Two Steps to Getting Knocked Off Your Feet
Thirteen years ago, on a particularly beautiful spring day in early May, I attended a community-wide tea for ladies. I took along a teenage “gangbanger,” a young mother I was mentoring for an agency in our small town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains of Montana. On the way home we stopped at a greenhouse and bought two flats of Marigolds. We decided we would plant them in my backyard after church the next morning. I told my teen charge I would pick her up in the morning and headed home.
I pulled into my driveway and opened my back gate, anxious to set my new yellow and orange starts onto the patio table on my back porch. In Montana, it’s still rather risky to plop things in the ground in early May, but we were going to try it anyway. After opening the back door leading into my kitchen, I let out my bearded collie Annie and headed upstairs to change my clothes.
Those ugly stairs had been the “bane of my existence” since we had moved in two years earlier. We had methodically gone through the 135-year-old Victorian cottage with paint, wallpaper, and carpet, starting with rooms visitors would see. The stairs had waited their turn. That very weekend, my husband took decade old carpet samples off of each stair tread, and yanked out commercial staples from each one. He also took the banister off the wall. But his work had been interrupted when he got an emergency call from his mom in California requesting he drive out there after she had fallen and broke her hip.
Upstairs in our bedroom, I changed into a velvet velour sweat suit and socks. I planned on cuddling up on the couch back downstairs with popcorn and a movie. I heard Annie scratching at the kitchen door, so began to hurry.
I took two steps down from the top of the slick wood of the staircase and instantly began to fall down the stairs. I hit feet first about two stair treads down and slipped right off again. I remember thinking, “I’m falling down the stairs!” I kept expecting to start tumbling, like a movie stunt person, but that’s not how it happened. Every stair or so, I landed again on my stocking feet and then slipped again as I headed down. I got about four treads from the bottom, when momentum pitched me forward. I hit my head hard on the door frame opposite the stairs and crumpled to the floor.
Without even a thought I immediately stood to my feet. My first thought was that I had broken my right arm. It dangled uselessly, and the entire right side of my body felt like I had been shocked by a jolt of electricity. Annie, who must have heard the fall or sensed something was wrong, was barking frantically at the back door. I stumbled over and let her in, and then looked around for the phone. I thought I was going to pass out.
Within seconds, my portable phone began to ring, so I followed the sound and found it on the couch. My sister from California was on the line.
“I just fell down the stairs!” I said.
She tried to talk me into calling an ambulance, but I thought that was overkill, so I stumbled next door to a neighbor’s home with my sister still on the other line. I remember being surprised that I could still talk to her even from inside my neighbor’s living room.
My neighbor eventually bundled me into the car and drove me to our nearest emergency room. First an x-ray was taken. Then a CT scan.
“I hate to tell you this, but you broke your neck,” the young ER doctor told me.
The next day I was given a prescription for Oxycontin and sent home to recuperate, only I never did really recover. I became horribly addicted to Oxycontin and eventually had to survive opiate withdrawals. I prayed for the Lord to kill me. I was filled from head to toe with chronic pain. It seemed all my dreams for my future broke right along with my neck. I started thinking of a way out. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I didn’t want to live and hoped it would be taken out of my hands somehow.
Then I began to hear a voice in my mind, sometimes once or twice a day. It was just one word, and at first I tried to ignore it. But it just kept coming. And when I finally listened, everything began to change.