When I was about 5 years old we visited my great grandmother Alma Dora in Ipswich. She was known as “Big Grandma” (while my ordinary grandma was just “Little Grandma”). Thus she was a tiny bit more important I assumed. Alma was born in 1901. By the point of this visit she was 82, had a shock of grey hair and those big 60s hooked glasses just like Dame Edna. Her voice was similarly half cackerley and half sing-songy. She had lived on her own for decades (cause my great-grandad Ben had died of a heart attack in his 50s). This is a picture of her when she was about 16.
She introduced me to mints. Oddfellows. Those big fat ancient form that mints must have started out being. She would buy them in their plastic wrapper and then put them in an old glass jar with a screw-top lid. And every visit I would hunt them out way up there on a shelf and she would ferry the jar down and give me one. Ever since that has been my most favourite taste in sweets. (Even better than black jelly beans).
THE HOLE IN THE WALL
Because she died only two years after that visit, and because she lived all the way out in Ipswich, I only got to visit her maybe ten or so times in my life. Those visits were always magical. But they got a bit more next level that time when I was five. See Alma had just come out of hospital. But all I wanted to see in that visit was the hole in her kitchen wall which she made when she tumbled over. She lay there for hours before my Poppa rescued her.
It was the most incredible story I had ever heard. I made my Poppa and my Grandma tell the story over and over again, sucking out new details every time. I looked intently at that tennis-ball-sized hole in the wall in her kitchen. (It was some sort of fibro — probably asbestos). It just seemed unbelievable to my tiny brain that a human could put a hole in a wall, let alone a frail old lady.
Looking back I have no idea what damage she did to herself that fall (or how epic her recovery was) — but just now I finally might have a better understanding.
See this year I have had two rather epic falls. Obviously I have survived and now they seem comical, but at the time they were stupidly tragic.
It was a Saturday in April and it was THE day that I felt THE MOST pain. And I say this knowing that gingers are scientifically proven to experience more pain than the typical non-ginger. But of course it’s all relative. In other words I might feel pain worse than everyone else — but that’s all I know so in my reality any pain I experience is just like how non-gingers feel it.
But it’s also perhaps a FACT that I have a better understanding of PAIN. If I have a pathetic tolerance to pain — I know a bunch more about it than the majority of you reading this. It invades my soul just a bit more. It gets into gaps in my brain where you non-gingers have never felt it. Just maybe.
And this day I think that officially happened.
It was so impossibly severe. It smashed my core. Like into my core. The very MIDDLE of my body and it spread out like it was trying to find a way to escape. (see point 4 below)
1) I have been hit by a car. (multiple times I should say). NOT EVEN CLOSE.
2) I once had a bull-ant somehow bite my scrotum (Yep). CLOSER, BUT NUP.
3) The many times I have smashed my head open. NUP. LITERALLY WOKE UP IN A POOL OF BLOOD AND WONDERED WHAT THE FUSS WAS ABOUT.
4) Breaking my left index finger trying to catch a bouncing football. THIS EVENT WAS MUCH CLOSER. (It really hurt and for about 2 hours the pain throbbed with every heartbeat. But because it happened to a rather remote appendage it seemed a bit less momentous.)
5) Splinters were always fucked up. My dad would burn a sewing needle in the flame of the stove to disinfect it. Then he would immobilise my arm while he dug that bit of wood out. It was literally home-surgery without any aesthetic. CLOSE. BUT MORE EVIL THAN ACTUAL PAIN.
6) All those times I have been bitten by bees. I FELT MORE SORRY FOR THE BEE THAT HAD JUST COMMITTED SUICIDE TRYING TO HURT ME
And so yes. The point is: this was different.
HOW IT HAPPENED
So of course it started with a bike ride. I know this is a theme in almost all my personal medical tragedies, but I really don’t know how.
I was riding to the Shire in preparation for an engagement party for Dee’s cousin. I left at 1:30pm and just at the kangaroo pt cliffs I saw all these dark clouds spilling over the southside of Brisbane.
I was intending to go the long way out, but now I thought better of that idea. “Smash through along Old Cleveland Road”. Not the safest route (for a bike rider), but certainly the fastest.
20 minutes later I felt the first drops and they were those massive bits of rain that you know are definitely not “spitting”. I was now at Carindale. There was no where to stop so I plowed on. Just near Tilley Rd and across from the Chandler Velodrome there is a bus shelter. As I waited there the thunder got intense. I saw lightning smack against the velodrome’s light-towers. I looked around and saw I was sitting in an entirely aluminium structure and although I was dry – this was a prime target for a lightening bolt. Just a few weeks earlier a guy had been killed on the Gold Coast sheltering in a similar structure. Election Day.
So I rolled on, thinking a moving target was safer and despite the rain biting my face like bullets, and despite having no lights.
So I got to dee’s folks’ place just as the rain was easing. I trudged up the stairs to shower. I left behind a bunch of water with every step. After a quick rinse I started back downstairs. On the way down I saw all my wet puddles and quietly decided to clean that up somehow. And then, almost as soon as that thought was finished I stood on one of those puddles and slipped.
I smacked down, hitting one of those steps directly on the bottom of my spine. Then I slid down the remaining 5 steps and flipped about 30 degrees to land instinctively on all fours in a crouched position.
My fall made an incredible noise. On top of the noise I swear this considerable house registered a movement detectable on the Richter scale. Dee’s dad Terry and Dee’s brother Jules immediately came to investigate. All I could manage to say, barely, was that I had hurt my back. I was more moaning than speaking.
I was in so much pain I tested my toes just in case I had broken my spine and my lower body was useless. Of course all that pain was probably a good sign. I crawled over to the entrance hallway where there was a rug (the tiles were too severe) and managed to lay down on my back. It was about then that Terry noticed I was bleeding. The cut was on my right arm but in this state I couldn’t really tell or care. These peripheral injuries were nothing compared to the damage to my core.
I lay there for about 10 minutes — desperately trying to tell my brain not to go into shock. Shock is something that I have wandered into before. It’s not really productive. Meanwhile Terry bandaged up my arm and Dee happened to call and I did my best to tell her what happened. I was a mess. Eventually I recovered but it was ages later and only helped by a bunch of booze.
So this was just 6 days ago. It had been so far a rather conservative “partying adventure” — just Me, Ella and Dee at Brewski. It was only one drink and only 6:30pm when we left. I stopped at the b-room while they headed home up Caxton Street. I told them I would catch up.
I stepped out and then instinctively started jogging down the road. I made it just to the other end of the Caxton Hotel when one of my feet hit a big lip in the pavement. I stumbled and started swinging my arms like I was an aeroplane — vainly attempting to stay upright in a Wright Brothers Vibe. And then the unimaginable was happening. I headed down with no real time to do anything about it. Suddenly I was sprawled on the footpath on all fours. Face down like I was swimming. Almost like I had done a superman-dive into the pavement.
My running momentum and the downward gradient of the footpath meant I even slid for a few metres. It must have looked spectacular. Indeed it looked so tragic a car which was in the right lane waiting to turn up Hale Street left that position and pulled over next to me. I jumped up as fast as I could and waved a bloodied hand and motioned that I was completely fine. Smiled even.
But inside I knew I had done a bit of damage. My right knee especially. The bleeding on my elbow and my had was pretty superficial (and would make awesome scabs eventually.)
I then did what I needed to do. I kept running. I needed to get out of there. Ugh.
The next day my knee swelled up and it was hard to sleep and walk (obviously) and another bonus was that it was hard to wear clothes. Jeans just don’t converse with that sort of trauma.
And you know what? I bet this was all captured on CCTV from the Caxton Hotel. Part of me really wants to see that footage. Is that crazy?
This documentary is fucking amazing. And so much more relevant now! It reminded me so much of The Jinx. Anyway: if you have read this far it is by now very, very topical.