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The positive side of breaking your face and arms

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO, 
Mikel Kelly in the hospital four days after falling off his roof.

You might have noticed that I haven't been around for a while.

I have a pretty good excuse, though. I fell off my roof and broke my face and arms. In fact, I have a note from a doctor saying it's OK for me to go back to work.

I say 'a' doctor instead of 'the' because I had whole bunch of them - a trauma team, they called them, meaning every time you talk to a physician, it's a different one, and whoever did the original surgery, well, nobody's heard anything from that guy for a long time.

Due to the uniqueness of my injury, I had an interesting assortment of medical professionals in and out of my intensive care unit room at Emanuel Hospital. There were face doctors looking at my face (always before 6 in the morning, so my wife would never have a chance to talk to them) and orthopedists looking at my hands and arms and paperwork people making sure I had more things to sign than a guy on morphine has any business looking at and physical therapists and the assorted orderlies and other medical underlings who sneak in at weird hours to poke you with needles or ram your bed with someone else's bed because they keep changing your roommate or simply to wake you up to ask you dumb questions.

And then there were the nurses who actually took care of me.

They were like beautiful heavenly angels who really, really seemed to understand me. At least that's the way it seemed to my drug-addled mind.

OK, let's back up a minute so I can explain what happened. It was Saturday, July 26, and I was all done helping a friend who had been replacing some siding on our house in preparation for the guys who were going to paint the house a few days later. I went to step onto my friend's extension ladder, which operates a little different than my own does, and it wasn't latched, although I didn't know that. As soon as my weight was on it, it collapsed and sent me flying face-first onto the wooden deck below.

I might have blacked out for a few seconds, but I got up as soon as my wife and friend came running over. My face hurt, and I put my hands over my nose and mouth and was alarmed to see the puddle of blood forming on the deck beneath me. My wife drove me to the emergency room at Legacy Meridian Park Hospital, where they did some secret doctor stuff and then sent me by ambulance to Emanuel's trauma center.

When I came to in Emanuel, I was told I had a broken left arm near the base of my hand and a slight fracture in my right elbow. In my face, they said, 'you have all kinds of broken bones.' Those included a broken nose (two places), a broken jaw (near the roof of my mouth) and a number of breaks around the face, including cheeks, sinus bones and above the eyes. I'm told there are three or four plates holding my face together, and my teeth still don't quite fit together the way they used to.

Sometime Monday the 28th, they did surgery on my face and apparently put all of the pieces back together.

The next day, a friend asked me, 'Have you seen yourself yet?' - which, of course, I hadn't. We found a mirror and I scared myself. I had two serious shiners, and all the parts of my face that hurt looked as bad as they felt.

I have to tell you, though, that there are some positive things that happen when one falls off the roof and breaks one's face and arms.

First of all, you get off work for another three weeks - even if you just got back to work from a long, luxurious vacation in Europe. I spent one week in the hospital and another two weeks at home, just watching TV and eating ice cream.

Second, you find out if any of your friends really do like you. Mine, it turns out, really do, and that was good to hear.

Now, it could be that in your case, these so-called friends are just faking it, and at the first sign of trouble, they're going to drop you like a hot potato, but mine came through like gangbusters. I got about a thousand get-well cards, several pots or arrangements of flowers and a lot of visitors in the hospital and at home. And people brought us a ridiculous assortment of food - spaghetti and lasagna and bisques and chili verde and homemade soups - which my wife appreciated as much as I did because she's been stretched almost to the breaking point by her own job, the endless chores at home and the added stress of seeing me in such pathetic condition.

And, finally, in spite of all that good food, and the fact that I haven't done anything remotely resembling exercise, I lost more than 20 pounds over the past three weeks. I have no idea why, because I haven't missed a meal (though I've been forced to eat a lot more slowly), and I've eaten a lot of evil things (ice cream, pie, brownies, cake, etc.) that I normally wouldn't.

I'm thinking about marketing the Fall Off the Roof and Lose Weight Program, but I haven't worked out all the legal kinks yet.

And, I must admit, there are certainly some down sides to falling off the roof and breaking your face and arms. There's the pain, the inconvenience and the mind-numbing expense of a prolonged hospital stay and ongoing medical and dental care, but I don't really want to talk about that stuff right now.

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.