Monday, December 28, 2009


What a loaded word, impaled.

When I read it I jumped up from the swivel chair in my office. I began to hop around and make little pained noises as if I had just stubbed my bare toe against a brick. The hospital referral said matter-of-factly:

“25 year old female who fell from second story window and was impaled on wrought iron fence.”


It went on – ”…into throat and chest and abdomen… ahhhh… feeding tube… ahhhh … collapsed lung… ahhh… needs teaching…”

Needs teaching? What, about reducing falls prevention risks by not climbing out on a window ledge, or by removing iron spears from below your living room?

I drove there but could not keep myself from repeatedly visualizing the event. Despite my attempts to turn it off, it kept looping through my internal youtube brain site with horrifying detail. However, when I got to the street, and then to the particular door, I could not even look at the aforementioned fence. I averted my eyes and began to whistle, looking down Myrtle Street like some lame shoplifter about to pinch a porterhouse. I rang the bell and slipped into the lobby with a palpable feeling of relief.

Upstairs, Louise was standing inside the room waiting for me. She was Olive Oil tall, and looked even longer because she wore a large flesh colored hard plastic collar. She was loosely dressed like an WNBA player, baggy shorts and shirt, with the bulge of a feeding tube noticeable beneath her silky, purple Lakers jersey.

She was remarkably well, despite the fact that a few weeks ago she had climbed out on a stone window ledge to wash her windows, lost her balance, tumbled through the air for about twenty feet, and then was found by folks on the street, speared like a beast waiting for the rotisserie.

She was fine!

Of course, fine is a relative term.

I mean she will need to be fed through a tube for a while, and will have to wear this bothersome collar, but the fact that Louise was standing there talking to me, and could pour her Ensure and hit the bulls-eye opening in the tube, was a bizarre miracle. But these miracles happen. The opposite is, of course, sadly true.

Louise told me she was not lit the day of her flight, only hung over. I wasn’t buying it. But what does my opinion matter? It seemed my job there was redundant, because I felt Louise was already being shadowed by some benevolent force of nature. Nonetheless, I taught her how to operate the little pump that could deliver her supplements. However, she was not really interested in walking around with a cute little L.L. Bean backpack and a machine humming in her ear. This was just not Louise. Louise preferred the idea of dumping in a few cans at a time, like a college freshman pounding down a couple of Budweisers. She was not at all interested in going outside with tubes mysteriously snaking from a backpack and disappearing under her shirt.

I didn’t argue with Louise.

I left, wishing her good luck, and immediately thought how ridiculous that sounded. Louise needed good luck like the Pope needed another set of rosary beads.

When I walked out the front door I looked to the left at the fence, then up to Louise’s window. She was standing there, framed perfectly within the rectangular sash. I noticed that the glass was very clean. Louise waved and smiled.

I walked away, down Myrtle Street, past rows of wrought iron fences.

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