Sunday, January 01, 2006


A Somber Christmas and New Year

About eight days after Thanksgiving, my father fell down in the house while carrying in groceries. At 82 years old, a fall is a serious matter. When he fell he struck his head close to his right eye and required stitches. A couple of days later he began having headaches and was hospitalized. Some bleeding was found on his brain but he seemed to recuperate and returned home after five days in the hospital.

The recovery did not continue, however, and the Friday before Christmas he had to return to the hospital. Since then he has been in and out of various ICU's, had holes drilled in his head to drain blood that had pooled on the brain, and now suffers a blood clot which apparently resulted from the surgery. A heprin drip was tried for about 12 hours to dissolve the clot but due to the surgery any form of blood thinner was dangerous.

Although my father used a cane to walk, he visited the health club 4-5 times a week and rode the exercise bike before this accident. Now he can't stand without assistance and continues to be in danger of dying from the complications.

While we all recognize that falls hurt and generally take care not to fall, we often forget just how serious falls are. After auto accidents, falls are the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. Falls are the leading cause of children under 14 years old although death from falls is low.

The elderly suffer much more from falls with permanent debilitation or death being much more common. Having worked as Social Services Director in a nursing home and having been married to an occupational therapist, I knew all this. But, it didn't help.

The most frustrating part of the whole situation is that all my father's children had told him at one time or another to be careful, don't try to do more than you can, etc. But a combination of his stubbornness and refusal to accept the limitations of an aging body overruled common sense. My father tried to carry in more groceries (3 bags) at one time than he could safely handle and now he may pay with his life.

Another irony is that the path from the car to the point in the house where he fell is a veritable obstacle course. First, he went through a carport filled with firewood, potted plants and other items. Then he crossed an area behind a retaining wall filled with pea gravel and loose, wobbly stepping stones, after which he ascended the steps to the front porch. Then, when inside the "safe" house, he somehow fell.

It's funny how significant incidents affect your life. I'll always remember this when carrying in groceries as I always remember other experiences when performing a certain task or being in a certain place.

However, I feel good about my family. Everyone has pulled together and been supportive of each other, especially my father and mother. There are times when politics and social issues don't matter as much. This is one of those times.

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