31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 10 — Watching My Step



Do you see that rough looking spot in the pavement in this picture? There is about an inch-and-a-half difference between the asphalt and the concrete in this particular roadway. It’s the one that circles our local cemetery here in Santa Barbara, a place I used to love to walk.

But in February of this year, my left foot — which was surgically altered ten months prior to this event — got caught on that inch-and-a-half difference and I went down, face first, into the asphalt. After I hit the ground, that poor roadway looked like this:


Because I was on blood-thinning medication, I had to spend the next 24 hours in a hospital room, being monitored for a possible brain bleed. The hospital room came after driving myself to the ER and having stitches put into FIVE locations around my face, including inside my mouth. Thankfully, the brain bleed never materialized. 

Within about five days, this is what I looked like:


I know, I KNOW!! Almost as bad as the roadway, and downright scary, right?

Less than three months later, I misstepped coming out of the back seat of my car after I’d gone to retrieve something while visiting my daughter. I landed on my bum, hard, and then on the back of my head. I refused to go to the ER that time, but four days later, I felt the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life as I turned over to get out of bed in the morning. Something tore – I could feel it. I found out later it is called the abdominal rectus sheath muscle, and that sudden, searing tear is a rare side effect of the particular blood thinner I was taking, most probably complicated by the fall at my daughter’s. That little event led to TWO nights in the hospital, with lengthy intravenous treatment to reverse the effects of the blood thinners and stop the internal bleeding. I had a humungous lump in my gut, just below my lower left rib, that slowly dissipated over the next couple of months, causing some very funky bruising all along my left side.

To say these two events were distressing is a massive understatement. The very best thing that came out of them is that I am no longer taking blood thinners — HOORAY. And the second best thing is that I am now very, very careful where I put my feet.

From my bed in the ER during that second event, I called my foot doctor and asked him to please order some specifically targeted physical therapy to help me with my balance. The surgery with its L O N G recovery (no weight-bearing for eight weeks) had left me feeling off-balance much of the time. My post-surgery therapy had worked on strengthening my newly re-created foot, but this second, targeted round of PT has made a wonderful difference in my sense of balance and I am grateful. (I still do two of the exercises every single day.)

These scary episodes have underscored for me the truth that this body, she is gettin’ up there. She simply is not what she used to be. So I find myself looking down a lot these days, being extra-careful where I walk. In fact, I am much more cautious in general. I have never been a daredevil physically, but these days, I’m an out-and-out scaredy-cat.

And that care, that caution has become something of a metaphor for me in other areas of my life as well, most particularly with words — both spoken and written. Watching my step can be applied in lots of way, it seems to me.  

What about you? Where are you becoming more cautious and watching your step as you get older?

Just Wondering

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  1. Oh, I am much more careful than ever before. I miss the days of walking 60 minutes a day. I do work out at the gym doing a recumbent bike and doing yoga. It is saving me. How do we overcome the feeling of our bodies will never get better? What are those two exercises you still do for balance?

    • They are very simple, Gabriele. While I run my electric toothbrush over my mouth, I alternate standing on opposite legs for 30 seconds each – it’s a simple balance exercise to strengthen the ankles and increase your balancing skills. The second one is a stretch – I now do it on a foam slant board for two minutes, both feet and legs (stretches my very tight calves, which contribute to my problems). I’ve also done the usual one of leaning against a counter (or a car, if I’m outside) and stretching each leg for 30 seconds alternating for two minutes. I’m not sure we do overcome that feeling about our bodies. I think it’s a process of accepting, even celebrating, what we have now and keeping what we have now for as long as we possibly can.

  2. Oh, you poor thing, Diana! You’ve certainly been through the wringer!
    Like you, I watch where I put my feet, too, especially after my mother fell in August and fractured her femur. Don’t want to risk that!
    Blessings to you!

    • Oh, ouch – broken femurs are so very painful and the recovery is long and hard. I’m so sorry to read this! Our grandson broke his when he was 4 and a half and had to wear a full-on body cast because of his age. Not fun! And looking down is just a good idea for everybody, especially those of us over a ‘certain age!”

  3. Just like you, Diana, in attempting to walk outside! I can only walk a short distance with a stick and need to look down at my feet lest I trip. Getting in and out of a car can be a challenge too, as can trying to stand for a while. My balance, strength and ability to walk are seriously affected by having M.E, and arthritis so this has been my way of life for some time now. In spite of that problem, I think I’ve become bolder in other areas of my life e.g in speaking and writing and leaving comments on other people’s blogs! Compensations for feeling weaker elsewhere, maybe? 🙂 x

    • Oh, Joy – I know your mobility is affected by much more than balance issues and I am so sorry. But I’m grateful that you are finding over avenues to move out into with confidence. I’d say those are really good compensation, friend.

  4. I fell down 5 steps about 5 years ago…broke my wrist, banged up my knees and had a closed fracture of c5 vertebra. it was the pits and I am grateful the neck injury was not more serious. within the next two weeks i heard of a woman in our area who got up at night, went downstairs to the basement, fell down the steps, broke her neck and died. They found her in the morning. NEVER go down stairs without holding railing. I have almost tripped over sidewalks too many times and now I am constantly stepping “heel and toe and lift.”

    As to other things: Since i was always one who did NOT speak, but worried about what people might think, I am more willing to use my voice (had to learn effective ways of doing it!) I also am more likely to ask for clarification of what someone might have said instead of making up my own story. therapy has helped these last two things!

    I too am thinking about some physical therapy for core strength. wonder if they would do a couple sessions to get me started. I know that is an issue with elderly. I saw it with my Dad. Scary.

  5. Both my Mother and my husband’s struggle with falls. It’s so scary. And yet, it’s the risk of movement, of life. Your words have me thinking of balance, Diana, and rightful caution. As someone who’s “watched her step” for far too much of my life I’m learning to enjoy the goodness of graceful movement here in this “prime” of life.