Saturday, December 5, 2020

Four men and their ladders

#1 - Art

My husband Art stopped smoking before I met him in 1992. I asked him how he'd managed to do it, and he said, "It's as easy as falling off a ladder." Apparently he'd broken two ribs when he fell at some point, and it hurt too much to breathe, so he had to give up smoking.

This summer we remodeled the daylight basement of our home in Brier. Art did all of the wiring and electrical work. He was there three times: for five weeks in June, a week in July and three weeks in September. He spent a lot of time on ladders, leaning and twisting and reaching upwards and through.

Art did a phenomenal job on the project, but it was too much for his back. He has spinal stenosis anyway, but his nerves and muscles got inflamed, and he developed sciatica and muscle cramps in his legs. By September he was walking hunched over at nearly 90 degrees because that position lessened his pain. He saw a physical therapist three times, and got a lower lumbar injection which helped somewhat on his left side. 

We returned to Tucson on October 31. About a week later he got a call from the Washington clinic where he'd gotten the lumbar injection, asking how he was doing. He said he was feeling better. They asked if he wanted to get a second shot. He said no. 

A week after the phone call, the shower curtain rod in our tiny Tucson bathroom fell down. Art, ever the handyman, wanted to remount it. He stood for 45 minutes, left foot on the toilet seat and right foot on a chair, while he twisted and stretched upward. Eventually he gave up, in too much pain to continue. It turned out that a small piece of the rod had broken off where it attaches to the wall. I went to a nearby store and bought a new one for $8.99, and our across-the-street neighbor, Mike, came over and put it up in about ten minutes.

It's been a month since then. Art has seen the physical therapist in Tucson and has more exercises to do. He has begun water walking three times a week. He has a cane, a pair of walking poles and walker. His doctor says the walking poles would be the best to use, as it would support him standing up, but he prefers the cane and the walker for some reason. He's been prescribed a couple of medications but they haven't given him the relief he needs.

We are researching a second lumbar spine injection, but his insurance won't cover the procedure here in Tucson until January 1. Otherwise we'll pay cash as soon as we find a doctor here who is available.

All this, and he didn't even fall off a ladder!

#2:  Dick

Dick and JoAnne are friends here in Tucson in our retirement community. One day last month JoAnne went into town to play golf with a few friends. Afterwards they stopped for breakfast at a favorite eatery. Just as the food arrived JoAnne got a call from a neighbor. At home, Dick had decided to put battery-operated lights above the kitchen cupboards. As he was descending on the stepladder, he fell and broke his leg near the hip. He knew he needed to get help. The closest door was in the living room, but there was carpeting, and he knew it would be tough to drag himself across the carpet. So he headed for the kitchen door across the flooring. The door was locked but he managed to get it open and shout for help. A neighbor heard him, an ambulance was called, and he was taken to the hospital. The ambulance had just pulled away when JoAnne got the call. The neighbor wasn't sure which hospital Dick had been taken to. Eventually Dick was located. After surgery to repair the break, and a few days in the hospital - where JoAnne couldn't visit him because of the coronavirus, Dick went to rehab. He is home now, using a walker until his leg heals and he regains his strength. 

Last night four couples gathered for dinner, masked and social distancing. Two of them were Art and Dick, both on walkers.

#3: John

John and Joan are Tucson friends living across town. Last week, John decided to put up the outside Christmas lights. For the first batch, he asked Joan to hold the ladder while he climbed it. Afterwards, Joan didn't realize John had more work to do on the lights, so she went inside. John went back up the ladder. The ladder collapsed and John was left hanging on the tree branches. When he dropped to the ground he sprained his ankle. Apparently John made one more attempt. This time the ladder fell over sideways, and John fell across the ladder on the ground, resulting in multiple bruises.

#4: Al

Al and Bonnie live in our Tucson retirement community. Al's mishap happened some time ago, but I just found out about it this morning.

Al decided to climb a ladder to the roof of the couple's park model mobile home. Bonnie says she didn't know why he needed to go up there, but Al was insistent. The ladder didn't reach all the way to the roof, but on the ascent Al had no trouble reaching it. It was when he was coming down that he got into trouble. He couldn't get onto the ladder from the roof, so Bonnie had to call security to give him a hand. She said Al was pretty embarrassed!

I'm not going to talk about Art and the tree stories. Maybe another time.


Unknown said...

Never a dull moment!! Thank you for all the updates and stories!

Olga said...

My mother lost an eye in a ladder accident. I treat them with a great deal of respect but they are a necessity for lots of household jobs. I hope Art gets relief for the pain.

Tom said...

When we bought our current house I refused to move our ladder from the old house, or to buy a new one, because I knew if we had one I'd find myself climbing it. Seriously, I, too, have spinal stenosis, and find it's much cheaper to pay a handyman than to field all those medical bills.

Linda Reeder said...

My Tom still climbs ladders and goes on the roof. I am watchful and the ladder holder. There may be a time when that has to stop. Hopefully not after an accident.
Good stories, if painful.

Arkansas Patti said...

Yikes, I sure hope Art gets some relief. Those ladders sure are dangerous things all right. Think mine should go in the next yard sale.

Allison said...

I am so sorry to read about Art's back pain. Jim (the spouse) has had a spinal fusion at L4 and L5, and a laminectomy at L3 and L4 because his nerve roots were being crushed. Both were excrutiatingly painful recoveries, but now he has no pain. I do hope Art recovers with much less invasive procedures. We have drastically curtailed our use of ladders, step stools and other infernal devices.

DJan said...

I do think there is a time in our life as seniors when we should leave ladders alone. I really hope Art's back pain can be managed or at least alleviated.

Joanne Noragon said...

So much trouble from the best of intentions. I hope recovery is speedy and uneventful.

joeh said...

15 years ago I went up a 20 foot ladder to clean out the gutters, something I've done every year for like forever. 15 feet up I got the heeby jeebies and came down. I paid someone else to do it for me and never regretted it. THese days we live in a town home community and it is not my job.

Ladders are accidents waiting to happen.

Joared said...

I tell older seniors at every opportunity to stay off ladders. I’ve encountered too many whose tumble also resulted in cognitive problems incapacitating them even more. Given all the back pain my husband had I certainly empathize with your husband and hope he gets some permanent relief. Living alone, I long ago gave up climbing on ladders even to change light bulbs when I noticed I was beginning to feel less comfortable doing so.

Janette said...

My brother in law is building our house. Almost 70, we are hiring someone else to do any work that requires a long ladder. No ladders will move with us when we leave here.
I hope Art feels better soon. You can put up the walker so he has to stand up taller. It helps.

Madeline Hill said...

My husband is still mostly agile, and is a real handyman.. always looking for something to fix or a bush to trim.. but we have a retirement RULE. NO ONE GETS UP ON A LADDER unless the other person is AT HOME and aware. Still, I worry a bit about how often I see guy up there at the top rung,doing something or other. And don’t get me started on those huge power tools!! Stay safe!!

Sue said...

Amen! If it needs done and i can't safely do it, i'll hire someone.

Val said...

I am terrified of ladders and heights. It scares me when my husband blows the leaves off the roof.