Kramer: A fall at home brings change in philosophy
It was just a matter of time. I knew it was coming but didn't know when. Over the past several years, I have stubbed my toes, caught my sneakers on a highly polished floor, and even taken a tumble walking down a long, tiled corridor. But I didn't expect it would happen in my own home. The fall caught me completely off guard. The conditions of warning evolved over several years, but I really didn't pay much attention to them: neuropathy that numbed my feet and myopathy that made it hard for me to play on the floor with the kids and get up. But they really didn't get in my way too much, so after diagnosis and prescriptions to minimize their interference with my life, I ignored them. Until yesterday. Clearing up some clutter in the house, I tripped and fell, devastatingly hard as I wrenched my back and smashed my nose on a bookshelf. Bruised and bloodied, my family convinced me to see a doctor, and I did. What he explained to me has changed my life and my outlook. "Judy, I'm sending you for X-rays to make sure your back and nose are not broken," he explained. "And I want you to consider using a cane or walker when possible because the myopathy and neuropathy you have are going to get worse as you age."Shocked by his recommendation, I protested that it would make me feel old. And then he looked directly into my eyes and forcefully said, "Don't be proud. The conditions causing this are not your fault. They're genetic, they will get worse, but they will not kill you. What you ignore, can!" The words felt as if they had been chiseled into my brain with an ice pick. They made sense, they felt reasonable, but they hurt. Again, with a direct gaze he argued with the look he saw on my face. "Don't be proud," he repeated. "This is not your fault. It's not because of something you did or didn't do. It needs attention now, so I'm recommending physical therapy to keep your muscles as strong as possible and the use of a walker or cane when you need it to be safe." I am accepting his advice, but even more important, I find myself respecting his humanity. His ability to tell me of my genetic predisposition and his words of explanation and warning touched me in a way that has helped me hear, understand and live more comfortably with who I am. He took blame away from me and placed it where it belonged — in my body, not my choices. Since statistically, many of us as we age will experience falls, I've decided to share what he taught me. "Don't be proud. What you have will not kill you, but what you ignore can." I've been thinking about that cautionary biblical saying, "Pride goeth before a fall." If we are too proud and overconfident we will make mistakes leading to our own defeat. I am determined not to let that happen. Thank you doctor for the tools you have given me to help myself.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at JudyandOz@tampabay.rr.com. She is author of "Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age."