"It’s not the falling part that scares me so much as the sudden stop at the end." I used to think that was a funny punch line and pretty much summed up my fear of heights; now I see it as a reality and an absolute truth.
Sunday afternoon, Todd and I were happily working on replacing the asphalt shingles with beautiful Ocean Blue metal on the roof of our home and discussing just how close we were to actually having the whole thing finished, allowing us to move on to the interior of the new addition. It was a beautiful day, there was a breeze that occasionally knocked over a panel or two and blew a few scrap pieces off the roof into the yard, but it was nothing to worry about. We had plenty of time to finish what needed to be done and were hopeful that this would be the last weekend up top for us. We were working away while waiting on the boys to come up and help remove the shingles on the next section of the roof while we finished laying the metal on the current section, getting everything in place and lined up just right.
Suddenly, I started sliding down the roof and couldn’t get a grip on anything to stop myself. Todd jumped over and grabbed me and pulled me back up to where my shoes had traction again. It was a very scary moment for both of us. The day before, I’d gotten a panicked call from him saying he needed help on the roof NOW! The boys had been off the roof and inside long enough to take their shoes off and settle into their video chairs when I yelled that Daddy needed help and for everyone to get moving. I had no idea what was going on, but he sounded desperate. We ran outside to find him very close to the edge, trying to get some traction with his boots and hands to keep himself from sliding off the roof and onto the ground. I climbed the ladder, retrieved the tools at his feet and had the kids stabilize the ladder so he could use it as a slide-stop and safely climb down.
Apparently, the temperature change was just enough in the few minutes the boys had been inside to make the metal very slick and extremely unsafe. They had quit working well before sunset to avoid just such a thing happening, but it’s East Tennessee and you can’t predict what the weather is going to do from minute to minute and these metal roofs are very sensitive to temperature and moisture changes. So, come Sunday afternoon, we were being extra cautious about traction and temperature and everything else we could think of to be sure it was as safe as possible up there.
We were ready to install one of the last four pieces on the back side and were removing the paper from the seam tape when I lost traction yet again. Unfortunately, this time Todd was at the top of the roof and I was about halfway down, too far for him to get to me and stop my forward slide. There was literally nothing to stop my momentum, nothing for me to grab a hold of and nothing to do but prepare to fall.
I remember hearing Todd screaming NO! long and loud as I fell, but I wasn’t focusing on him; I was trying to figure out what I could do to lessen the force of the inevitable impact. All I could think to do was go limp, tuck and roll. I prayed that I was over far enough that I wouldn’t hit the concrete stoop when I landed. I wasn’t even thinking about the firewood holder and it’s 4x4 posts set in concrete, the sawhorses set up with a multitude of tools or any of the other things scattered around that I could have easily landed on. That was probably a good thing at the time; I had enough to stress about as it was.
Those thoughts a prayers happened in the time it took me to actually slide down the roof. Once I was airborne, my field of vision was focused entirely on the spot of ground where my body was plummeting towards at a much higher rate of speed than I would have liked. Everything was a bit blurry, but I didn’t see anything in that exact spot that I needed to worry about, so I prepared for impact and kept telling myself to stay limp and roll with it.
THUD! WHOMP! Slide and roll to the side…
Scream bloody murder.
Dear Jesus, my left leg hurt more than anything I’ve ever experienced in my life and I’ve survived natural childbirth and a kidney stone. I rolled over onto my right side to get the pressure off of my leg and felt a wave of nausea overtake me. Onto my back I went, hoping that being in my “panic attack pose” would help my body to calm down, at least a little bit. It might have worked, except for Todd leaning over the top of the ladder and screaming “NO! My love! No! No! Oh my God! No!” over and over again. Not exactly a calm, comforting situation. He hurried down the ladder and over to me, still screaming and now crying. I somehow managed to tell him to stop with the Oh my God and everything else and that I needed my Diazepam and some water and even where to find it.
He sprinted off and I laid there trying very hard not to have a full blown panic attack, but the pain was excruciating and the nausea was getting worse. I started my breathing exercises and realized I had a mouth full of asphalt dust, but was hurting too bad to try and lift a hand to remove any of it. He came back outside, quickly followed by the teens, and immediately dropped my medicine in my mouth. I had to retrieve it and explain that I really needed to rinse my mouth out first because there was no way I was swallowing asphalt shingle crap. Once that was done and I was able to take my medicine, he held on to me and cried and let all the worries out. Unfortunately, some of those worries came in the form of yelling at the boys that if they’d been up there with us, I wouldn’t have fallen. It makes no sense, but he was so scared and needed someone to be mad at, which only makes sense when you’re that terrified. They all started yelling at each other, so I started yelling and told them all to shut up immediately, that it was no ones fault and it could have easily been any of us that fell and they were not to try to blame anyone.
Sissy kept looking at me and started saying “Oh my God Mommy!” and after about the third time, I told her in no uncertain terms that she was to stop saying that or I would have a panic attack and if that happened I would be beyond pissed at her so those words and anything like them were not to come out of her mouth again, did she understand me? I got a weak, “Yes ma’am,” which was enough for me.
There I was, lying on the ground, covered in dirt and asphalt, my leg and foot at odd angles being stared at by my teens while the little ones ran over to see what was wrong with Mommy. The teens, a little gruffly because they were terrified themselves, told them to go play, but they wouldn’t budge. I tried to ease their minds by telling them I’d fallen and hurt my leg but would be okay and for them to go play. Once they thought I was okay, they slowly made their way off and away from where I lay.
I sent Todd back inside for some Aleve to try to ease a little bit of the pain. Once that was in me, all I could do was lay there an laugh. I don’t know why exactly, but it’s kind of a defense mechanism of mine. If I laugh, I can’t think about what could have happened, or even what will happen in the near future. It calms my nerves and helps me to get through the rough patches. It makes me look insane, but it works. We propped my leg up on one of the little girls’ outside chairs and Sissy put Todd’s coat under my leg to keep the bar from cutting into me and making the pain worse. Someone brought me a pillow for my head and Little Bit brought me one of her stuffed animals to make me feel better. I was all set for a little while and able to catch my breath and formulate a plan of action.
I had Todd call my amazing friend Eva, who I had just spoken with about five or so minutes before I fell, and I asked her to change her afternoon plans and come sit with my children and the three month old baby we were watching while Todd took me to the ER. Being the awesome person she is, she was there before we were fully ready to head to the hospital and stayed until we were back home and settled in.
Walking was out of the question and I wasn’t comfortable being carried, not that I didn’t trust them to not drop me, I just didn’t think I could handle the pain that would cause, so Todd got the garden cart and loaded me into it and pulled me around to the front door. From there, he and Sissy helped me into the house and to the bathroom. There was no way I was going anywhere before I had the chance to use the facilities and try to remove some of the asphalt pieces from inside my clothing. I also took a minute to wash my face and tried to get some of the grit and grime out of the cuts on my left elbow. Apparently, when I landed, there were a few pieces of shingles there and I slid onto and across them. They lessened some of the impact, but tore my arm all to pieces.
Being a pro at prepping for a trip to the ER (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there with Amanda over the past 14 months!) I had Sissy gather my water, PowerAde, some shorts and a jacket for me, as well as my purse. Todd grabbed his jacket and back to the garden cart we went. Eva, Sissy and Todd helped me into the truck and after a few final instructions on what and when the baby needed to eat, we were off.
Todd was so very stressed that I had to keep reminding him I was okay, but would be extremely pissed if he got us into a wreck and made things worse than they already were. He was able to calm down a little and got us safely to the Park West ER, parked and got me a wheelchair. I gotta tell you, the looks on everyone’s faces when they found out I’d fallen off the roof because we were working on it was priceless. I guess I just don’t look like the do-it-yourself type of person, but I definitely am, although I won’t be working with metal roofs anymore!
We got the last available bed, just as another ambulance pulled into the bay. We quickly discovered that it had been a very busy afternoon at the ER and they were swamped. Once I was able to lie down on the bed and relax a little, the wait was bearable. They ordered x-rays of my left ankle, knee, elbow and shoulder. The x-ray tech was awesome and was able to get all the shots he needed without me having to leave my comfy bed. He said there was no way he was making me sit on that hard x-ray table with all the pain I was in; God bless him!
Back to the room we went to await the results. At some point they came in with pain meds and a muscle relaxer. I’m allergic to pretty much every pain med out there, but this was one neither Todd nor I remembered me having had in the past so we tried it. It did lessen the pain, but I started itching from head to toe and couldn’t stop scratching for over two hours. They couldn’t give me Benadryl because it reacts negatively with this particular pain medicine, so I had to deal with it. Nothing like adding insult to injury.
During this time, the doctor came in and told us that the x-ray showed I had broken my knee in a very bad spot and would need surgery and pins to fix it. Normally that would have set me off on a full blown panic attack, but with all the medicines I had in me, my body just couldn’t muster the energy for one. She asked if I wanted to go ahead and have the CT scan then or wait until after I’d seen the orthopedic surgeon to have it done. I told her that with six kids and a very busy schedule, now was the best option. She also ordered an x-ray of my shin because it was starting to swell and bruise and the other x-rays just missed that spot.
While I was in the CT lab, Todd ran down and got me a burger, fries, Cheetos, a sweet tea, and a brownie. We did clear it with the doctor first because we weren’t sure if they were going to want to do the surgery then or schedule it for later. I got two bites into my food when they came to get me for the shin x-ray, which was okay because the food was actually making me queasy, even though I was craving it like mad. Many moons later, the doctor came back in with the fabulous news that the CT showed no break in my knee and I would not need surgery. Hallelujah!! She was amazed that after sliding off the roof and falling 12 feet to the ground I somehow managed to not break anything. She told me I was like a cat and had eight more lives left and that whatever gymnastics moves I had done had saved me and she wished everyone else could be so lucky.
They did put my ankle in a soft brace because every time I moved it, pain shot through me and it was unbearable. The guy who put it on must have thought it was just for looks because he was not gentle at all. I had to keep reminding him that my ankle was hurt and he needed to be a little bit easier with the tugging and pulling of it. He didn’t listen. Oh well, I was free to go home with no plans for surgery so it was all good. Todd wheeled me out to the truck and we headed home almost seven hours from when we first signed in. The look of relief on everyone’s faces when we came home and told them I hadn’t broken anything made me tear up; you could see the fear in their eyes before we told them anything and that tore at my heart like nothing else could.
I was still pretty out of it because of all the meds, but I had Todd and Sissy call my sister and Dad to let them know what had happened. While we were at the hospital, the kids were under a strict ‘no facebook posts’ order because I didn’t want anyone freaking out about what had happened and with no news to tell them, it would have made things a million times worse. I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening except that everyone pitched in to help with the baby and, I assume, me. Todd worked from home on Monday and with the help of Sissy, Derrick and Chris got everything done that needed to be done for me, the baby, his work and the house. I believe he even had the kids doing a bit of school work!
Some friends of ours stopped by to check on me and bring me a bit of chocolate (thanks Sherry!) to lift my spirits. Todd went to the grocery store and in addition to the household supplies, brought me back a surprise of chocolate donuts and some beautiful flowers. He had to bring the vase to me so I could see them because I still wasn’t getting around too well.
Today was better for me; I was able to put a little weight on my leg and hobble around just a little bit. I still use the crutches, but it’s nice to be able to take a few (unsteady) steps on my own without them from time to time. My leg is still very swollen and doesn’t look quite right, but it’s getting there. I know how lucky I am and I really couldn’t have asked for a better outcome in all of this.
We have decided to hire someone to finish installing the rest of the metal on the roof; it’s definitely time to let the professionals take over that job!