"No thanks" he told me. "I'm ready to go home." This surprised me, as Dad rarely passed the opportunity for ice cream, especially if it was my treat. And this occasion had cause for celebration. We had just completed his post cataract surgery follow up appointment as well as six weeks of twice-daily-eye-drops (or as I preferred to call them, Pop drops).
Delivering Dad home, I pursued the treat beckoning to me from a local popular frozen custard place.
I stepped up onto the pavement, noticing at the back of my mind that the day's rain had dampened the concrete area outside the ordering window. The large wipe-your-feet-mat had absorbed the rain, and I thought to myself "wow - this is soaked!"
My step on and off the soaked mat onto the damp concrete would change my life.
It's called a slip and fall, and indeed I did slip and fall… flat on my back, grateful for the recently accumulated extra padding on my backside. Thankfully my head did not hit the ground, though the effort to keep it from doing so would wreak havoc with my neck and shoulder muscles, tendons and ligaments. Plus that thing called the spine: it bore the brunt of the fall. I lay briefly, sensing how I felt, realizing with gratitude that I was ok enough to wave off the kind people coming to help.
I gingerly walked up to the counter, acutely aware of the absence of Caution signs. I sweetly asked the young lady behind the counter "Do you give free ice cream cones to people who slip on your pavement?" Her compassionate and spot-on answer was "of course! Are you ok?" I assured her I was, commenting that perhaps this wasn't a good day for me to be wearing my flip flops with the traction long worn off. I received a really nice cone for my troubles, snapped a friendly photo of it for social media, and headed - very carefully - back to my car.
Little did I realize how impactful (pun definitely intended) this slip and fall would be…
As in massive diffuse injury along my entire spine, neck to tailbone: five bulging discs with nerve root compression left and right at multiple levels in my neck, mid and lower back, with concomitant muscle spasms. Throw in some bone spurs and spinal canal stenosis that had developed over time and the icing on cake - an unrelenting (aka 24/7) and often severe headache, barely responsive to meds and consuming of critical thinking and concentration.
Two weeks later, on a bright sunny day, I returned for another cone. Bright yellow caution signs welcomed, hello! How curious! Aware of the back story (again, pun very much intended), I found it a bit ironic.
I had a specific purpose for this visit: a sort of re-enactment - minus the slip and fall. In keeping with the Somatic Experiencing™ (SE®) trauma healing modality I'd be treated with for the last seven years, this meant lying on the pavement for several minutes, recalling the actual fall, and allowing my body and nervous system the space and time to calm. Something I hadn't thought of on injury day. So there I lay, observing how the concrete felt under my body, listening to the sounds of traffic, smelling the summer day, watching the billowy clouds make their way across the sky. Tasting the yummy ice cream cone I had purchased. My nieces accompanying me sat nearby chatting, familiar with my SE healing routine.
I felt my body shift, legs adjusting themselves just a bit, a sensation of tingling ascending from my tailbone through my spine up to the back of my head. Big yawns emerged, a classic sign of trapped energy being released, my nervous system settling, righting itself. An all around amazing experience. While it did not relieve my symptoms, the experience cleared additional accumulated trauma, allowing me to move forward on an even playing field, so to speak.
Fast forward four months. Claim filed with company's insurance, paperwork submitted, investigation completed, claim denied. Discussion with attorney helped me understand that slip and fall cases are very prolonged and expensive with burden of proof on the injured to demonstrate that the defendant was negligent. They wouldn't even take on such a case. I kicked myself mentally for not snapping a photo of the surroundings that fatefully awful fall-full day.
Having undertaken every feasible avenue of care (doctor appointments, x-rays, prescription anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxants, cold packs, bedrest, holistic chiropractic care, bio-energetics work, MRIs, neurosurgery consult, Physical Therapy, Aquatics Therapy, bedrest, cold packs, bedrest, cold packs, ad infinitum, I continued to suffer from debilitating pain. Laundry, dishes, paperwork piled up and the little energy I had I devoted to editing my book, keeping social media posts going, creating marketing video slideshows and painting beautiful commission art pieces until my legs, numbed, carried me back to bed.
By now I had paid about $5000.00 out-of-pocket for medical expenses. I thanked God for my personal insurance, for which I pay $700 every month. Because of it, I was spared additional tens of thousands of dollars.
At the same time, I felt so angry! I felt so frustrated! I felt so sad!
Now calling on the resources I learned through years of trauma recovery, I allowed myself to really FEEL these emotions. To make space and time for my wounded spirit to heal... which would mean forgiveness:
- For the company's insurance plan not including a "no fault" clause (like most plans do) that would have paid out $5k.
- For state law that placed the burden of proof that the company was negligent on me.
- For the employee who lied about caution signs being out. She's a lovely young woman and I believe she was just protecting her job.
- For the insurance company taking the employee's lie over my truth.
- For MYSELF, for wearing slippery flip flops on a rainy day and for not thinking to walk extra carefully on the damp pavement.
And guess what happened? Making room and space for the anger and disappointment actually created more space for acceptance, kindness, forgiveness. The burden of resentment lifted and in its place surfaced compassion and curiosity, both rooted in love, not fear.
Five months to the date from my injury, I underwent a cervical (neck) epidural steroid injection. The procedure? You can google it if you're interested. Having had nine of these in past years, I knew what to expect: an icky quickie. The staff were kind and compassionate, especially when I explained up front that as a trauma survivor I had special needs, and how they could help by allowing me extra time to process what was happening. And not be concerned when I started yawning - really big extended yawns with cat-hiss like sounds. It was all good.
Such self love! Such validation that I matter!
I imagined the healing medication bathing my inflamed nerve roots, helping them settle down. Now, almost 48 hours later, I'm experiencing some relief for the first time in months. Thanks to the steroid component, I'm also more energetic, which comes in handy as I prepare for a week out of town.
I may require a second injection in four weeks, depending on the full result from this one. Then it's on to a lower back injection. Wow - it's a relief to know my plan of care and the hope it holds.
Yes, a spark of hope… perhaps it's possible after all to undertake training starting the first of the year in preparation for an Icelandic trek scheduled next July. I'd love that… either way, I've done my best. Patting myself on the back now.
What a wonderful shifting occurs moving from fear to love, making room for me. I deserve that, because I matter.