I ended a recent post with this phrase: my neighbors, who also happen to be my friends. That statement remains true, even more so. In the past few days, I’ve learned that my neighbors are also my family. Here’s how that happened.
A friend and I stepped out of a movie theater Friday afternoon into a hard, driving rain. But there was no noticeable ice, and the forecast had been for temperatures to rise. Three fatal steps later, I realized I shouldn’t have trusted the weatherman. The rain was freezing, and the sidewalk was a sheet of unsalted, invisible ice. So I fell.
I knew right away something was wrong with my right ankle. I also knew enough not to move it. So I sat on the freezing, wet sidewalk while rain soaked me and my dry clean-only coat. All I could think of was my responsibilities to my mother and, yes, to my cats. I can’t be hospitalized, I kept babbling to anyone who would listen.
After the ambulance ride to the ER and the x-rays, the doctor reassured me I would not have to check into the hospital. But I had broken my right fibula, the small bone on the outside of the leg. He put on a temporary cast, instructed me to see an orthopedic specialist ASAP, and said I could go home.
By that time, it was dark, and the freezing rain was even worse; I was scared, miserable, and probably a little in shock. How was I supposed to get home?
I knew how I wanted to get home — with my neighbor, Ollie. But I didn’t want her driving in dangerous conditions alone, so I called and asked her to bring another neighbor, Jody, with her. Besides being kind, generous souls, both are RNs. Ollie is retired; Jody is a nurse anesthetist at the hospital I had been taken to.
These two life savers came, got me and my walker into the car, and drove me home. There, they managed to get me into my living room, propped up my foot, got me something to eat, fed my cats, calmed me down, and helped me to my bed. I even had to prove I could go to the bathroom by myself before they would leave.
Here’s the view from my bed the next morning.
It was late when they got home, but Ollie still took time to send out an email to the community, explaining what had happened. The next morning I awoke to messages of concern and support, the first coming from Jamie Wilcox. Calls and messages continued all day.
It’s not everyone who goes to an ortho appointment accompanied by two RNs, but I did. When I introduced them as my nurses, the doctor and his staff didn’t realize I was serious, but they soon learned I was. Jody and Ollie asked questions I would never have thought of. Ollie even snapped a few pictures of my x-rays. Here’s one.
Meanwhile, Shirley organized a group of neighbors who had volunteered to bring me a meal each day for more than two weeks. I cannot describe how comforting it is to sit down to a home-cooked meal made especially for me. I takes me back to long-gone times of my parents caring for me when I was sick.
This community provided everything I needed. For example, Ann lent me her wheelchair. Within a few hours, I had offers of three more.
I would like to list names of everyone who has and is helping me. And I would like to also mention those whose offers I haven’t yet taken advantage of. But the list is long, and I’m afraid of leaving someone out.
Let me just give some examples. Neighbors have done my laundry and changed the sheets on my bed. They have found me a counter-top microwave that I can easily reach from a wheelchair. They have cleaned up cat vomit. They have shoveled my walk and gone to the store. They have taken down my outdoor Christmas lights. They have brought me flowers. One neighbor, Sharon, who is wintering in Florida, sent me an Edible Arrangement. Here it is before I ripped it open.
My neighbors who don’t live here have pitched in too. Steve Downey arrived yesterday with a ramp that he built to get me down the step to my garage. Kathy is signed up to bring me a meal next week. And then there is Carol.
Almost exactly two years ago, Carol Lyons fell on the ice and broke her ankle. She has called me daily to check on me, to sympathize, and to compare notes. She has also eased one of my biggest fears.
As I laid on the sidewalk in front of the theater, I realized there was a good chance I would miss the Wilcox conference in Columbus next month. In my head, I had already been working on my speech about the homeowner experience.
Well, two years ago Carol went to the EPCON convention in a boot, so she insists I can make it to this conference. And since I’ll be traveling with her, Steve, and Kathy, I think she might just be right.
With my only close family members in Colorado, I would be quite helpless right now without my neighbors. Thankfully, I live at Maples at the Sonatas, where the definition of family stretches to include those who do not share DNA.
Endnote 1: Ollie did all of this while limping on what she thought was a sprained ankle. It turns out, it’s torn ligaments on top of her foot. She is now wearing a boot, joining me in the gimp club.
Endnote 2: My dry clean-only coat was soaked by the time I got to the ER. I know because I wore it home. But once it dried out, it is good as new. So what’s with those washing instructions?