By Anita Kestin
PROMPT — Who am I today?
Yesterday, it was the first time in my life that I fell at a time when I was not running fast. In fact, this time I was not even running at all. I was walking with my husband at a leisurely pace and found myself suddenly on the cement with my hand outstretched and painful, scraped, and covered with grass.
"What happened?" said my husband.
I wasn't quite sure, to be honest. I looked at the pavement and it was broken and cracked. That might have had something to do with it. It was also hot but I am one of those people who loves the heat and who loves to walk on days when others stay indoors in the cool.
In the heat, I always imagine myself in a tropical place where the adventure might lurk around the next corner and an interesting place to sit and have a drink can almost always be found: a cafe, someone's back garden, or the steps leading to a darkened church where a man is selling canned drinks with mysterious labels from a cooler he is propelling with a bicycle.
The blood was starting to form where the skin had been abraded. I looked at my wrist. Was it broken?
My husband handed me a tissue and reached to pull me to my feet.
What had happened? I had worked in a nursing home at one point and I knew that falling was an unmistakable sign of frailty. Had I become frail without knowing it? My mother had fallen late in her life and she had broken her hip, had barely survived the hip surgery due to a medical error, and had left her apartment never to return, passing with lightning speed into a hospice. There I had sat by her bed for days, returning home only to take a shower before rushing back.
Had I suddenly screeched at terrible speed to the place where my mother had once been?
My husband was clearly rattled. "You have to be more careful,” he said.
Yes, perhaps that was it. Perhaps that was all it meant.
I looked down at my hand. The blood had started to saturate the tissue and to spill onto my shirt. My wrist now looked distinctly misshapen in addition to being swollen.
I think I had better get this X-rayed, I said. Something inside is broken.
Anita Kestin is a medical doctor with a varied career and the gray hairs to match. For most of her career, she has worked in a traditional academic setting but for the past ten years, she has worked as the medical director of a nursing facility, a hospice physician, in the locked ward of a psychiatric facility, and in public health settings addressing patient safety issues.
She is also the daughter of Holocaust survivors, the wife of an environmental lawyer, the mother of wonderful grown children, a grandmother, and a progressive activist. She is attempting to calm her nerves during the pandemic by trying to advance the manuscript she has been writing for many years.