By John W Prince
Getting from the back of our attic to the master bedroom can involve (A) 50 paces and 14 stairs or (B) one large step.
Usually I take the 50+14 because it doesn’t include smashing through a plasterboard ceiling with my body followed by a drop of ten feet to the floor and the possibility of landing on top of a bureau or dresser.
Sunday night I took (B). Not by design, mind you. But as with many activities, once you’ve taken the initial step, it’s very difficult to shift into reverse.
So there I was in the attic on Sunday evening, beside The Hole, looking in a box for something. A small step to the left and I knew everything was soon going to go terribly wrong.
There is one spot in our attic (directly above the master bedroom) which does not have flooring. It’s a small area. 14.5” x 36” to be exact. Fitting a 200-lb person through that opening without serious harm requires perfect placement. Fortunately my placement was perfect.
Life’s accidents usually happen in the blink of an eye, but they seem to stretch on for hours as one goes through them. I recall falling in slow motion as the realization went through my mind of what had happened. How many times had I cautioned other people to “Mind the hole!” as they crossed that area.
You’ve seen those movies where the hero falls head over heels through the alien forest canopy, bouncing off giant, wet leaves and somehow manages to grab a branch just before the fatal drop? That was me. I managed to catch hold of a ceiling joist on the way through, hanging on for a second before dropping to the dark floor below on my butt, covered in insulation and plaster debris. The fall was so gentle that my glasses even stayed on.
Wendy, who had been engrossed in John Lithgow’s portrayal of Winston Churchill saving Britain from the Nazis, heard the commotion and called out “Where are you?”
“In the garage I think,” was my final confused answer. Fortunately she ran into the master bedroom and turned on the light. From my vantage point on my back on the floor I had a good view of the hole in the ceiling. “One more freaking thing to fix,” I said aloud. Never let your sense of humor desert you.
After determining that nothing was broken, the extremities were all in order, no shooting pains on breathing and no concussion; I pulled up the leg of my jeans and discovered the one wound. My shin had apparently scraped the edge of the joist on my descent and left a long gash. No gushing blood or other drama. But we determined that a trip to the ER was in order.
“You’d better wear shorts, otherwise they’ll probably cut your jeans off,” said the ever practical Wendy. I put on a pair of shorts and off we went.
This is backwards, I thought. Usually I’m driving Wendy to the ER after a slice and dice episode or a falling window sash. At least we knew the route.
The ER was a model of efficiency. We arrived at 9:00 pm and within a few minutes I was in a room and a tech was pulling in the portable digital X-ray for a few snaps. Dr. Richard and Nurse Laura prodded, anesthetized, sewed and wrapped. An hour after arrival I was finished and we walked out of the ER. In all it took just over two hours and five stitches from the initial fall to being back home again.
At home the debris was all cleaned up, courtesy of friends who had responded to a phone call from Wendy.
Looking back, my placement in the hole was flawless. The injuries could have been far more serious as I slid between the two-by-fours. Except for my shin, nothing was touched. Being able to momentarily grab the joist allowed me to pick a clear landing spot and kept me from falling eight feet onto a cabinet or bureau.
Now, except that my right leg is sore (only 4 out of 10) with Tylenol on board, I’m more embarrassed than anything else. What are a few more stitches and scars? They’re like boy’s scout patches of life experience and adventures. I wear them proudly.
I call this patch: The Night I Fell from the Sky.