The day started out like any other Saturday, on the morning of November 6, 2004. It was 8:00am and the house was quiet. My children and husband sleeping in, as they often did on Saturday mornings. My Saturday morning routine was different: up early, walk the dogs, go to the gym, get home, and start making breakfast. The smell of bacon frying in the pan and fresh biscuits baking in the oven would always get my sleepy household up. However that particular Saturday would be different, in a moment’s instant something would happen that would change my life.
I greeted my two dogs at the top of the stairs, Penny, my 7-year-old cocker spaniel, and Misty, the 7-month-old golden retriever. The two of them greeted each other, as they usually did, then the cocker ran down the stairs patiently waiting for me and the puppy to come down. The puppy, a 40-pound-clumsy-sweetheart, would walk down the stairs with me. She would watch as I took a step and paced her steps with mine. However on that Saturday, for some reason, the cocker spaniel was inpatient and ran back up the stairs.
Somehow the dogs got behind and underneath me, and I lost my footing.
I remember desperately trying to hold onto the banister as I fell down the 15-stairs to the hardwood floor below me. My right leg somehow got tugged under me and took the brunt of the fall. I tried so hard to straighten-out my leg, while attempting to stabilize myself as I clung onto the banister for support. There wasn’t much pain, shock mostly, fear of hurting my back, which was already weakened from being a floor nurse. Thoughts raced through my mind…..get that leg out, try to go down on your butt, keep your legs straight and don’t let go of the banister. But I couldn’t straighten-out my right leg. About halfway down the 15 stairs I heard about 30 very loud cracking noises, like the noises you would hear when someone deliberately cracked their knuckles. I new at that moment that I must have broken my entire leg as I could feel the cracks clear up to my knee.
Fatigued and in shock, at about the 4th stair from the bottom, I lost my grip on the banister, I flipped and stopped on the bottom stair, my now seeming-lifeless right leg in front of me. My 9-year-old daughter came running out of her room, awoken by the noise of my fall. She cried out to me, dazed, I looked up at her, thankful that I could move my neck, and cried for her to get her step-dad, Larry. I sat there for a moment attempting to assess the damage to my body, not realizing that Larry was already flying down the stairs to me. He looked at me, his face white, his hands trembling, as he gentled cradled me in his arms. I looked at him and told him what happened, and that I was unable to move my right leg. The shock of the fall numbed my pain, but I felt as if I were going to throw up and pass out. My children, Jessica 9 and Joey 10, were crying and hugging Larry, while the cocker spaniel hovered in a corner, and the puppy tried to lick my face. I could hear the sound of sirens outside, and a great deal of commotion as the paramedics helped get me into the ambulance.
I had a complete fracture of the tibia, fibula, and the tarsal. My injury was significant and needed emergency surgery. I now am the owner of a lateral plate and 6 screws in my right ankle. I spent the next three days in the hospital and am off from work for 10 weeks. It is now week 4 and I am able to sit at my computer. Next week I will attempt to bear partial weight. I have been totally dependent on my husband and small children to help me. Even my ex-husband came over to help. I am truly fortunate.
Some people have asked me how I can be so ok with what happened. It is not that I am ok with falling down the stairs, it is that I realize how very lucky I am as the doctor said I could have broken my back, neck, and some worse things that I don’t even want to think about. So this Thanksgiving when I said my usually thanks for my health, my husband, my children, and so on. I said a few more thank-yous for the many many blessings I have in my life.
After I fell, a close friend told me this, "life is full of experiences, some are good and some are bad, you just have to hope that in the end the good outweighs the bad." Perhaps it is a little cryptic, but at the time it did make sense. So why does it have to take a tragedy to remind us of how precious and short life is? Why do we have to focus on the bad, instead of be thankful for the good? So oftentimes, we tend to feel sorry for ourselves: for missed opportunities, lost loves, poor choices, and the like. This year I would like to challenge each of you to focus on the opportunities you did take, the loves you do have, and the good choices you did make.
I want to wish you all a very health, happy, and loving holiday season. But most of all, I want to wish you all the ability to stop, and be thankful for all the blessings you truly have in your life.
BIO: Dr. Mundorff is the Director of Nursing-Related Programs at Red Rocks Community College and a Board-Certified Naturopath. She is the author (Rener) of, Memories of my Sister: Dealing With Sudden Death.