Glancing at the caller ID on my ringing cell phone, my stomach lurched. It was Dale, my husband, calling from another part of the house. These calls were often benign, asking for a cup of coffee or a special lunch. Then there were the others, the stomach-lurching kind, where he’d usually say two words – “I’m down.”
I took a breath and answered, hearing the dreaded two words from his shaky voice, “I’m down.”
“Where are you?”
“By the pool.”
“I’ll be right there,” I said, stuffing my cell phone into a pants pocket and running as quickly as my 64-year-old self, who’s overdue for disc surgery and possibly a hip replacement, could. That is to say, I limped and hopped my way through the house and out to the pool.
Dale lay on his side on the pool deck, wedged between his scooter and the ground cover. Both knees and shins were bloodied from falling on the exposed aggregate. The first thing I did was flip the scooter gear to forward and guide it ahead a few feet, freeing Dale to turn onto his back. Then I reversed the scooter to widen the distance between Dale and it. For the next few minutes, we tried painfully to get Dale’s knees on the floor of the scooter, while swatting at ants biting his legs. It was 100 degrees outside and we needed to get Dale out of the heat, away from the ants and into a cool place.
When it became apparent that boosting Dale to the scooter was futile, I “ran” to get a couple of quilts to roll him onto, a softer alternative to the hard deck. By now, we were both sweating profusely. Next, I brought a wheelchair from the house, thinking maybe his knees would tuck into the footrests and we could use it as a sort of dolly to get him into the house. Nada. Almost crying now, Dale asked if I’d please call 9-1-1.
I reminded him we couldn’t afford it because I was still fighting with Medicare over the last $1200+ bill from calling 9-1-1. We had to accept that we were on our own and would have to figure it out.
After an hour and a half I had a nutty idea. I couldn’t lift all of Dale, who was far too weak now to help himself, but maybe I could lift parts of him. I retrieved a couple of planter caddies from the garage. These are plastic trays, about 16” in diameter, on wheels, and when placed under planters, allow easy movement of heavy pots. I padded the caddies with folded towels, and slid one under Dale’s knees. We managed to scooch the other under his tummy.
I picked up my beautiful husband’s slender ankles and started to pull while he used the palms of his hands to push back on the deck, and we headed for the sliding glass door 30’ away. We had created a low-lying, makeshift skateboard and we were on a roll. Talk about durable medical equipment.
Being in the cool was such a relief to Dale, and though the carpet was softer than the deck, I brought him a plump comforter to lie on, hoping that, like previous times, a few hours of rest would recoup his strength and we could lift him to his scooter or wheelchair. Alas, that wasn’t in the cards either.
At 7:15 the next morning, I relented and called 9-1-1, asking if they would charge us another $1200 to come lift Dale off the floor. To my amazement, they explained the charge is only if they transport someone, e.g., to the hospital; otherwise, our tax dollars underwrite services like a “lift assist” so there would be no further charge. The EMTs came right out, and their first question was “Why didn’t you call us last night?”
My terribly sore husband looked at me and smiled while responding to them, “Next time, we will.”
I nodded in agreement, thinking “Right after we patent a new DIY mobility device for PSP patients, that is.”