Charlie Sacchetti sustained injuries to both legs when he stumbled on the last two steps of a small staircase – damage that landed him in two rehabs for 46 days over the summer.
By Charlie Sacchetti
I’ve heard it said that your life can change in a split second. I never really gave it much thought but recent events have made that saying, for me, come to life.
It all started back on June 24, when I did something that I’ve done thousands of times. I was walking down the eight steps to my rec room. I was preparing to make a phone call to my doctor, to discuss my blood pressure medication. In my right hand was the container that held one of my prescription drugs. As I walked down the steps, I decided to read the label to check the expiration date while ignoring the handrail on the right side. Now, I’m sure most of you would agree that if you’re going to be dumb enough to walk down steps while reading, you could at least have the sense to hold a container in your left hand and use your right hand to hold onto the handrail. However, common sense did not prevail and as a result the seventh step and I did not have a smooth transition. The result: a very quick fall down two steps, resulting in a broken right ankle, in three places, that was also dislocated, and the tearing of all of my quadricep tendons in my left knee. Thank God, my wife was home to call 911 or I would still be laying on the floor because I could not move at all.
I remember the ambulance ride to Cooper Hospital trauma center. Much of what happened after that is a blur. I can only say that they probably shot me up with morphine as soon as I arrived at the ER. I say this because what I remember next was that two nurses were holding my right ankle with one saying to the other “This is dislocated. We’ll have to put it back in place.” I remember seeing both of them holding onto my ankle and twisting it but I felt nothing, no pain at all. The next thing I remember I was in the bed with both of my legs all wrapped up.
On June 27, I had surgery to repair both problems. The very next day I was transferred to an acute rehabilitation center. This is the type of facility where they work you very hard and this was by my choice. I figured that this was all caused by my carelessness, and the harder I work the quicker I’ll get back. I have rehabbed before, both shoulders and my other knee, but the difference now was that both of my legs were affected and neither could be put to good use. I was told I could not bear any weight on my ankle for eight weeks and it was in a cast. My left leg was in an immobilization boot which would not allow me to bend my knee whatsoever. To complicate the situation even more, I was taking oxycodone for the pain. I wasn’t thrilled about taking this narcotic, and I wanted to get off of it as soon as I could. Also, without getting too graphic, one of the side effects of this drug is that it just about assures you that you’ll be constipated. When you’re in this condition, you’re not exactly excited about doing heavy physical therapy, and that is exactly what you must endure when you go to an acute rehab center.
So, on the fourth day of this condition, I was in the workout gym sitting in my wheelchair waiting for my next therapist to come to begin my new session. As I sat there, feeling both physically and mentally stressed, I happened to glance at one of the TVs. Showing was a “Tunnel to Towers” commercial. For those of you who do not know, Tunnel to Towers is an organization that pays off mortgages of soldiers or policeman who are killed in action so the families do not have to worry about the burden of paying off the residence. In addition, it also will retrofit homes to accommodate returning soldiers who are amputees and cannot live in a normal home. As I looked at the TV set, I saw a young soldier, probably 30 years old, and sitting with him on the sofa was his wife, who was holding their beautiful baby girl. The soldier was a double amputee and his artificial legs were visible. My first thought upon looking at him, was “What would this kid give to be me right now?“ I realized that sooner or later I’m going to get better and have my legs but this young man will never have his again. At that moment, any self-pity that may have been emerging was whisked away never to return and I decided to just suck it up and do what had to be done. It was a wonderful wake-up call for me, and I’m sure that my viewing it, at this particular time, was not strictly coincidental.
The length of my rehab, in two separate facilities, was 46 days. I certainly am not the most patient person in the world. However, when you are in a situation like this, you either learn to be patient and do what you have to do to get better, or you let your mind play tricks on you and your stay will simply be miserable. In choosing the former, I was actually able to communicate with many of the other patients and I’m happy to say that some of my efforts to nudge them into the right frame of mind were successful. We were all in it together so we might as well try to help each other.
Aside from the excellent treatment I received, I learned some other very valuable information. In particular, during a group session to discuss falls and how to prevent them, I was able to realize how many things I did wrong around the house. After the session was completed, I took immediate steps to correct them. Hopefully, the improvements we made at our home, will now present a much safer environment and help us to avoid any accidents in the future. As we get older, we are more likely to suffer a debilitating fall. It’s just a fact. I pray that you and I continue to assess our surroundings in an effort to reduce the possibility of a fall. Simple additions of things like grab bars, in showers and tubs along with sturdy handrails in staircases, may save you from having a long and painful recovery.
May God protect us.
Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” Contact him at email@example.com.