Pedro was frantically waving his hands in my face. Behind him I could see the clouds and the sky. Where was I? Why was I on my back? Why did he look so concerned?
“Señora Ohara I call the ambulance! You don’t move.”
He disappeared and I sat up. I could feel wet mud all over my back. I’d never felt so out of sorts in my life. I started making a mental list of what was happening, like a computer getting fed information line by line.
I was in my backyard. It was daytime. It was Thursday. My name is Melanie O’Hara. There’s a dirty trowel in my right hand, I must have fallen and I didn’t drop it. Pedro must have found me on the ground. Wait why was Pedro here? He only comes to do the lawn on Friday. Oh that’s right he changed the day this month because of his daughter’s birthday party.
Little by little I realized I still had all my marbles and began to smile. I was moving around fine, nothing hurt as far as I could tell. Because of the water table my backyard had consistently been a smushy, wet mess for years. When I’d fallen it was like falling into a sponge. I was a little dirty, but fine.
“Pedro!” I called toward the house. “Don’t worry I’m ok!”
He came around the side fence looking at me skeptically.
“You sure. How long were you down there?”
And then for the first time I felt a wave of fear pass through me. Truth was I didn’t know the answer to that. How did I even fall? There was nothing in the vicinity to even trip over.
The next few days gave me a lot of things to chew on. I was never the kind of person that fought ageing, or feared it. I’ve always been pragmatic. My husband Ken, rest him, was the one with his head in the clouds. I kept laughing it off, trying to find the humor in it, I even said to my neighbor “well, that’s what happens when you’re an old lady!”
But I kept coming back to the same questions time and time again. What if Pedro had not come around that day? How long was I down?
I’m 75 years old and basically alone. If that sounds sad to you let me assure you it is not! After a lifetime of toil I’m having a fun and rewarding retirement. I go to the Orchid Club every Monday. I also volunteer for a community based organization in the Overtown area of Miami (where I live) helping at-risk teens with their schoolwork.
After “the fall” of course I had myself checked out. The doctor said I was in fine health for a woman my age and that it was most likely a dizzy spell being that I was out gardening in the dead of summer in the South Florida sun. She advised me to give it up and leave it to Pedro from now on.
She then recommended that I get a medical alert provider. I immediately thought of those infamous commercials from back in the 80s. Didn't you?
“What? You mean those things you wear around your neck? Those are for old people!” I shrieked.
After I realized what I’d said we both had a laugh.
I thought of the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” woman. Certainly that wasn’t me.
“I’m active!” I clarified. “I’m having a great time. I’m not some enfeebled old shut-in.”
She explained that was all the more reason. According to her, a lot of medical alert companies now offered products that worked away from the home. These new systems used GPS technology and were designed for active seniors who do a lot of travelling.
It really got me thinking, selfishly I might add. I was at a good point for once. I’ll never fully “get over” the fact my husband Ken is gone, but after a long time I’d come to a place of peace about it. I worked like a dog for years as a single mother to send my daughter May to a special school because of her disabilities and now she was happily married with a family and squared away nicely.
But the whole ordeal had left me basically broke…but I owned my house. So I took out a reverse mortgage and had been using the extra money to enjoy myself for once. Responsibly though, I wasn’t splashing money out all over town like a big shot!
I’d even booked a trip to the Grand Canyon with my new friend Maxine (we met at the gym.)
So I really thought about it, and I decided I didn’t want to compromise my newly found independence. And I certainly didn’t want my new life endangered by something as trivial as a propensity to get dizzy and faint in the heat!
I bought a state-of-the-art GPS-based medical alert system. The pendant is unobtrusive and I just clip it to my belt. Most of the time I don’t even know it’s there.
It even comes with automatic fall detection; I decided to get that in case I decide to do some solo exploring at the Grand Canyon.
Told you I wasn’t the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” woman!
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