A Year Ago Today

On October 2nd 2014, I was at work and noticed it was raining out. I should have been home sick as I was still getting over a case of pneumonia, but instead I was toughing it out at work. Well, with the rain came a complaint from a tenant in our building that one of the gutters on the building was overflowing and splashing right in front of one of their doors. The man I work for also happens to be a partial owner of the building we office out of, so that made me the first line of building maintenance. I went down, cleaned out the gutter and was heading back up to my office on the second floor when I stopped to think. The roof drain on our building had been getting clogged recently. I thought I had better climb up onto the roof of the second floor and check to make sure it was clear.

That was the beginning of what would be the most painful experience of my life. I remember stepping onto the top rung of the ladder on my way back down off of the roof. I remember the ladder getting soft under my foot as it slid away from the building. It’s probably a blessing that I don’t remember anything else until I woke up laying on the deck 14′ below where my feet had just been. Or was it just a moment ago? I don’t know how long I had been there laying on the wet deck. I heard some voices of people I knew. I could feel that my shoes were missing and my socks were wet from the rain. I felt pain. I felt lots of pain! Next thing I know, the paramedic are there loading me onto a gurney. I feel sorry for them, I weighed around 285 pounds at the time of my fall. I was in and out of it as the ambulance raced me to HCMC. I guess they are the best place to go when you’ve had a traumatic brain injury in Minneapolis. Well, that would explain why I didn’t remember what happened.

The E.R. at HCMC is pretty much a blur. I remember a few stupid thoughts, like “Oh no, they’re cutting my favorite sweatshirt off of me”. I also remember, and will probably never forget, the pain of being moved off of the gurney and onto the exam table. I also remember one very kind nurse telling me it was OK to swear. I don’t think I did swear, it seems trite for pain that severe. My wife got there sometime around then. I feel so bad for putting her through that. I can’t imagine getting a call like that…”Joe fell off the roof at work, you’d better come to the hospital”.  At some point they started pumping me full of pain meds. I’m thankful for that, very thankful. They did X-rays, a nero-exam and a full body CT scan. The end result was I had broken six ribs on my left side and had hairline fractures of four vertebrae. I’d also suffered a concussion. Not to mention the scrapes, cuts and bruises.

Six busted ribs

They admitted me that day and I spent the next five days in the hospital trying to get my pain under control. I also needed to get to a point that I could move around a little on my own, because while my wife is incredibly strong in so many ways, there is no way her 5′-2″ frame would be able to carry me around. Did I mention how thankful I was for pain meds? Also, I should mention, if you ever plan on breaking your ribs, wait until you do not have an illness that causes you to cough and hack uncontrollably. OUCH!!!

After I got out of the hospital, I spent another five weeks out of work waiting for things to heal a little. My ribs hurt like crazy and the muscles in my back would seize up into burning knots of white hot pain if I spent more than a few minutes on my feet at a time. I was thankful for my pain meds, did I mention that…but was more thankful that I didn’t have any trouble getting off of them after four weeks.

That was all a year ago. Today is a new day and I’m a new me!  One of the first things that hit me, even when I was still in the hospital, is how blessed I was that I only had some broken bones and a minor concussion. I wasn’t paralyzed! I wasn’t dead! I’ve been given a wake up call! Life is precious, even when things aren’t great, be grateful for your blessings! Don’t get me wrong, I gimped around for months, doing virtually nothing. I gained weight and lost muscle.  I felt lousy. Slowly though, I’ve started to feel better.

In the last three months I’ve made huge progress. I started working out 6 days a week at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping in New Hope. Some of the exercises we do still give me pain. Some of the exercises I’m still weak at. But others, others I’ve turned into a beast at. I’m stronger today than the day I fell. I’m lighter than I was the day I fell. Most importantly, I’m happier and more grateful than I was before I fell.