I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!
Approximately two and a half years ago on August 6, I took my dog, Pnina Rosenblum, down for a walk. It was Friday night at about 23:00. The Sabbath had come in hours before and the hallway of my apartment building was already pitch dark. I stepped out of the building entrance and instead of continuing straight ahead I decided to turn left to the few steps that lead into the parking lot. As I got to the stairs, I suddenly had no footing, slipped with my thongs and landed, hard, on the stone steps. With no railing to hold onto, I tried to grab onto the stone facade of the wall to no avail and, still holding onto my dog’s leash and the stick I take on our walks, heard a snap and saw my leg lie on the step while my foot remained, sole down, on the stair. I immediately felt like a two ton sack of potatoes, lumpy and unable to separate from the ground. For the first time in my life, I broke a bone. In my shock and pain I knew it was broken and took the leg and straightened it as best I could under the circumstances, sitting on the steps, to minimize internal tearing of soft tissue, nerves and blood vessels.
Strangely, the parking lot, which was ordinarily very busy at that hour, was empty of all human life and I cried loudly and remember calling out Imma, Imma. I wanted my mother, of Blessed Memory and I wanted to die. I felt forlorn and abandoned, more alone in the world than ever before. I was frightened, angry and shocked. I was also even embarrassed that I could not get up and nobody could help me.
Suddenly, I heard a young woman’s voice: “Ma’am, ma’am, are you alright?” I responded: “I’m not alright, I think my leg is broken. Two young women came over to me and asked if they could help. I asked if they could walk with my dog so that she could do what she had to.
Behind me, my neighbor Etti stuck her head out the window which is something she has done constantly over the past years. I heard her call out to me and told her that I fell, can’t get up and broke my leg. If nothing else, she brought me down some cold soft drink. In the very hot night, the cold and sugar were soothing. A young man was there who called the urgent care clinic, not that it helped but he did it anyway.
I saw my ankle and felt intense internal pressure as it swelled and even in the dark I saw it turn purple. “Dr. Etti” (may G-d save us from such geniuses) told me “I think that nothing is wrong. Try to walk on it.” I told her “It is broken!” This Etti is a diminutive, black haired, dark skinned woman who uses the W.A.S. You might ask what the W.A.S. is so I’ll tell you, it stands for Window Address System. The system, in operation at least as long as I’ve lived there, operates when Etti shouts out her window to her family in the parking lot or from the parking lot up towards her window. For example: “Eli! Come down here!” will result in her husband coming downstairs or shouting back, either from upstairs or downstairs as applies to each situation. This also works when she calls out any of her children’s names.
In this case, she called her husband and told him to drive me to the urgent care clinic. The two young women were kind enough to take Pnina upstairs and bring me down my purse, since the clinic would require ID. Eli drove me and let me off as though I was going to a wedding or Bar Mitzvah, at the curb. From there he drove home and in the dark of the middle of the night, I hobbled with the help of the stick and somehow made it down the stairs and across the courtyard in front of the building and up the elevator and across the floor to the desk. The rocket scientist at the desk told me I could have a seat, after I told her that I broke my leg. I then told her “I can’t get to the seats. I need a wheelchair as my leg is broken!” The hard worker went over and unlocked a wheelchair and brought it over to me. I sat in it and requested one with footrests for my broken leg, which made the pain worse but at least my feet didn’t drag on the floor.
When my name was called, I called back that I was present but didn’t know how to drive a wheelchair. A man who was waiting with his sick children was kind enough to wheel me over to the doctor. This doctor was something else. He was, like the rest of the staff on duty over Shabbos, an Arab. I told him I could not operate the wheelchair to which he sniffed, angled his nose towards the ceiling and said: “What? You expect a doctor to push a wheelchair?!?” I said: “Yes. I do not know how to drive this thing.” He called a worker who wheeled me to x-ray. This worker was an angel. He placed my leg on a chair so that I wouldn’t have to do acrobatics to get up onto the table and angled my lower leg for the x-rays; when I winced in pain, he apologized!
My Left Foot
Herr doctor looked at my x-ray and said: “You’re right, you have a break.” Looking at the x-ray with him, I told him: “…distal fibula.” He said that that was accurate and took me into a room and applied a half cast which is plaster only on the back of the lower leg and sole of the foot and then tied an elastic bandage around that. This was a splint when I needed a cast. The doctor kept yelling at me: “What do you mean, you live alone? WHO lives alone?” What to do? In the Arab Moslem world, a woman does not live alone; she lives with her father or husband or brothers or children but never alone!” Dr. Muhammed then said that I should see a proper orthopedist Sunday and get a proper cast.
I then had to figure out how to get home. The only person I knew who would answer the phone was asleep after just returning from a trip abroad and there was nobody else to phone in the middle of the night. A man appeared with a letter that confirmed that he is an official Shabbos Goy (a gentile who can officially perform services on the Sabbath that are prohibited for Jews). He was the kindest, gentlest soul who said he would take me up to my apartment with the wheelchair and I needn’t worry. I told him I have no elevator and that he should return the chair, that someone else might need it. He took me, put the light on and took my mobile number to phone me when it was not the Sabbath so that I could pay him. He waited until I finally got to a cash machine and withdrew money to be able to pay him.
At home, I had nothing; no crutches, cane, strong painkillers, or anyone to help me. I also couldn’t phone anyone until the Sabbath was over. Fortunately, I had set my hot plate and everything else up before Shabbat, so I had hot water for coffee and was able to have warm food. I used the stick to hobble and made it over to get an office type chair on wheels on which I rolled from my bed to the toilet and into the bathroom to wash my hands. Thank G-d for endorphin, otherwise I don’t know how I would have withstood the pain. I did take Valerian that I had in the house but the pain was sharp and the leg continued to swell. Furthermore, with the splint, my ankle could still rotate and pivot, which was not good.
As soon as Shabbat was over, I phoned my father and asked whether he could borrow crutches from Yad Sarah. The earliest he could do this was the following morning, which was Sunday. As for the continued treatment and recovery, I will write that in another Blog entry.