Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2001

Just another day at the office

January 18, 2001

Those who have seen me hobbling around know that I'm among the victims of the return of real winter to the Plains.

Wear a cast, walk with a crutch or something such like, and people constantly ask "what happened?"

We ask about injuries because we're polite. Having long tired of the question, the injured person usually replies with a brief response. But if they detect interest, they're willing to give a longer version one the listener tunes out after the first few sentences.

Be warned. This column goes into detail.

I injured my left knee in the long-awaited thaw of two weeks ago. The problem was the thaw's first day wasn't warm enough. Snow that melted would soon freeze in the shadows.

My injury occurred in front of the Explorer's office. As I left the building, my right foot slipped on ice. I made a recovery with my left leg. But then pop, pop, pop went something in the left knee and down I went.

I realized I was the tagline of that old I've-fallen-and-can't-get-up ad. My first thought was there goes the day. I resigned myself to a day spent seeking medical attention and the start of a slow recovery process. Best to get on with it, I thought.

As downtown DeSoto was strangely empty, my second thought was that I'd crawl over to the office window to get the attention of those inside. But when I tried to move my left leg the pain made me shout in a primal, guttural way.

You're a wimp, I thought. I remembered all those stories about those with broken legs crawling for miles to save themselves. Surely, I can make it 10 feet to the window, I thought.

A second attempt only earned another tomcat scream of agony.

Then, it dawned on me, I could use my Christmas-acquired cell phone to call the office, and just as I'm dialing the office, a kindly gentleman crossed the street from the bank to ask if I was okay.

Suddenly people are appearing from everywhere. Amy and Elizabeth come out of the office, having heard my screeches.

It was agreed I couldn't be moved and that I'd need an ambulance. The city's trained emergency personnel soon arrived. I'd like to thank them all personally, but the only one I know by name is Larry Baxter.

As they were cutting off my pant leg, I asked Amy or Elizabeth to take a picture. It was a self-serving request. I figured if I put a picture of myself in the paper writhing in agony, people couldn't call me a blood-sucking leech if I took a picture of them in similar situations. Or if they did, I would have a defense.

Amy and Elizabeth declined. But since watching me scream like a baby at the slightest movement was the thing to do in DeSoto at that moment, it was only a matter of time before someone showed up who would take the picture. In fact, Doc came to the idea independently on his arrival.

Pant leg gone, it was clear what was wrong. Kneecaps are meant to be on the front of our legs, not floating on the side. I had dislocated my patella, or as Johnson County MedAct technician Bob Ranikin deadpanned on his arrival, "It's a knee."

I was given my choice of hospital destinations. I picked Lawrence. We made good time and in 20 minutes I was wheeled to the last open bed in the emergency room. Icy days make for busy ERs.

My editor, Jackie, showed up just as the nurses were finishing with me. A young female nurse was concerned about my pain .

She asked me to rate the pain between 1 to 10. I told her that at that moment there wasn't much pain, but when it did hurt, it went off the scale. "That'd be about a 4," she interpreted.

The dislocated patella was obvious, but they wanted X-rays. During my wait in the hallway for X-rays, the patella went back in place with a pop.

The X-ray technician took three shots of my leg and went into the next room. Through the door, I heard " . . . fell on the ice," followed by laughter.

Back in the emergency room, I asked for the painkillers I'd thus far avoided. With that, the sequence of events I dreaded while I on the sidewalk was over. As Jackie graciously drove me home, I blissfully contemplated my new existence of being a home-life pain (about an 8) to Laura.

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