Person reclining on their back in a tent with only their feed sticking out.

Help, I've Fallen and I Don't Wanna Get Up.

The fall. No, I’m not talking about the season, or even “Legends of,” but the actual thing. Falling down. Hitting the ground. Losing your balance. Whatever euphemism you choose, it means one thing when you have RA – trouble.

It happened a week ago. A fall. My stupid ankle brace got hooked on something and I went ass-over-teakettle. I hit the ground with a resounding thud and I knew, instantly, it was going to be bad. In that moment, I just wanted to stay on the floor – just pop a tent over myself, move in a laptop, maybe a soda stream or coffee maker as well and just live right there on the floor, forever. I knew as soon as I tried to get up it would become readily apparent what got shoved where and whether or not I was going to have to go to the ED.

Falling on RA-impacted joints

God, nothing makes you feel ancient like falling down. Even if you are healthy, falling down makes you feel like a 90-year old. Add on the anxiety of falling with RA and it’s humiliating, terrifying, and painful, let’s not forget that one. Of course, I had to go down on concrete – it couldn’t have been carpet or marshmallow fluff, no, it had to be the basement concrete. If I was going to pick a place not to fall, it would be there. I went down on the side, and I knew, absolutely knew, my hips got slammed, and my hips ain’t exactly spring chickens.

Worried about my hips

I’ve had one since 1996, and the other since 1998 – when they were new the Internet was still called the “worldwide web,” and Hotmail was a service that matched you with a porn star for a pen pal. And they still had pen pals. And pens. And people still said “pal.” Sheesh, my hips are old. So you can see why I was concerned – one jolt the wrong way and bam! There goes the pelvic neighborhood. I’d have to get one of those new digital wi-fi hips that play Candy Crush and works your thermostat. Ugh, technology runs amok. (No, not a real thing.)

The disruption of recovery

There I was, down on the floor, just contemplating the “what ifs,” wondering how much time this was going to sap from my life. Because really, that’s what we are talking about, isn’t it? Most of the time when something suddenly impacts our RA or other chronic illness, it’s an interruption. A disruption in the life we’ve carefully built with two things - hard work and Doritos. I mean sheer will. Also Doritos too, ok three things.

It could be weeks in the hospital if something has to be fixed or replaced, possible permanent injury that makes getting around ten times more difficult – or it could lead to any number of issues that, ultimately, interrupt life and take away more of our precious time. Pain for people like us is a mere inconvenience compared to affecting our quality of life, our daily routine, it’s the real killer, and that was all weighing on my mind as I lay there on the concrete. The dirty concrete. I gotta clean the basement.

Why was this fall different?

I don’t know why it affected me more this time – I have fallen before. One time I took a digger in front of my physical therapy office in front of no less than seven people. It wasn’t like a tiny “oops, I fell!” either. It was a full-on, ten steps trying to catch myself, wind knocked out of me, bleating like a goat, slip-and-slide level wipe out. I remember lying there, watching two of the people sitting on the bench saying, “I am not getting involved in this boy’s fall,” and going inside and the only thing I could think was, “what a bunch of witches.” (Edited for content, this is a family site.) I wasn’t worried about what I hurt or what the consequences were going to be, at least not in that moment.

Why did this latest fall make me think so much more, then? Age? More to lose? Hit my head and I was hallucinating? All of the above, I think. Well, not the last one. Thank God that pink elephant was there to help me up. I knew that the moment I moved I was going to have to deal with a whole new set of issues and things were going well, for once. Unfortunately, that seems to be the cycle with RA.

Rheumatoid arthritis is destructive

Anyone who suffers from chronic illness can agree on one thing – our illness has impeccable timing. More punctual than a British clockmaker, our diseases always rear their ugly head when we least expect it, can afford it, finally start to get things going. Basically, whenever things are looking up, it chimes in to say “can’t say Par-tayy without RA!” (My RA is a bad speller.) RA always arrives already drunk and makes a scene by urinating in your potted plant and groping the neighbor’s dog and then, on the way out, he burns your house down by throwing a lit cigarette in the trash can. That’s on one of his less destructive trysts, too. I think we all know, RA never shows up with a nice bottle of Chablis and says “let’s spend a quiet night in and just relax.” It’s always a fiasco, so who can blame me for not wanting to get up and light that fuse?

When I did eventually pull myself off the floor, my hips were angry, really angry. I ended up laid up for ten days or so but, on the bright side, I think I avoided any permanent damage. Now that I’ve said it out loud, though, as soon as I get up from this chair my leg will probably fall clean off. “RA’s here! Surprise, jerk!” Talk soon.

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