A Horrific, Life-threatening Experience

Just as I’m about to lose my Obamacare

The little podunk mid-western town in which I live was struck by a frightful storm Sunday night. It was an ice storm. The weather followed exactly what the weather forecasters predicted. It rained all day and then after the sun went down the temperature plummeted and everything rapidly froze. It was not long before the surface of everything was covered by a very solid and very slippery one inch layer of ice. The weather service urged everyone to stay at home and not drive anywhere. (In this situation, walking is more dangerous than driving.)

But I had to work on Sunday. I do not own a car and therefore I walk to work. (I have a much smaller carbon footprint than most Americans). Thank goodness I only live two and a half blocks from where I work. And when I walked to work at 3 in the afternoon yesterday it was rather warm (35 degrees Fahrenheit) and it was raining. Walking in the rain is no big deal and can even be fun and exhilarating. The worst thing about walking in the rain is that my glasses get all covered with water. Forget Google Glass, with all the advancements in technology why the heck has no one invented glasses with windshield wipers?

But when I got off from work at 8 pm it was a very different story. The weather service’s predictions had already come true. The entire town had become covered with an inch-thick layer of very solid and slippery ice — ice that I had to navigate on foot to get home.

I have never gone ice-skating in my life. You couldn’t pay me to go ice-skating. Is there any stupider sport? Is there? Ironically, it would have been easier to get home wearing ice skates.

I’ve had a fear of ice since I was a toddler. (I died from drowning in an ice-filled river once in a past-life.) That fear reached epic proportions when I was in my early Twenties. Don’t ask me why but I was jogging through the forest in the middle of New Jersey in the middle of winter. There was ice everywhere and there were two or three inches of snow on top of that ice. Why on earth was I doing such a thing?

It was because of a woman but I digress. That story is beside the point. The fact remained that I was jogging over ice and snow. Eventually my left foot planted down on a patch of snow covering a patch of ice. My left leg spun around furiously and I found myself flying through the air and then landing on my back in outrageous pain. I got up on my elbows and looked down at my body and saw that my left leg was facing backwards.

It was the most painful and harrowing experience of my life. I suffered a complete spiral femur fracture just a couple inches above my left knee. No pain I have ever experienced has been as excruciating. And this was long before cell phones were invented so I could not call for help lying there in excruciating pain in the middle of the forest in the middle of New Jersey in the middle of winter.

I was on the verge of giving up the ghost when some other idiot who was jogging through the middle of the forest in the middle of New Jersey in the middle of winter happened to come along. Since they were not invented yet, he, too, did not have a cell phone. But he told me that he would run back to town to call for help.

As hypothermia reared its ugly head, I lay there on my back in the middle of the forest in the middle of New Jersey in the middle of winter wondering if that stranger was bullshitting me. But help finally showed up in the form of two very stoned paramedics with a stretcher who very painfully put me on that stretcher and carried me to a nearby ambulance.

I ended up spending six weeks in traction in some hospital in the middle of New Jersey. I was then put in a walking cast that I was told I would have to wear for the next couple of months.

Thank goodness I had health insurance.

In the many, many years since that goddawful experience I have never again gone jogging. I already had a fear of ice and now I had a fear of jogging. Walking is just fine by me, thank you.

So last night on Sunday I got off from work at 8 pm. I had looked out the window and saw that the weather prognosticators had been correct. It was very icy. I saw that there was absolutely no traffic on the streets. And there were no people walking about. It was very still and quiet with no movement save for the few snowflakes falling lazily down onto the ice that covered every surface.

Thank goodness I only had two and a half blocks to walk home, I thought.

I figured that I would have to walk very, very slowly and carefully. So I stepped out from under the building’s awning onto the street and I immediately slipped on the ice and went flying through the air and landed flat on my back on the street. Nothing broke, though, and I was okay.

I tried to get up but it proved impossible. Every time I planted a foot on the ground it gave way to the very, very slick ice. I spent five minutes trying to stand up and it was impossible.

On my hands and knees there in the street I finally realized that there was no way to even stand up. The ice was that slippery. I was quickly reminded of why I have never in my life gone ice-skating. I was also quickly reminded of my long ago New Jersey experience (I have never been to New Jersey since then nor will I ever step foot in that state again).

Taking a deep breath to collect myself, I realized that the only way I was going to make it home safely was to crawl home on my hands and knees.

So on my hands and knees I crawled across the street! I still managed to slip on the ice but I didn’t have far to fall so I broke no legs nor arms nor did I crack my noggin from a fall.

I reached the other side of the street and I decided to just keep on crawling on hands and knees like an infant towards home. It was just so slippery that I could not even stand up.

As I crawled on my hands and knees over that next block towards home I started to think. I have been trying to avoid the news as best as I can but that is hard when navigating the internet. I knew that the Republicans were in the process of killing Obamacare. I wasn’t sure if it was already official. As I crawled over the ice I didn’t know if I was still insured or not.

I realized that I simply could not take a chance. If I were to break a bone or worse, a hospital visit could financially ruin me. I could end up homeless. I could lose everything (which isn’t much). I could incur a debt that could ruin the rest of my life. It could be the worst thing that ever happened to me.

As I crawled on my hands and knees over the sheet of ice that covered the ground I found myself cursing. Those goddam, son of a bitch, mother-fucking Republicans! I thought. (If you know me, you know that I almost never cuss.) For fear of not being insured I was crawling on my freaking hands and knees to avoid the paralyzing thought of incurring a medical bill. Any medical bill at all could ruin my life. I was wishing every single one of those goddam Republicans as well as their leader, Donald Trump, were crawling on their hands and knees right beside me. Fuck those goddam bastards!

And then I stopped crawling for a minute. There I was crawling on my hands and knees down the street and I started laughing at myself. There I was having what could be an exciting and very weird adventure and I was wasting my precious noggin energy venting about stupid Republicans?

So I tried to stand up and immediately fell down again. Jesus, this was an ice storm to end all ice storms.

So I took a deep breath and resolved to continue crawling on my hands and knees home. But I released all the blaming from my noggin. And that is when things got better.

Usually when I walk to or from work my eyeballs are almost six feet off the ground. I try to walk with an empty mind so I notice a lot of things. But I don’t notice all those little things that one notices when one’s eyeballs are just a foot or a foot and a half from the ground.

One of the first things I noticed was the plethora of cigarette butts in the streets and on the sidewalks. Of course, they were frozen like insects in amber in the ice. I crawled like a bug on my hands and knees over all those multitudinous cigarette butts noticing every single one of them. I really didn’t notice them before when I was walking with my legs.

I noticed little pebbles. I noticed bigger rocks. I noticed twigs and garbage. I noticed every little bit of detritus littering the ground that was now frozen under my hands and knees. Wow, it was like I was an insect or small animal walking over the earth.

But I was an older human crawling on my hands and feet over the ground trying to get home. I had never done this much crawling since I was a toddler.

I kept slipping and falling but thanks to the fact that I was crawling on my hands and knees I didn’t fall very far. Nothing was broken and it was easy to just continue crawling like an infant over the ground towards home.

Normally, it takes me about 5 minutes to walk either to work or home from work. It only takes 4 minutes if it’s very cold and up to 6 minutes if the sun is shining and it’s a glorious beautiful day. That is how long my legs and their minimal carbon footprint take.

Last night I learned how long it takes to cover the same distance crawling on my hands and knees like a toddler. I learned that it takes approximately 45 minutes!

I learned that it takes me about 45 minutes to crawl home on my hands and knees as opposed to the 5 minutes it takes to walk home on my legs. I never would have guessed that — or even thought about it.

But I made it! I survived. I made it home without breaking any bones or cracking my noggin open. I made it without incurring so much as a penny in medical expenses. And I learned so much about the ground.

And luckily I am off from work for the next two days. And luckily I went grocery shopping the other day so I don’t even have to leave home until everything melts.

I crawled on my hands and knees like a bug home from work Sunday night and it somehow turned into an exciting adventure. Seriously, try crawling on your hands and knees for two and a half blocks over solid ice and tell me it’s not an exciting adventure!

It was an exciting and draining adventure for me but it also brought home for me the realization that I am about to be no longer covered by health insurance thanks to those blank-blank-blank Republicans and their Nazi boss Donald Trump. It made me feel for the countless humans who have crawled on their hands and knees under the oppression of fascist regimes. My crawling on hands and knees in a winter’s ice storm is nothing compared to what may be in store for the nation I am currently a citizen of.

Luckily, I survived. I didn’t fall into the bottomless pit of no health coverage. I didn’t succumb to the sledgehammer of a ruthless autocratic government and the upcoming imminent presidency. I didn’t become a victim.

Not yet, anyway.

And I was given a surprise present. I didn’t realize the present until today. Yesterday when I first stepped out onto the perilous ice and fell through the air and landed flat on my back it may very well have happened that I somehow straightened out my back. It didn’t seem like my back was out of alignment but somehow that fall landing on my back may very well have straightened out and aligned my back better than the most expensive chiropractor because today my back feels really, really good; better than it has in months.

Of course, my knees are hurting like crazy from crawling on my hands and knees for two and a half blocks going home. But my back suddenly feels great. Is that weird, or what?

So, in conclusion, the thought of crawling on my hands and knees for two and a half blocks home from work (it was simply impossible to stand or walk on the ice that covered everything) may have been a horrific thought, but it turned out to be an action that propelled me beyond my current mind thinking and perhaps beyond my current physical state. It may have been some sort of blessing in disguise. Can anyone truly understand the human condition until one is forced to crawl on their hands and knees?

So this morning I look out my window and I see that it is snowing. The snow is slowly starting to cover up the ice. Of course, I know that the ice is still there.

And I snicker and laugh. I have plenty of food and best of all I don’t have to go to work. I’m off today. I’m going to let my knees heal and I’m not going to leave the apartment all day! It’s going to be a “Me” day. I’m not going to think about the fact that I may no longer be covered by health insurance. I’m not going to waste a second thinking about those ****** Republicans (if you’ll excuse my asterisk-filled potty mouth). And I am going to try real hard not to be sucked into the blame game. Maybe those Republicans are right after all. Maybe healthcare is not a basic human right but rather a privilege. My health is my responsibility. If I get sick or injured it may very well be best to go ahead and exit the body so that I am not a burden to society (or my progeny). That would be better than living my life blaming others (or myself). Blaming sucks.

I might end up thinking about the very, very close view I got of the streets and sidewalks. I might allow myself to be covered in gratitude much like pancakes are doused with pancake syrup. I might allow my perspectives and attitudes to be changed as quickly as the weather. I might decide that any event (no matter how bizarre or life-threatening) may be the opening to something better than I could possibly imagine. But today I am going to try to not think about healthcare. That’s just too depressing.

Now, this morning, with my back suddenly feeling great, I can look back at last night’s harrowing experience of crawling on my hands in knees for two and a half blocks as an exciting experience; an adventure. I mean, who does that? Now I’ve got a story to tell my granddaughters. Maybe I’ll write about my experience on Medium. Oh, wait a minute…. That’s what I’m doing. Geez, talk about a writing prompt.

This morning I look out my window and see all the neighborhood trees, their naked branches covered with ice and snow. It is truly beautiful. I also notice that the street is littered with tree branches; the weaker branches that couldn’t take the weight of the ice and snow and had broken off from the trees. Could that be some kind of healthcare metaphor?

And now, suddenly, I’m thinking that I want pancakes for breakfast. Short, thin and spread out; just like I felt crawling on my hands and knees coming home from work last night. Except this morning I won’t be alone.

Mrs. Butterworth will be joining me. Gosh, isn’t life fantastic?

Copyright by White Feather. All Rights Reserved.

Earthling — Lifelong novelist & essayist — https://whitefeather.substack.com/