That was the command Mike, our Dr son-in-law, gave the ambulance dispatcher on the morning of April 4th. Joice had fallen during the night and Mike, after arising and reading an email from me, arrived early in the morning to help us. It isn’t a funny story, but it is one worth telling.
People, especially old people, get up during the night to go to the bathroom. They have probably traveled the route hundreds of times and know it well. So, in their thinking, “Why bother with a flashlight? I know the way and it is not far.”
Unfortunately for Joice, she got disoriented and ended up falling hard. It woke me up with a bang and when I turned on the light I found her on the floor in a kind of sitting position, but with no inclination or energy to get up. I tried to help her but we were both perplexed on how best to do it, of even if we should. What if she had broken a hip or damaged some other part of her anatomy?
We stared at each other for several minutes, then she managed a kind of crawl to the edge of the bed. I cheered her on. But once at the bed and trying to raise herself, she felt light-headed and had to rest. After some minutes we managed to get her into the bed, well almost all of her. The bad leg—the one she had fallen on and damaged in Ecuador some 12 years previously—objected to any movements and took considerable persuasion to move at all.
I can pick up a 100 pound sack of cement or a similarly sized object, but with considerable effort. Joice only weighs about 130 but when I tried to help her up, it was “dead weight” and only by pulling her arms out of the shoulder sockets would I be able to move her. That is why she crawled to the bed and I helped shove her in it. Later we decided to use my office chair (with wheels) like a wheelchair.
It was about 2:30 when all this first happened and we knew that Mike would arrive shortly after he got up and read our email. He arrived after 6 and after examining Joice said “I think we better have an ambulance and take you to ER at the hospital for a check-up.” He didn’t think she had broken her hip but wanted to be sure. He called the ambulance dispatcher and gave her strict orders about “no sirens or flashing lights.” “But we have protocol,” the woman exclaimed. “No lights and siren or I take her to the hospital myself.” That settled things.
The ambulance arrived in about 10 minutes and the para-meds came in with their gurney and emergency equipment. Joice was transported to the ambulance, which was stationed in front of our neighbor’s house with very bright side lights illuminating Joanne’s (our neighbor) driveway. I was sure she would be awakened, but she wasn’t. On the other hand, Cindy, who lives on the other side of our unit, came out and wondered what was going on. “She slipped and fell during the night and we are taking her to the hospital for a checkup.” Cindy looked concerned. “I told her she should get a checkup because I noticed she was out of breath last time I saw her.” Now I was puzzled. “She didn’t tell me anything about that,” I said.
We were mixed up: Cindy was talking about Joanne and I was talking about Joice. (We didn’t get it straightened out until sometime later.)
Mike in his car, and I in ours followed the ambulance to the hospital. Joice was admitted immediately and the first person we met was Doug, a friend from the YMCA who volunteers at the hospital. It was good to see him.
However, doctors and technicians took over and a portable x-ray machine was brought to the bedside and Joice got x-rays of the side and back that hurt. Mike had trained one of the doctors and quizzed her about what she heard with her stethoscope. Joice has a heart murmur and the doctor heard it. A nurse also took an EKG of Joice’s heart.
It took an hour or more for the first results of the x-ray: nothing was broken and we were relieved. However, Mike cautioned that an “occult fracture” doesn’t show up immediately and we might need more x-rays or an MRI later. He also examined the x-rays with the ER director, one who had worked at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, which is famous for treating gunshot and other kinds of terrible wounds. We were in good hands, so to speak.
After three hours or so, Karol came and relieved Mike so that he could go to work at his clinic. Another hour and Joice was discharged—Doug wheeled her out to our car, where I was waiting. Karol came home and helped get things organized.
The next day a couple of small bruises appeared, but that was just the beginning. Over the next three days the bruise became a giant blob covering the area from the right hip to below the knee. It was an almost beautiful purple, with snatches of yellow, blue and pink here and there. I took a picture and mailed it to our family in Australia. The result was immediate: “Oh grandma, I feel so sorry for you,” with prayers and supplications offered. It was good to feel necessary.
About 10 days later Joice still had a bad pain in her hip and knee so we went to our doctor, who ordered more x-rays to see if there might be an “occult” (hidden) fracture. Within two hours we had the report that there was nothing showing up as broken. More rejoicing, but still pain. Around the house she began using a cane` , but I insisted on a flashlight and the walker for any late strolls to the bathroom
Three weeks later we got a statement from Providence Healthcare Network for $3,608.25 assuring us that “This is not a bill.” The ambulance bill hasn’t come yet nor some other “incidentals” so maybe Providence is just trying to prepare us for the future onslaught.
Good medical help costs a lot in the U.S. but we are grateful for it. We have had serious medical problems in Papua New Guinea, but this accident would have been very serious—probably resulting in a medical emergency flight to Australia.
But we are glad that Mike ordered “no sirens or flashing lights.” That would have cost extra.