June 11th, 2011:


Cherish yourself, readers—you are the most important person in your life. If you can’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else.

On June 11, 2005, I had a smashing encounter with a sidewalk: brought to my knees by a quarter-inch bulge in the concrete. I was crossing a bridge  over the Los Angeles River channel less than a block from home, headed to my daughter’s place, a 15-minute walk. There was no obvious reason for my tripping; I had on sports shoes and jeans and wasn’t rushing. My attention had been caught by a child’s bike lying a few hundred yards away in the waterless channel. It was the last thing I saw before my arms began to flail as I tried to regain my balance.

I was propelled toward the sidewalk and hit knees first, then palms and finally my nose. As my head whipped forward, I remember thinking, “Please, no, don’t let me squash my face and kiss the concrete.” Luckily, my momentum had slowed and only my nose touched down.

Positioned on all fours, I noticed my nose and lip begin to bleed. I took stock: I wasn’t wearing anything I’d miss and I’d brought my cell phone for a change. It was in my purse, and since I’d worn the strap crosswise across my chest, it was all intact and hadn’t slipped off, another small favor.

Traffic was progressing across the four-lane residential bridge, but no one had noticed me because I was partially hidden by what looked like a tall, bushy weed growing from a crack in the concrete. I stayed bent over for a few moments, assessing the bodily damage and waiting for the bleeding to stop. I hadn’t hit my nose too hard. When I caught my breath and found a semi-comfortable position, I could see my right wrist was askew and definitely damaged. I didn’t know yet what had happened to my right knee; I  hurt but was in no great pain physically. My dignity had definitely been damaged, however.

With tissue from my purse, I dabbed at myself, then called my daughter Heidi. Since I’m no drama queen and wasn’t crying, I remember being brief. In the midst of putting on makeup when I called, I later learned, Heidi ignored one eyebrow and flew down the stairs to get her car. She was on the bridge in five minutes and had even thought to bring a towel.  After we cleaned off some of the blood and negotiated getting me off the sidewalk, she drove me the half-block to my apartment and helped me up the stairs.

My crutch, just in case I ever need it again.

I was surprisingly calm considering I didn’t know the extent of my injuries or what I’d do to solve my dilemma. Medical insurance was not a part of my life. I called a good friend who’d broken her ankle a few weeks before. Pat, who was familiar with the ins and outs of how to deal with life in LA, advised me to go to the Sherman Oaks Hospital emergency clinic. “Don’t worry about the bill,” Pat said, “they have to take you.”

The clinic was a short drive away and it was empty when we arrived at 1:30 p.m. The Sherman Oaks Hospital is famous as a burn clinic; it was where comedian Richard Pryor was taken when he nearly killed himself lighting his crack cocaine.

I was impressed with the clinic’s cordiality and prompt service. As a plus, the young doctor was not only attractive, he was complimentary. He told me I didn’t look in my sixties, which brightened my attitude right away. After the X-rays, the news wasn’t marvelous: I had fractured my right wrist and my right knee.  They fitted me up with a splint for my arm and a Velcro brace (called an immobilizer) for my leg. For further treatment, I had the choice of two LA County hospitals: County USC or Harbor UCLA. The doctor said Harbor was the best choice because orthopedics was their specialty, but they weren’t exactly close-by.

Upcoming: Why I think I “crashed” and the adventure of the LA County health care system.


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