face. I made no attempt to move. I felt like I was weighted down, and the nausea was huge. "Thank God she is breathing--they're taking a long time," my mom said to Kirk or to no one in particular.

Suddenly, footsteps at the back, unfamiliar black shoes in my face. The mouth attached to the shoes spoke to my mom, asking her what had happened, remarking that I was very pale, finally asking me directly what my name was, how old I was, if I knew what had happened. My name I could tell him. My age I had to think about. What happened--on that I was pretty fuzzy. I *did* remember falling, kind of, but after that--I was on the floor and feeling bad, and rolling into "rescue position" as I'd learned in Red Cross training.

More black shoes--six pairs in all--in the dining room. Thank goodness it was clean, I thought. ALl these guests. They carefully picked me up from the floor and strapped me into an orange chair. Out the door we went to the ambulance parked out front, where they helped me from the chair to the stretcher. Only then did I ask where we were going.

In the ambulance a flurry of activity surrounded me. Stick stick the heart monitor tabs. A finger prick of blood. An I.V.? I should warn you that I have a history of passing out when people give me I.V.'s. We'll hold off, then--it's just precautionary. A round of questions again--no, I don't remember anything after falling down the stairs until my mom woke me up. SHe says my eyes lost focus and I made a choking sound. No, I don't remember that at all. Now? Nauseous and shaky and very, very tired.

The sirens were on. I tried to watch out the window and figure out where we were--the road between my house and Norwood Hospital is a familiar one. But it's hard to follow when you're strapped to a stretcher and things are still very, very foggy.

Emergency room. Transfer to the bed. My head is clearer now, though I still feel shaky. Blood pressure is 93 over 51. Not too far off from normal. Heart rate is low. Skin is still pale, though Kirk says not as gray as it was at the house.

Hours pass. My EKG is normal. All signs point to okay. My doctor describes vasovagal syncope. Finally, I am cleared to go home, a prescription for painkillers and instructions to rest on ice for the next 24 hours in my pocket. These are instructions I am only too happy to follow.

Not how I'd hoped to spend my Saturday.

The bruises are quite fantastic.


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