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As Long as We Remember...

February 23, 2007

When Will I Ever Learn...

Edward Lulie III

I am injured and on pain killers so there won't be a column this week. How did I get injured? Can I plead the fifth? No? Okay, I fell. Not just your normal fall where your feet slide and you end up on your posterior. This was spectacular.

I had a shovel in my hands trying to hack away a path down my steps through 3 inches of solid ice to get to my van. My feet slipped out and I tossed the shovel away as I was launched out and away onto my yard.

Now my yard was simply a sheet of solid ice and I hit hard. At first I thought I had broken my left arm, but in fact I had dislocated my shoulder.

Where I live is literally surrounded by farmland. Here I was sitting outside in 14 degree weather and unable to stand or move. The ice was so thick that my fall hadn't even cracked the surface. The slightest motion caused waves of agony to cascade through my left arm.

Okay, anyone who has sat near me at any athletic event knows I have a loud voice. I can yell from the stands and have players and officials hear me. I was trained in my youth to project my voice for the theater (I was in several University of Maryland productions as a kid). I can yell.

So I did. Again and again and again; no one responded. Now both my sons were home (asleep) and my wife was taking a shower. I thought, yelling isn't working, how about that marvel of modern technology the cell phone?

Luckily I had the foresight before going outside to don thermal underwear and to stick my phone in my jacket. Now I managed to get the phone out of my pocket and dialed with one hand.

No answer.

It was cold, I was 15 feet from my front door, 20 from my car, and it might just as well been a mile away. I couldn't move. I dialed again, and yet again and yet again.

Now at this point it's been like 20 minutes and I'm debating if I should call 911. You might wonder why not? Well that to me is like for emergencies, fires, break-ins etc. I was in pain but at the time I thought well, it's just a broken arm. I'll go to the doctor; he'll x-ray and set it and ta da...I'm done. So I debated this for awhile before reluctantly calling 911.

It took about 10 minutes for a response. About the time a white 4-wheel truck with an emergency responder driving it arrived and spotted me and cautiously made his way across the ice. I asked if he could give me a ride to my doctor's office in Jefferson. Nope, you have to take the ambulance was his reply, that's policy. My sons had finally gotten up and noticed the activity on the lawn and they now rushed outside to help.

The emergency technician took a careful look and told me my shoulder was dislocated.

They got me in the 4-wheel drive truck and then helped me into the ambulance. If you have never ridden in one before I hope you never get the chance (at least as a patient).

Every bump in the road sent waves of pain down my arm. We hit a lot of those on the way. The crew was just great, had a sense of humor. But I could tell I was in the "routine non emergency" trip category. I wasn't bleeding, wasn't in shock and, although in pain, it didn't really matter if they made the trip in 10 minutes or 100 minutes.

So they were relaxed in the sense that they wanted to help me but this wasn't one of the rides they gave where seconds could mean the difference between life and death. So we talked and they warned me that upon arrival I was heading into no man's land, the emergency room was backed up.

This was my first trip to Frederick Memorial Hospital as a patient. Both our sons were born there and I had visited many friends and family there over the years but had never been a patient myself. The ambulance crew wheeled me inside and barely found a spot to park me where I would sit until a spot opened up inside the emergency room.

Now I was with about six or seven other people, all on stretchers. Some seemed unconscious and all seemed miserable. I had just decided this wouldn't be so bad when the pain really increased and had me moaning out loud. I couldn't help it. It was like someone applying 220 electrical current directly into a nerve.

I'm not sure how long I was out there, but I do know that it seemed a very long time. My thoughts were now clear and focused on the thought that they would give me something soon for the pain. The ambulance crew said that generally, if there was nothing broken and no serious consequences that I would have my shoulder reset and the pain would lessen immediately.

In the back of my mind that made me think I would be getting out of the hospital. I don't know how you feel about hospitals, but I like them about as much as doctors like lawyers and going to court.

I was a history major in college before I went to law school. One memory that has always stayed with me was studying European history where consistently you would read about kings and leaders with the phrase "the royal physician was called to attend, death soon followed." I had the image of a doctor in fine robes arriving at the palace with the grim reaper following along and carrying his bags.

After a long period of prolonged pain several staffers began to take info, check me out, and process me into the emergency room. Nurse Diane and one other nurse (I couldn't read her partner's name tag) arrived with the doctor, and they immediately set about getting me a shot of morphine. They were all wonderful. Perhaps my opinion is tainted by the relief I felt at their hands, I don't think so. Despite the wait and my pain, they truly came to my rescue and I really appreciated what they did for me.

To make a long story short, they reset my shoulder, put my arm in a sling and gave me a prescription. The wonderful words "you are ready to go home" were heard.

Well, way back at the beginning of this tale of woe I mentioned I was in the process of going out to my van. It is a front wheel drive and had not moved since Tuesday. Our long and somewhat steep driveway was impassable without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Luckily for me Tom Nikirk, an old friend (well known as a tremendous public speaker, Vietnam Vet and local attorney) had arrived with his 4-wheeler to rescue me and take me home.

Now the pain was reduced but the morphine gave me horrible indigestion (I'd had nothing to eat all day). In fact, it made me really wonder why anyone would ever want to take it and how anyone could get addicted to it. That night I spent in misery as hiccups appeared in hourly intervals to prevent me from sleeping. Hiccup...ouch...hiccup ...ouch. Sooooo not funny, at least to me, anyway.

There you go, that's the saga of my misfortune. Now that morning I had awaken listening to Bob Miller on WFMD discussing "the wimps" that had decided to close school for the day. Then I shared some sympathy for that viewpoint since the roads near my house were clear. But now, in pain, with my own plans and projects completely in disarray, it was clear to me that their decision was not only correct but very well thought out.

The fact is that I wasn't alone. Many people were injured due to the ice. It wasn't a problem of the roads because mostly they were clear and treated, but it was a problem to just get down the steps, or to your car. Kids have to have a safe place to wait for the bus as well. So the school board, in my opinion, was very wise to have cancelled school, and then to have delayed openings. To be willing to take the heat for their safety is not something a "wimp" would do.

So, now days later I sit by my keyboard, arm in a sling and medicated. I will be scouring the local and national news for an appropriate topic for my next column. This one I will just put down with the notation, Ice 1, Lulie 0.

Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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