May 21st, 2024

Falls can happen to anyone

By Lethbridge Herald on January 8, 2022.


Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

We’ve all heard the stories of senior citizens who have taken serious falls and never recovered. As a kid, actually up until a couple of years ago, I never paid much heed to the dangers of falling.

The operative word here is “much” because I have a cervical fusion with my fourth to seventh vertebrae screwed together with a titanium plate.

That surgery in May of 2002 at Foothills Hospital gave me my life back, my quality of life which was deteriorating swiftly since I began suffering neck pain two years ago after ride at a California theme park where in retrospect I think I suffered whiplash.

Because of the fusion, I had to quit hockey and running which I did occasionally –  always with no training – for charity fundraising events. Now I can’t even fathom running one kilometre without training, never mind five or 10 which I used to do.

After the fusion. I had to quit the gym for several years as a precaution but those sacrifices were well worth making. 

In the months leading up to surgery by Dr. Richard Hu, I was going paralyzed on my right side. While I could do tricep pulls with 110 lbs using my left arm, I could only do 10 with my right and I needed my left for assistance. And forget about lifting a dumbbell – I simply couldn’t The pain was non-stop and unbearable and when finally emergency surgery was ordered, I felt monumental relief.

Fortunately I’ve only felt minimal discomfort with the neck in these nearly 20 years since although there are occasional times when I don a neck brace at work during long days at my computer. 

The neck issue hasn’t prevented me from taking my daily strolls every day in all sorts of weather. And while potential injury is always in the back of my mind, it’s never been at the forefront. 

Perhaps it should have become a concern when I badly strained knee ligaments around Christmas of 2020 after slipping on ice – a knee which still bothers me regularly to this day.

But I definitely became worried after a horrible fall early in December while walking one of the dogs that landed me flat on my back with my head bouncing off a snow-covered path. That one hurt badly, enough that I stayed home flat on my back once I got back to the house. 

I’m still feeling the effects of that fall on my back, my hip and yes to a degree, on my neck. It was a bad one that could have been much more serious. The worst fall I’d ever experienced prior to December was in early 1981 in Fort Frances when I moved into a house with a couple of pals and forgot I had an upstairs bedroom. The first night there, I made a right turn in the dark and rolled down the stairs, putting my head through drywall. But my caring roomies, after careful deliberation, decided I deserved a 9.9 for the dive. Maybe if my head had gotten stuck in the drywall, I could have won a perfect 10.

Shortly after my most recent incident, I heard of the tragic demise in Ontario of a guy I knew who fell, broke a hip and then died of a blood clot shortly after. That shook me and now after my own experience, I am taking this issue seriously.

My paternal grandparents both took bad tumbles late in life and never recovered but I didn’t consider the same could happen to me because they were well advanced in age and I’ve always considered myself invincible – that happens when we’re young.

But I’m no spring chicken anymore and as I’ve been discovering, the older we get, the longer we feel the effects of injuries. And I’m a guy who tries to walk a minimum of 10,000 steps a day, does pushups most mornings and keeps a gym membership lest I actually get around to hitting the weight room. 

Aside from a never-ending long battle with anemia that I’m resigned to dealing with for the rest of my life, I think I’m in pretty decent shape.

But I know that in a blink of an eye, life can change permanently because of one mis-step. And every night as I put the heat pad on my back and hope I can get through a mostly pain-free night, I realize how close I came to an unmitigated health disaster last month.

Falls can happen to any of us; not just the elderly but all of us. And we all need to take steps to ensure our safety, especially in the ever-changing weather we have that can quickly turn dry sidewalks and streets into skating rinks. 

Some things just happen so be careful this winter; don’t follow in my footsteps.

Follow @albeebHerald on Twitter.

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