Pride comes before a fall

A painful accident gives a septuagenarian a new perspective on "the kindness of strangers."

Hospital bed 521 (photo credit: Illustrative photo)
Hospital bed 521
(photo credit: Illustrative photo)
They say that a time comes to every woman when she stops lying about her age and starts boasting about it. And boy, did I boast!
A few months short of 80, I felt so proud that I still work almost full time, still do my own housework and cooking, still drive a car and still walk 45 minutes at 6 a.m. every day. Oh, how I needed a lesson in humility!
It came a few weeks ago – a very painful lesson. Rushing from one appointment to another as is my wont, I exited an office building and walked straight into a transparent glass wall. The wall won. The impact threw me to the ground, leaving me with a bruised face and a badly fractured pelvis.
Within a minute, I was surrounded. One man rushed to his office and brought me a chair and a glass of water. Two men lifted me gently in their arms. A woman called an ambulance and held my hand until it arrived.
I would never recognize these people even if I met them again, but I wish I could tell them how grateful I am for their solicitude and kindness. I truly felt in my own homeland among my own people.
The next two weeks, however, were a nightmare. There is no operation or treatment for a broken pelvis, so unlike the other patients in the hospital, I didn’t seem to belong to any doctor. Apart from CTs, pain killers and meals, I was left to my own devices in my hospital bed. I have never felt so helpless in my life. Suddenly I couldn’t do anything – not even reach for a tissue or a glass of water.
But I am blessed with a large and loving family, and I was almost never alone. I also had a wonderful private caregiver the last few days who was an angel – she gave me a shower and kept me smiling.
However, in the next bed was an elderly woman who seemed alone – no family, no visitors. She shrieked in pain when anyone touched her leg and cried most of the time. I couldn’t sit up and talk to her, and she was even more helpless than I. If only the hospital staff understood how lonely and scared she was, how she needed compassion and a smile far more than the medication.
I have learned so many lessons. Never take your capabilities for granted – you haven’t earned them. Be grateful if you can get out of bed, see the sunshine, inhale the fresh air, make your breakfast, walk on your two legs.
I am now in rehabilitation in another facility, where everyone is kind and caring – from those who wash the floors to the head nurse and therapy staff. In return, we patients try to learn their names and show them constant appreciation. I have a long, painful road ahead of me and don’t know how long it will take before I can walk again.
The bruise on my face turned an interesting shade of yellow, causing my son, who has a strange sense of humor, to ask if maybe I was turning Chinese. I don’t like the old lady who now inhabits my mirror and hope to banish her soon.
One request. Next time you visit a loved one in the hospital, take a few extra minutes before you leave to talk to that unknown patient in the ward, alone and perhaps crying.
Wish them a full recovery. Ask if they need something. Smile at them and pay them a compliment. Everyone has a pretty smile, lovely eyes, artistic hands – think of something.
And as you go to your car or the bus, always remember: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”