It was a crystal clear Saturday June morning, the beginning of our summer vacation to Perdido Key, Florida. I am driving down the highway with 13 year old Victoria, my oldest granddaughter, in the front seat beside me. The sky was clear on this glorious, summer day, the latest pop tunes blaring from Victoria’s ipod touch, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Pink and her newest favorite, Bruno Mars. A constant stream of chatter spills from her lip glossed mouth, and my heart gives a little squeeze as I wonder how many more summers she will think it’s cool to vacation with Nana?
After check in, we immediately hit the beach, and with each sandy step toward the ocean we left our routine lives behind to begin the first of seven blissful days of fun, rest and relaxation.
By chance, my new boyfriend, Jim, and his youngest son, Kyle, were also visiting in the Pensacola area and were staying just a few miles away from our rented condo. Could we get together for dinner? I wondered, -- Is he checking up on me? – That’s odd, he just “happens” to be close by from his home in Houston, Texas! – But, Victoria was o.k. with a visit and it was decided that Jim would join us for dinner.
After dinner the three of us are right back on the sand. As Jim and Victoria ran down the beach zig zagging in and out of the water, I am busy snapping photos of them. One minute, I am sprinting lightly down the beach at a pretty fast clip- jumping high in the air, all the time laughing and taking in the smells and sounds of this idyllic paradise, and the next minute -- I don’t even recall how –my rear end slammed down on the hard packed sand – right at the waters’ edge. I felt a violent electric shock sensation travel down both legs and shoot out through my toes. The pain was red hot and nauseating. I thought Oh my God, what just happened? My lower back was throbbing and I was afraid to move. Jim and Victoria came running toward me. Neither had witnessed the fall but both would say later that the look on my face was one of utter astonishment..
Supported by Victoria on my left and Jim on my right, we walked slowly back to our condo. The pain was bad when I bent but walking was tolerable as long as we proceeded slowly. I have sprained all the muscles in my lower back and I am going to be sooooo sore tomorrow. But, Thank you God, that I am walking, I thought.
After taking Advil and laying on a heating pad, I telephoned my Mother – please, please pray for me Mother, I know this is bad. My sweet, God filled Mother prayed for me, like she has done thousands of times and I calmed down and went to sleep waking every few hours for more Advil.
Early the next morning, at Pensacola Urgent Care and the x-ray revealed an L1 Vertebra burst fracture – meaning the vertebra was totally crushed and shoved slightly into my spinal column. The doctors questions came fast --Have you lost bladder or bowel function? Did you fall from a high place? Can you feel this prink on your toes? Finally, I was told that I had a very serious injury that would require a spinal surgeon and that it was not safe to travel home to Georgia.
Good grief, I thought, We can’t stay here for treatment, I have work on Monday! What are they talking about lose control of my bladder? After an injection of pain medication, I began to fully relax for the first time since I fell -- was that really only yesterday afternoon?
The next day at Sacred Heart hospital was a blur of more doctors and more tests. I spent the hours praying, Please Dear Lord, don’t let me be paralyzed and let it be ok for us to get back home. While I slept, Jim entertained Victoria with shopping, trips to the pool, beach, lunch, and dinner outings etc. Finally, after several days a kindly ER doctor pronounced me fit enough to travel the six hour car trip home to GA.
This injury could not have come at a worst time. Recently divorced and on my own, I lived alone and prided myself on being self-sufficient. Now, I can barely move, can’t sit up at all and have no idea how I am going to manage. How I despise feeling weak and weepy. My mantra has always been that people, especially females, need to be strong and deal with life’s blows, And here I am, crying over dropping something on the floorI I prayed more than I had ever prayed in my life. Please God, Help me. I am so afraid.
Back home in Alpharetta, a bone scan revealed the beginning stages of osteoporosis. For two years, I had ignored low levels of Vitamin D at my annual physicals.. Also, I had never liked milk or meat and while I considered myself a healthy eater, I rarely took time to cook meals anymore sometimes letting my lunch be the main meal of the day and living on chips and salsa or cereal for dinner. Added to the poor diet, I am thin, small boned, light eyes and fair skinned, a poster child for osteoporosis.
It took two weeks to get the appointment with the specialists. The treatment was a back brace vs surgery. I was lucky but life was challenging. Standing or sitting were excruciating. I could only lie down and not for very long. Even small tasks like getting out of bed, showering, and getting dressed took great effort.
I used a “grabber” to pick up objects. I could not drive. I felt so helpless!
God poured out his grace upon me and sent people from everywhere to help me. My Mother moved in. My colleagues, arranged for a housekeeper, brought food, movies, visited, arranged a rotating car pool to take me to appointments. My wonderful Jim, ( remember how he just “happened” to be in Florida when I needed him? – that was God) drove us home from the beach, and then back home, he took me to appointment s and arranged special outings just to break up the routine. The kindness and generosity of my family, neighbors and friends was overwhelming and I was filled with gratitude.
I did a lot of research on osteoporosis and the statistics are frightening.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, some studies indicate that 54 million Americans have osteoporosis and low bone mass putting them at risk for broken bones. And that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 4 men aged 50 and older will break a bone due to this condition.
Strong bone health is important, eating properly, getting enough vitamin D and calcium and other healthy lifestyle choices all decrease the chances of a broken bone.
This experience made me think of all the other people who have this condition, mainly older people, many with no health insurance to cover the massive treatment costs, who have no band of angels flying to their aid for all the things that one cannot do with a broken back. How many people are hurting and frustrated because a full nights’ sleep is in their past? How many can’t afford the luxury of months off a job because they have no medical leave paying their salary while they recuperate? What if these people have young children, grandchildren, a sick spouse or parents depending on them for support? What do these people do? How do they cope?
A broken back is not something you think about very often, oh, everyone can relate to it – usually in a tongue-in-cheek way - , we’ve all heard, Step on a crack, break your Mother’s back, or that is Back Breaking Work, or I am bending over backwards, but in reality, a broken back breaks more than your bones, it can also break your spirit and it takes God’s grace to lead you back to what really matters in life --that we are all on this earth to love, assist, and be kind to each other.
So, find the people who are in need, they are all around you, in your neighborhood, in your child’s school, in the clinic down the street. Show up, take a meal, offer a ride, drop off a movie, pick up some things from the grocery store, send a card, or donate your money. I am so grateful for this experience and I will forever be on the lookout for someone in need that I can lend a hand to in any way.
Bear ye one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the laws of Christ.
John 15:12 – This is my commandment that you love one another, just as I have loved you.