Took down the Christmas tree today--everything had to be carefully put away this year since it will all be moved this summer. I put the tree outside with the lights still on so we can enjoy it a few more days.
The strangest thing happened to me on January 1st, 2011. We were out with my sister Helen walking the Kremlin and Red Square and on the way back, we wandered through the old Arbat, in the light snow and over spots of ice.
We stopped at a grocery store and bought some bread and desert to add to our dinner. The sidewalk was slushy sloped down to the street, as though for wheelchair access (though I've never saw anyone in a wheelchair in Russia). My hands were carrying the bags and all of a sudden, my feet slipped out from under me and before I could try and even break my fall, I landed on my tailbone.
I could see the heavey Nikon I had around my neck come right at me as though it were taking my picture. It bounced off my brow and landed up above my head, choking me by the strap. I lay there trying to figure out what was hapening in my lower back.
Helen asked me if I was all right and a young man came up and offered to help me up. "Just a second! Just a second!" I begged. "I need a few minutes to assess myself." My legs seemed to move fine and the pain that was in my low back seemed to be subsiding. The man again was coaxing me to stand up, assuring me it would be fine. "Alright then" I said, and he muscled me up to a standing position.
Upright, my low back was sending strange signals. Definitely pain but with a strange added pressure, kind of a displacement, like the tingling when your foot falls alseep. My head was starting to swim and I felt swirly. I leaned forward and put my hands on my bent knees. "I don't feel so good. I think I'm going to pass out." And that is the last thing I remember. According to Helen, I fell from a leaning forward position strait down onto my face. A brief out of body experience, kind of warm and fuzzy ("And oh what a feeling when your soul goes through the cieling"). The next thing I knew, I could hear voices but I was completely disoriented.
Helen and a passerby were holding me and the ice below me felt good on my now throbbing butt. A militia man was talking on a radio and a stranger was running up with a chair (it turned out to be a parking attendant). They sat me up and I tried my best to compose myself. An ambulance was called and I was already trying to imagine myself walking back to the Embassy (about 3 blocks away). The kind woman who stopped to help was from the British Embassy and she was trying to convince me to walk with her to her Embassy, also fairly close by. I tried to request that the militia man cancel the ambulance but he said it was already on the way and that I should wait. I could always refuse once they checked me out. So I resigned myself to that. In truth, I really didn't feel so great and nausea was already coming on.
The ambulance arrived rather quickly with their flashing blue lights. A medical attendant approached me and asked me some questions. I explained what happened and that I did not hit my head. Silly I know, coming from someone who has blood dripping from his brow. He invited me into his ambulance and I complied. It was smoke filled. He did a mini neuro exam and I got him to chuckle. I eventually revealed that I was the healh provider from the American Embassy.
He suggested I be taken to a hospital for evaluation. I declined, not wanting that experience. I told him I just needed to get home to the Embassy and he said he waould take us there. There were no seatbelts in the ambulance. He cleaned up my eye while they drove us home, no gloves or sterile dressings. I expected a request for payment but it cost me nothing. They dropped us off at the main gate, 200 feet from my apartment.
I walked supported on Helen's arm. My low back seemed okay but my buttocks felt as though something was trying to cut through from the inside out. I made it to the couch and lay down. Nausea overcame me. Nothing sounded good to eat or drink. I lay there rather helplessly. Eventually I fell asleep and have been sore for the past couple of days. But the nausea went away, the pain has gotten better and the black eye swelling has gone down.
Everytime I look in the mirror, I am reminded of the cigarette commercial from the 70's, "Taraton smokers would rather fight than switch."