That didn't take long. With assistance from the ALS Association of Philadelphia, we had a ramp put in the front of house so as to make the house accessible for, when or if, my wheelchair ever arrives. In the meantime, it was assumed that it would make it much easier for me to get in and out of the house, which, for the most part, it has. This past Friday morning, however, I once again found myself in a precarious situation. Not a fall, per se, but more of a collapse. As I was walking out to my car to go to work Friday morning, I felt my right knee buckle as I was descending down the ramp, and I kind of just crumpled downward, falling on my left foot, trapping it beneath me. Ouch!!! I have a few other bumps, bruises and twists associated with this "fall" but my left ankle seemed to take the worst of it. It is actually in more pain now, then when I fell two days ago. And I can assure you, I have not been walking on it. In fact, I think the pain can be contributed to just the opposite. For the better part of the last two days I've been sitting in my lift chair with my feet up. Currently, I have severely limited mobility in my ankles due to muscle weakness. I am no longer able to pivot on my ankles, which is one of the primary causes of my balance problems. Even in a seated position, I am unable to lift my feet to simply tap them on the floor. To me, it feels like they are cemented to the ground. Therefore, when I have my legs up, or even when I am laying down, my feet just kind of flop. They rest at an approximately 135 ° angle, opposed to a typical 90° angle , which makes it impossible to immobilize my ankle in its natural position. To try and give you a better perspective, when my feet are elevated, my toes are pointing straight ahead at the wall. I am unable to bend my feet so that my toes are pointing at the ceiling. This, is what I believe is contributing to my increasing amount of pain in my ankle. If nothing else, ALS has helped me to become much more aware of my body and much more amazed at how the human body functions. This latest "almost fall" comes about two weeks after my most previous fall. That one occurred as I got out of bed in the morning. I took three or four steps, lost my balance, and down I went. The biggest injury associated with that fall was a bruise on my upper left side, reaching up to the bottom of my butt, about 8 to 10 inches long and 4 inches wide. This made sitting very uncomfortable for a few days. Oddly enough, when Tracey found me on the floor, I was lying on my right side so as best as I could surmise, I probably landed on my left side, bounced when I hit the floor, and ended up on my right side. The fall before that one was probably a week earlier, in which I once again lost my balance coming down the steps outside of our house. Again, luckily just some bumps, bruises and minor scrapes.
For those of you keeping score at home, my biggest injury sustained thus far from falls, has been a non-displaced fracture in my right arm, occurring back in December of 1998 and a broken nose, which occurred just around a year ago. Playing sports for most of my life, bumps, bruises and scrapes are no big deal and something that I'm very used to. What I am struggling with now, after each fall, is my confidence in my ability to walk without assistance, and of course, the fear of falling again. It seems that with each fall, regardless of how severe it is, I become that much more tentative in trying to walk with out assistance. This also includes things like getting up from a chair or just simply moving my feet. With each fall, I become more hesitant to get out of a chair or bed. To me, this equates a loss of independence and reminds me that I continue to progress with the disease.
Although I have been somewhat limited from suffering major injuries from falling, I can assure that falling is no picnic. It is hard to describe what it is like for me when falling, but most of the time, it appears to me as though the fall is happening in slow motion or as in a dream. I am very aware that I am falling, but yet unable to do anything about it. Because I am unable to regain my balance after a stumble or use my arms to catch myself or brace myself when falling, all I can do is experience the fall and try and enjoy the ride as best I can, which is a pretty harrowing experience. The first thing Tracey and I do after a fall is assess for major injury. Once we are confident that no bones are sticking out or blood is flowing, we usually have a little laugh and joke about the latest circumstances that got me on the ground. After all, there's really not much more we can do at that point. Next comes the recovery process, which usually involves getting me into an upright position, which in itself, is no easy task. Again, since I have limited mobility in my arms and legs, I must rely on Tracey to manipulate me like a mannequin and get me out of whatever pretzel like formation I have ended up in. Next comes the hardest part, getting me off the ground. Again, depending on which position I have ended up in, and the location in which I've fallen in, this can be quite tricky. Usually, this this involves Tracey getting a chair from the kitchen and positioning it just right. At this point, Tracey will usually assist me in getting me up on my hands and knees. Eventually, she is able to help me get into a position where I can straddle the chair before she ultimately helps lift me up onto the chair. This whole process typically takes about 10 minutes and leaves me thoroughly exhausted.
Obviously, you have no way of knowing this, but I had dictated all of the above information this afternoon around 2 PM. At around 6:30 PM this evening, I left for the emergency room, because the pain in my ankle became pretty severe, in addition to the ongoing swelling. Also, the foot became very warm to the touch, which was something that they had warned us about at the ALS clinic. Actually, the pain really started getting bad around 4 PM but by then, the Ranger game was on, and I had to wait until the game was over before I would consent to going to the emergency room. Thankfully, the Rangers scored the winning goal with about 90 seconds left in the game, or else I would've had to wait until overtime was over before going. X-rays were negative and it turns out that I have nothing more than a bad sprain. The Rangers will be playing next Wednesday night and Friday night, so hopefully, if I fall again it will be on either Tuesday or Thursday night. Or if I am really lucky, I'll end up falling on a night that the Mets play, so at least I'll be spared the agony of having to watch them play.
Let's go Rangers!