The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 5, 2009

MICHELE M. BENDER | I can laugh about it now ...


I have a category of stories I call “Someday I’ll laugh about this.” I think I’m ready for this one now.

It’s no secret that I’m handicapped. To function in my house, I use a cane or walker. Away from home, I’m usually in my wheelchair.

I awakened one night at 4 a.m. and went in my bathroom. As I stood at the sink, suddenly my less-than-cooperative legs simply went out from under me. One minute I’m standing; the next I’m like a turtle up-dumped on his shell.

You get a whole new perspective lying on your bathroom linoleum at 4 a.m.

A quick inventory left me pretty certain that I hadn’t broken anything.

My best chance to get myself up, I thought, was to flip over on my stomach and slide to one of the grab bars on the wall.

My plan didn’t work. I couldn’t pull myself up.

At this point, I DID laugh. What a predicament!

The closest phone was in the family room. A long journey loomed ahead.

Picture swimming without water, and you’ll get the image of me inching my way over the linoleum to the hallway. The wool rug there is not “skin friendly” and I had approximately 8 feet to go to reach the family room doorway.

The family room was no better. Berber carpeting, while durable, also totally lacks “crawl-ability.”

I could read the clock by the night light: 5:15 a.m.

It had taken me over an hour to slither about 20 feet. I developed a new respect for snakes.

Six feet remained to reach the Tracfone on my work table. As I passed the magazine rack, I grabbed my bamboo back scratcher and used it to fish the Tracfone down.

I called my friend Joe, who came immediately. We still couldn’t get me up.

He phoned the fire hall and requested a “lift assist.” Apparently geezers like me hitting floors is a fairly common occurrence.

Once the ambulance crew agreed that I was OK, they spread a hammock-like tarp next to me and had me roll onto it.

I shut my eyes as they lifted me. I peeked once while in the air and made a mental note to Swiffer the ceiling fan paddles. The men plunked me in my lift chair where I stayed most of the next two days.

I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I needed a 55-gallon drum of Neosporin for my brush burns.

My Tracfone has been with me ever since that night, in my pocket or somewhere beside me.

Right now, shoppers need Christmas gift ideas for senior relatives and friends. Here’s a suggestion: Pass on the Chia Pets and a Clapper. A prepaid cell phone is an inexpensive step toward security for your loved one.

And a step beats a crawl. Trust me.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.