Taking A Fall With The Broncos

Hypothetical headline reads: 1-14-12: Elderly Columnist Slips on Deck Stairs, Injures Back Admitted to Pali Momi ER.

Actually, it was the Saturday of the Denver Broncos-New England Patriots playoff game. My Broncos were losing miserably and besides, the plants needed watering. So, I’m just outside, hose in hand, and the next thing I know, four of Hawaii’s finest firefighters were hoisting me up on a large “cookie sheet” and into an ambulance.

The slip and fall happened in a blink. Judging by the pain and the sound I was certain I’d broken my back and a few ribs. It was a feet-up, hard landing on the stone edge of our deck steps. Groaning for help using lungs whose wind was temporarily elsewhere, I was relieved that my husband and my friend Leslie were nearby.

FYI: Just because I’m married to prisoner-of-war Jerry Coffee, don’t think his stoicism has rubbed off on me. Even after 18 years with a man who spent seven years in a stinking Communist prison cell withstanding untreated wounds, solitary and torture, I’m still a whiny baby when in pain.

When Jerry and Leslie found me (she heard the cracking sound from upstairs), I first asked for prayer, then 911 hedging all bets. (God created paramedics, right?) While I lay still, Leslie quietly prayed over me. Jerry called 911. When the EMT arrived, a commotion ensued. Lucy and Rufus briefly forgot they were 11-year-old good-natured yellow Labs and went “Doberman” on the approaching paramedics. Finally, dogs contained, Jerry introduced himself and led the rescuers to me.

“Are you Jerry Coffee, the speaker? The POW?” I heard one of them ask in an excited voice.

“Oh, brother, here we go,” I’m thinking. “Hello, it’s me, the injured wife, barely alive over here on the flagstone.”

No worries. Despite the “awe” over my husband, they were completely professional and began asking appropriate questions and testing me for feeling and movement per back injury protocol. The tingling in my hands subsided, and I started to believe that maybe my injury wasn’t devastating.

In the ambulance in our driveway, I’m ready, let’s go! Instead, a serious discussion was going on: where to take the patient. Communication went back and forth. Queen’s, Tripler, Pali Momi?

What? I know I’ve just had an accident, I’m wearing a cervical collar and head immobilization device, I’m in slight shock, and my hair’s a mess, but, people, Pali Momi, “my” hospital, is five minutes away. What’s the deal? That’s when it hit me: the emergency rooms at St. Francis (aka Hawaii Medical Centers) East and West are shut down. I’m a victim in limbo.

Soon a decision was made. Pali Momi it was. Once at the ER, my “team” had me out and down the hallway. Everything was efficient, comforting. I looked forward to a private room like I’d had on another ER visit. Instead, I was wheeled into a hallway “nook,” fabric paneled screens for minimal privacy. An Asian “Dr. Doogie Howser” politely introduced himself. (Doctors today are teenagers!) It was clear that Oahu’s emergency rooms are slammed. After X-rays, I learned that my situation was not lifethreatening. My nook was free for another unsuspecting klutz.

Fast forward 12 days: I’m fine.

No bones broken, which I will continue to believe is a miracle outcome via the prayers of one heckuva prayer warrior, Leslie. I’m just bruised. With each sneeze and pain stab, I give thanks for mobility and for our incredible medical professionals and sexy, I mean, well-trained firefighters.

Lessons learned:

1) Think about where you’re walking instead of the Broncos’ lousy pass protection.

2) Don’t go barefoot on wet stone steps.

3) Don’t walk around your deck in your underwear even if it’s clean. (I had on clothes. Whew.)

4) Be nice to your husband if he was a POW. You may get preferential treatment. Or not.

5) Appreciate the challenges of running hospitals before they’re gone!