Posted by: joha5 | July 15, 2010

Physical Phailure: A History of Being Accident Prone

Maybe it was because of my lanky body, or maybe it was because I lacked precision and control in my extremities but when I was growing up I was one of the most accident prone individuals on the face of the planet.  I suppose that all children are susceptible to accidents to some degree just based on the amount of time they have spent operating in the world we live in.  But me, I was something else. 

Obviously I don’t know when specifically I became so prone to accidents and injuries but I certainly remember about half a decade where I managed to scar, break, and generally mame my body into a bloody pulp.  It was probably a mixture of carelessness, clumsiness, and lack of foresight in choosing safe activities, but whatever the reason…man, did I ever punish my body.

This would have been a sensible solution when I was younger. Hell, it would even be a sensible solution for me now.

I remember an instance when I was 4 or 5 years old and I was climbing the old wooden staircase with a school bus attached to a rope in tow.  Why I was doing this I have no idea but I am sure it seemed hilarious at the time.  It was hilarious until the bumper of the bus caught the ledge on the stairs causing me to tumble forward and slice my chin open to the bone on the sharp corner of the stair.  I recall being shocked but the injury was so swift that the adrenaline must have been rushing through my body because when I went upstairs to tell my grandmother that I fell on the stairs, her jaw dropped and her face turned a ghostly shade of pale.  She grabbed my arm and dragged me to the bathroom faster than my legs could move and put me in front of the mirror and made me stand there while she got the disinfectant lotion and the band aids.  I took my first glance and it was so out-of-body that I couldn’t even really understand the severity of the accident. 

The first time I actually felt the pain was when she doused the injury with Dettol.  The pain was searing and excruciating and it was at that point I started to cry.  My mother rushed home from work to see the bottom of her son’s face split wide open and the decision was made to rush me to the hospital.  I got to the emergency room and the only memory I have – other than the feeling of the doctor sewing my face up – was a construction worker who had been admitted to the ER because he had stepped on a nail and it had gone clean through his foot.  Even though I was 5 years old I remember my thought exactly…

At least I’m not that guy.

You would think that a 5-year-old would learn.  However, I did not.  Not 6 months later I was in my friend’s backyard and I found a hammer.  Like the little genius that I was, I decided to start hammering the tree.  For some reason I was not satisfied with how hard I was hammering or what I was hammering or whatever and I decided to pull the hammer back behind my head and take one huge swing.  Only problem was that my upper body strength hadn’t quite developed yet.  The sharp end of the hammer that takes nails out collided with the back of my cranium.  I had just succeeded in literally cracking my skull with a hammer – as if it was some science experiment or something.  Luckily, one emergency room visit, a couple of stitches and some love and attention is all I needed to get better.

My next major run in with the hospital was for my appendix.  I was visiting family in England for a couple of weeks when one day at a family reunion I began to feel very ill and very weak.  It felt like the flu so my family gave me some over-the-counter medication and made me take a nap.  The only problem was that the naps weren’t helping.  In fact, I felt worse after the nap than I did before I took them but with a distinct lack of energy all I could do was sleep and degenerate into a human pile of illness.  It was a long and restless night and then all of a sudden…


My appendix burst.  It literally burst.  I don’t mean that I heard the sound or anything but my body was sent into writhing agony.  My mother, sister, and grandmother were startled and ran into the room to comfort me only to find me inconsolable.  A doctor was called in to visit the house at 4:30am and after running some diagnostic tests, he knew right away that I was in trouble.

“He’s got to go to the hospital and get this sorted out right away”, he said.

So that was it.  Off I went.  I was immediately prepped for surgery.  I never got to meet the man who would delve deep into my lower abdomen and dig out the shattered remains of my appendix but I would later find out that he was actually knighted by the Queen of England.  His name you ask?  Sir Anthony Grabham.  What an appropriate name for somebody who had to go into my body and grab all of the bad stuff out (NOTE: He would later become the Chairman of the British Medical Association – a huge deal – and I must remind all of you who are not English and reading this…I got this all done totally 100% free.  Amazing.). 

This man has seen and - physically touched - my intestines yet I have never seen or talked to him. I feel used and cheated.

I had another accident that required emergency attention when I was swimming at an indoor swimming pool somewhere in the middle of nowhere in England and somehow managed to hit my head on an indoor pool lamp as I was jumping into the pool.  My head met with the base of the huge metal object and it lost.  It didn’t feel any different from a normal (yet severe) bump on the head and as I raised my head above the water I tried to shake it off and recover quickly.  Then…all hell broke loose.  My cousin started crying and screaming.  The lifeguards whistle’s created a cacophony that echoed through the indoor pool, children jumped and dived through the water in any direction that would take them away from me.  And then I just saw everybody screaming and yelling at me.  Imagine my shock.  I had just knocked my head idiotically on an indoor lamp and all of a sudden I was being treated like a leper whose body was collapsing.  And then I realized that my body actually was collapsing.  My peripheral vision caught a bright red object in the water and as I looked down I realized that it was no object.  I was in the epicenter of a giant pool of blood that was expanding exponentially by the second.  I have never been attacked by a shark, nor have I ever seen something so brutal in real life but the blood was mixing with the water at such an astonishing rate that a shark may as well have bitten off one of my lower extremities to create this mess.  It would have essentially been the same.  

I was taken to the medical room of the pool and sat in front of a mirror.  The mixture of blood, water, and chlorine had created a liquid more viscous than water but less viscous than paint – and I was covered in it from head to toe.  The remedy was a handful of stitches and some fake bone that would keep my head together which is still in there today. 

I could go on and on – and maybe I will another day – about the time I flipped over my bike and landed on my head, elbow, and knee, all at the same time.  I could talk about breaking my wrist playing goalie in a soccer game, I could talk about getting a bear hug from my drunk friend on my 23rd birthday and him accidentally breaking a rib on the right side of my rib cage.  I could even talk about going to a gastroentirologist and laughing hysterically as I was poked and probed and even inflated only to be told – and I quote this because I am extremely proud of it – that I had ‘the prettiest rectum in all of D.C.’.

If any of you would like to hear about any of these stories then all you have to do is let me know and I will give you the full gory – and often embarrassing – details.  But the point will still remain that I have certainly come a long way from my accident prone days as a child and adolescent.  I have mastered the use of my body – more or less – and can pretty much function fully in society without totally losing control or embarrassing myself.  I have cut down drastically on partaking in any activity that could risk my health or safety.  In fact, I very rarely injure myself physically these days.

I still take risks, however.  But the only risks I enjoy taking these days are physical and intellectual ones so if I fail I actually don’t have a long recovery period, physical scarring, pain, and I don’t have to explain to people over and over again how or why my failure happened.  And, man, I like it this way so much better.


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