One of the first questions we are asked when we see our Movement Disorders Specialist is “Have you fallen lately?” That is an interesting question. Yes, I fall. But I don’t fall because I lose my balance. I fall because the step is just a bit too high, the sidewalk is uneven, or there is a 4 foot deep hole in the ground. Yes, you read it right, a hole in the ground.
I fall for two reasons. First, I don’t always pick up my right foot enough when I am walking, so an uneven step or a tree root pushing up a sidewalk will present a problem for me. Curbs are higher than I think they are and invariably pose a danger to me. I thought I picked my foot up high enough, what happened??? I have gone sprawling more times than I can think of because I forgot to hold the handrail on stairs. But it is never my fault. The stairs are uneven. Or is it my brain that is uneven? The last time I fell was in Portland in September. I tripped going up the steps to my hotel. My foot hurt as a result, but I ignored it. After all, there is always something that hurts, so it might as well be my foot for now. Not only did I ignore the pain, I played tennis, went to yoga class and wore high heels for many hours at a time. Three weeks later, the pain seemed much worse than usual in yoga class. I looked at my foot and saw that it was swollen and bruised. That was the wake up call and I decided that maybe it was time to see a doctor. Diagnosis: stress fracture. So I got to wear a very stylish boot for 4 weeks and am now restricted to athtletic shoes for a while. I wonder how they will look with my dress on Saturday night???
The second reason I fall has nothing to do with my foot. It usually happens because I am looking up, not at the ground. And often while traveling because I want to see everything around me. The first time, my husband and I were walking in Hong Kong, enjoying the Harbor lights. Without warning, I went flying. There was some construction on the sidewalk that was covered with a metal plate. I never saw it and down I went. I picked myself up, with the help of my husband and a person walking by, and we continued on to our destination. When we got there, people wanted to know why I was walking on Hong Kong sidewalks anyway. For those who have never been there, many of Hong Kong’s buildings are connected by above ground walkways because there is always so much construction going on at street level.
The hole in the ground that lured me in was in the Galapagos. Once again, I was looking ahead, not down, so I never saw it coming. Looking back, I don’t know how I missed a 4 foot deep hole in the sidewalk, but I did. I took a step and dropped in the hole to the level of my armpits. I had to be hauled out of the hole by several people. I was shaken up, but not hurt badly, except for my ego. Only after I fell in, the workers covered the hole with a wheelbarrow.
So apparently, I have become a danger to myself. My balance is good. My awareness of obstacles around me is not so good. I am also easily distracted. So what is the solution? Obviously, I need to pay more attention to my surroundings, especially directly in front of me. Stair rails are now my friends. And I should probably put the cell phone away when I am walking anywhere. My wonderful husband is concerned about the distraction of the cell phone, and I should probably listen to him on this one.