Most Accidents Happen At Home

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A fractured vertebrae from a household mishap recently felled columnist Paul DiSclafani
(Photo by Nevit Dilmen/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

I fractured a vertebra in my back.
I wish I could say I hurt myself doing something noble, like saving a child from a burning building or making a diving catch in the outfield with the bases loaded, but it was nothing like that. Actually, if it didn’t result in hurting myself, it might be considered comical.
Barely 18 inches off the ground, I fell off a step stool.

We have a central air conditioning unit in our attic. A maintenance guy squeezes through the tiny opening in the closet ceiling and services the unit once a year. We always remind the service about the size restrictions, but last year they sent us a guy that resembled Ralph Kramden. This time, they sent a guy with the physique of an Olympic athlete and his shoulders were too wide to fit through the opening. Needless to say, they had to send a different, more diminutive guy.

The closet houses the vacuum cleaner and a couple of removable shelves with varying items that we have no other place for. For one day every year, we need to clear the closet of the items and shelves so the maintenance guy can put a ladder inside and scoot up into the attic through the opening.
Inside the closet, running down the side is an AC duct that brings cool air down into the basement. That causes condensation inside the closet, which causes some mold to develop on the walls surrounding the duct.

After removing the shelves, we decided to spruce up the inside of the closet and give it a new coat of paint. First, I needed to kill and remove the mold. Using a mold-killing spray I got from Ace Hardware, I grabbed the step stool and went to work. Standing on the first step was all the height I needed to reach most of the mold. Armed with my trusty sponge, I stretched to reach some embedded in the corner, but was coming up a little short. So, I went up to the second step.

I reached everything a lot easier from the second step, so I continued the scrubbing process. Now the dirty water was starting to drip down the wall, so I decided to step off and grab the paper towels on the table. Except I wasn’t on the first step anymore. As I stepped off backward, all I found was air. With nothing to grab onto, I went straight down.

Crashing into the door jamb with my shoulder, I fell straight on my back. I stayed down for a few minutes to make sure everything still worked. Man, did that hurt. You know how after a certain age, every time you wake up, you hear things crack? I heard things crack.

After two days of Advil and using a heated massage thingy, I went to the Total Orthopedics walk-in clinic and, after an x-ray, found out I fractured one of the vertebrae in my lower back. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to swallow to get me out of this mess. We’re going to start with physical therapy and see where that takes us.
For now, I’m certainly not running in any marathons. I went for a sit-down MRI and have an upcoming appointment with the spine doctor next week to plan out my physical therapy over the next few weeks. Hopefully, some exercises and massage will help the healing.

Until then, I’m going to be walking gingerly like a 90-year-old and running up the electric bill with my trusty heating pad. Good thing I am working from home and don’t have to travel.
It’s nice to be able to lay down flat on your bed during lunch.

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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