Back in May of 2009 I had a bad, bad fall at work. Despite the fact that it had such a huge impact on my life at the time, it happened pre-blog so I never wrote it out in full. I find myself referring to parts of this story often, mostly in connexion with my absolute horror of a certain major chain store (I’m sure you can figure out which it is). So here’s the full story, in all its gory detail.
It was at the very end of the work day and the going-away party for my then supervisor, who was moving to another college within our university system. No real work was going to get done the rest of the day, and I decided to help clear up the room for the festivities. The room where we were going to host the event was an old tv studio, and we used the sound booth to store spare electronics. I had just taken a box up into the booth and was halfway down the short flight of steps on the way to the door when I put my right foot on the edge of a step. That’s always a terrifying feeling, but despite the railing I could not catch myself in time. The steps were shallow, but the worn carpet was slippery and it didn’t take much. I twisted to the right on my way down, twisting my knee and falling hard on my right side on stairs.
I can say, with absolute honesty, it was the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced in my life. It has put all other pain into perspective and is my automatic 10 on any pain rating chart. If I were Spinal Tap, it would be an 11.
Back to the pain. It was the sort of overwhelming pain that left no room for anything else, including breathing. It took me several minutes just to move around so I was sitting. That hurt so bad that I cried for a while (which is hard to do with no air in your lungs). Just the pain from trying to shift my weight convinced me that I couldn’t walk, and I had no air to shout for help. Besides, I was back in the old studio- who would hear me? I was honestly terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get anyone’s attention and be stuck there after the office closed. I have never felt so helpless in my life.
Thankfully, after about 10 minutes I was able to pull myself upright. I managed to slowly hobble to the front desk by leaning on a wall. They got me into a rolling chair with my ankle elevated and started the workman’s comp process. I spent a good deal of time holding ice on my ankle and trying to convince people that I was okay despite the fact that I was unable to stop crying.
Note: All of my most horrific injuries have involved me trying to convince people that I’m okay. It’s a ridiculous reflex- there was no doubt that Something Was Very Wrong, but I do it anyway. I digress.
Our office manager, who is both an angel and a saint, was with me through it all, and she drove me to the closest emergency clinic.
Here is where I made a mistake.
The closest clinic was in a certain superchain. Of course, I was in terrible pain, so close=faster treatment, plus we were pushing 5:30 at this point, so we had to get there before they closed, so I was all for it. I wonder what would have happened if we had gone to the next furthest one? (Well, I wouldn’t have this dramatic story, that’s for sure.)
We pull up and, of course, since it is summer in Florida, it is pouring rain. Buckets. Torrents. Niagara Falls would have been envious of the copious amounts of liquid pouring from the sky. Office manager runs in- and discovers that the clinic has no wheelchairs.
Let’s review that a moment, shall we? A clinic. With NO wheelchairs.
But it was okay, because superchain has those nifty little motor carts, don’t they? Well, yes, but none of them were charged. NONE. because apparently people can’t be arsed enough to plug them in when they’re done.
It took a half hour, a half hour of sobbing quietly in the car while trying to be stoic about my ankle which had outswollen the confines of my shoe, to determine that there was only one way to get me into the clinic.
I used a shopping cart as a walker.
I used a shopping cart as a walker. IN THE RAIN.
The clinic was sympathetic and apologetic- they were smart enough not to comment on the fact that I was utterly drenched. They brought me a towel and put me in a rolling chair for the duration.
Now, to be honest, I don’t blame the clinic overmuch. They were a tiny place, shoehorned in to a major store trying to do their best. As the OM filled out paperwork I was able to observe some of their other clientèle. In spite of being soaked, bruised, and redfaced from crying, my office casual blew away everyone else in view in the style department (short of the clinic staff- scrubs are always in style).
To make a long story short, over the course of the next few months, I spent many, many hours in that clinic and that store. I once thought, “Hey! As long as I’m here I’ll pick up some groceries!” Er, no. Half the stuff I couldn’t bring myself to pick up and the rest I put back. I ate fastfood after I left instead. My opinion had not been particularly high of said chain previously, but repeated immersion did nothing to change my views, and if anything has pushed them further into the red, into “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!” levels of warning, whenever the store name is even mentioned.
The other, truly memorable moment of that first day, however, is when they laid me out to x-ray the ankle. I painfully extricated my foot from my sock, which was stretched to its extreme over my swollen ankle. The nurse turned and looked at the blue softball someone had glued to my foot and yelled “OH MY GOD!” She afterwards apologised and assured me that she had seen worse, but it certainly didn’t soothe my anxiety in any way.
In all, it turned out to be a very bad sprain. I had splints and crutches and physical therapy. After four months I was whole again, but my hands and shoulders continued to ache weeks after I was off the cane.
And that’s how we found my RA.