Wendy Stories
10 April 2001

Mom's Ankle.

"You really did yourself a doozie," was how the X-ray technician put it. Mom fractured her ankle in two places, sliding on a sprinkler's ice slick at 6AM while she took out the trash in Reno.

The Budget Rent-a-Car staff joked, "The Early Bird Slips on the Worm!"

Roddie Joe said, "<ack!> At least it's only an ankle -- I've always heard that when those Days really start Dwindling Down it's the hips you have to look out for -- you know, especially in Ladies Of A Certain Age if you get my drift. Well Wendy dear you (and I) were so smart to have chosen a younger lifestyle. We don't have to worry about stuff like that for *decades* --"

Mom's bone density test was fine; it was just a horrible slip on treacherous ice. I went out to see. It was like losing your footing on a Black Diamond run. Anyone would have hurt herself badly!

The tips of the day: Carry a cell phone, and freeze a damp towel to make a quick cold-pack in an emergency. < Emergencies are not unheard of. >

This is the final straw to make Mom switch from Kaiser Permanente to a choose-your-own-doctor health plan. Kaiser is notorious for not reimbursing and/or fully treating their patients. Per her instructions I tried to get pre-approval for the Emergency Room visit, while Mom writhed on the floor in agony. "Our members are always approved for necessary emergency treatment in any state, including Nevada." "Well is this considered an emergency? She slipped and her ankle slammed into the ground. She is unable to speak from the pain. We've been icing it for an hour. Is it considered 'necessary' for us to go to the Emergency Room?" "We review each claim and if it is medically necessary then we pay." In other words you're on your own, they won't approve the treatment in advance but if it's not indicated AFTER THE FACT you're SOL.

Mom would have gone to an Urgent Care clinic, cheaper, but we opted for the Emergency Room at the community hospital, which takes all forms of insurance. We were the first patients seen at 9AM and they put a splint on until the swelling goes down. These days they use a soft fiberglass pad wrapped in gauze to conform to the patient's limb, then wet it and let it harden for 20 minutes. A custom-fitted splint! When the swelling goes down, Mom will need a cast and maybe a pin to stabilize the bone.

They wanted to remove her pants first, but Mom said she would rather not be naked. They were old pants and she would cut up the seam to get them off. Later I lent her the razor blade I carry, that she had scoffed at as being unnecessary and dangerous. I picked up the habit from my lab days because they are so often useful. Slicing boxes and mice tails and safety seals. "See Mom!  Razors come in handy don't they!"

What Kaiser will cover remains to be seen. But she's prepared to see a real orthopedic surgeon on her own, and hang the cost. She doesn't even have a car that's how much she walks. Her feet are important.

It is unsettling, I heard her doing push-ups or sit-ups in the living room this morning, making regular soft grunting moans at 6AM. Trying to muffle her pain in the carpet!  Oh Mom. Turns out a broken bone is so painful you can't even make your way one-footed to the freezer for an ice pack. Ouch!

That's the worst of the story. But one further touch adds interest to the outcome. Last night the phone line went half-dead -- people could call in, but there was no dial tone and we couldn't call out. The computer could dial its ISP so Mom could have emailed for help -- or crawled into the street to get medical attention, if I hadn't been there. "This is how old ladies die, they just fall down and can't get up," Mom said.

Lucky I had my cell phone. I'm getting Mom one. Early birthday present.

We make weird psychological adjustments when we're under stress. There's something about a person in pain that gets on one's nerves -- especially if one is awakens too early in a strange house with a crisis going on. All morning things seemed to go wrong. I bumped into Mom's foot despite my best care, walked to the bathroom when she wanted me to open the freezer, had no luck with Kaiser. After the Emergency Room visit I pulled the car into the garage at 11AM and bumped against the wall and Mom snapped at me. I cried out in frustration, "I'm doing the shit best I can! I am so sorry I bumped your leg really I am. But please just stop bitching at me!" And you know, she did. I felt much better after drinking some caffeine from Denny's around noon.

"Gimpy," Dad called her. We were joking about Steven King's book Misery. "You'd better be nice to me!" "Here we are in the middle of the forest with nooo one around!" "Whack! How does THAT feel?" Mom depended upon me utterly. And naturally she was nervously watching so I didn't slip and injure myself, of do anything else that would leave us both cut off from help.

Karol Ann reminded me of broken hips and insisted once again that Mom get off of Kaiser. Jacob says she needs to get rid of the HMO and get her own doctor. Mom is finally ready to switch in October. She's trying to keep healthy and happy and doesn't want crappy medical care. The down side is that Dad has found a Kaiser physician and hospital he really likes in Vacaville, and it would be a shame for him to lose that.

Is there anything in this happening that's grist for the Darwins? Well I was musing about the evolution of the elderly, and thinking perhaps they are evolutionairly adapted to not get on the younger generation's nerves, and to help out more than they annoy. Otherwise who would want to load a feeble old relative on a travois and drag him to the faraway winter home? Mom thinks that our generous supply of old people might be too modern a circumstance for evolution to have acted upon them in this way.

That's the big news today, but the little news is that my car gave up the ghost. Yes it's true, the little pickup is cruising the foothills no more. The day before all this ankle stuff happened, my car lost its engine. The motor siezed up. Burnt out. I found out at 9AM when I called the repair shop from the Emergency Room. The car broke down outside of Reno with an irregular thumping noise before dying forever. Luckily I had my cell phone. I called Triple-A and Mom came to rescue me from the desolate stretch of freeway without an exit for miles.

Every car I ever owned was given to me by my Papa, both the Chevy Nova and the gold Dodge Ram. Now I'm contemplating a venture into the realm of new-car-ownership. I need to allocate a budget, browse Consumer Reports, scout out tax implications and smog equipment. It's daunting!

After my book is finished, a new car.

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