When my mother and father retired in the late 1970's they sold their house and bought a little cabin in Big Bear. Big Bear is a beautiful city on top of a mountain. It is big with the tourists because it is charming in the summer and there is great skiing in the winter. Dad wanted to move to the Washington/Canadian border where his sister lived, but mom dickered with him and they compromised with Big Bear. Dad would be able to have his change of seasons and mom would still be close enough to her children to see them often enough to satisfy her. They remodeled the little cabin and made it into a charming doll house. My mother loved gardening so she created the most beautiful yard on the block. My mother gathered friends like the rest of us would gather flowers; by the arm load. She would walk into a store and come out, not with a purchase, but with a new friend on her arm. And she treated every new friend as if they were the best friend she had ever made. She also was a joiner so as she gathered all of her new best friends she would join the groups that they belonged to and gather even more new friends. My father would quietly sit and wait for mom to come back from wherever she had gone and know that when she walked in the door there would probably be people invited to dinner. In the summer he would always have the bar-b-que ready, knowing that mom's week would not be fulfilled if there wasn't a group of 'best friends' to feed and entertain. After they moved to Big Bear my mom called me once and said, "You'll never believe what your father did. He actually went in the store and came out with someone he had invited to dinner. Isn't retirement wonderful? Your father is making friends all by himself!" She used to laugh about that all the time. Father gathering friends of his own volition. They were very happy in Big Bear and they had an envious social life.
I would drive up to see them about once a month. If I didn't I would get a phone call filled with "we miss you so much" pleas from my mother. It was a fun place to spend a weekend and all the new 'best friends' were interesting people, so I had a great time. There was always something going on, a bar-b-que, a dance, a river boat race, or something equally exciting.
On this particular week-end I talked my son into driving there with me. He had just bought himself his first brand new car; a Camaro. He was anxious to show off what it could do on a long ride. So he wasn't hard to persuade. We had a great time laughing, speeding, low to the ground, and looking cool.
Saturday morning my mother sugested that she and I go downtown. One of her favorite stores was having a yardage sale and she knew what a sucker I was for a yardage sale. So we ventured downtown. It was a beautiful spring day and toruists were everywhere. All the stores in Big Bear have weather entrances; big windowed entrance areas where you can stomp the snow off of your boots or shake your umbrellas if it is raining. These entrances have a name, but I can't recall it at the moment. The actual entrance to the store is inside the windowed entrances. As we walked into one of those entrances there was a large display of beach chairs that were on sale. My mother suggested that I sit in one to see if they were comfortable. If they were comfortable she said that she would buy two of them for David and me to take back home with us. It was a very nice thing that she wanted to do, so I put my hands on the arms of the chair and lowered myself into the seat. The chairs were one of those beach chairs that have aluminum arms with an aluminum rod attached to the arm that arcs from one arm rest, goes under the chair to act as the front legs and arcs back to to the other arm rest and repeats the whole process for the back legs. It was a very common type of beach chair, except that this particular beach chair was anything but common. Just as I was lowering myself into the seat the chair slipped to the left as if on a highly waxed floor and flipped me up into the air. The chair fell on its side so that the aluminum arcing rod was positioned perfectly for me to land on it when I came down. The pain was breath taking. It was so sudden and unbearable that I wasn't able to talk. I just laid there and moaned. My mother was beside herself. She kneeled down and tried to help me up, but I couldn't move. The pain immobilized me. When I finally caught my breath Iwhispered that shebetter go get someone to help me because I was in trouble and couldn't move. She ran into the store proper and yelled for someone to come and help, but everyone refused to come out. Even the store manager refused to come and help. They just congregated in the doorway and gawked. I guess no one wanted to get involved. I never did get a straight answer as to why no store employee would help me. At any rate, my mother was on the verge of tears. She turned and ran out of the store onto the sidewalk and grabbed a big African American man and pulled him into the entrance. "Would you please help my daughter get up on her feet? She fell and hurt herself, and she has had polio, and she in in so much pain she can't get up," I could hear my mother pleading with the stranger.
When he saw me on the floor moaning with the pain he calmly told my mother to stop crying. He would help me, but he really thought she should call an ambulance. I was terrified of having an ambulance called. Surely if I could just get up I would be able to walk. So he gently lifted me off the floor and tried to put me on my feet. My legs wouldn't work, so although he didn't think it was in my best interest, he carried me to my mother's car. He kept trying to convince me that I needed professional help, but I kept moaning "No". (One of the saddest things about this story is that my mother was so frightened that she didn't get the man's name and I have never been able to thank him for stepping up and helping me when no one else would.)
My mother automatically headed for the emergency room of the only hospital in Big Bear. I begged her to take me home. She wasn't happy about it, but she did as I asked. I am terrified of doctors. I know what their reactions are when they find out I have had polio. Most of my life I have waited, whatever the pain, until the situation proves that my stubborn "I can do this" attitude isn't going to correct whatever has stricken me THIS time.
When we got home the pain had not lessened at all, and I couldn't get out of the car. I finally relented and asked my mother to take me to the EmergencyRoom of the Big Bear Hospital. The Big Bear Hospital is so small that it would look like a drop in clinic down here. But it was the only place to take me on a Saturday afternoon in a tourist mecca.
My mother went in and told the personnel my tale and a nurse came out pushing a wheelchair. It was easier to force myself to my feet than to try and sit in the wheelchair. They really didn't want me to try walking so they went and got a gurney to transport me. When the doctor walked in and saw me on that gurney and was told that I had had polio he went totally pale. "Where do you live and who is your doctor?" is about the sum total of what I could get out of him. It was finally decided that they should x-ray my spine while he tried to locate my orthopedist. It took him an hour, but he finally got hold my doctor. He came in while the Radiologist was trying to x-ray me and made the young man a nervous wreck with, "Don't touch her there, don't do that, don't move her that way, SHE HAS HAD POLIO!" Even before I had been told he had seen the x-rays I was told that he had decided he had to ship me out.
"You need to get out of here and go to your own doctor," he said.
My first thought was "I can't move. How in the hell do you expect me to get out of here?"
"I have decided to call an ambulance. They'll take you to the hospital where your doctor can attend you. I'll call him and tell him you'll be there in two hours" were his next words.
I cried, "No, no ambulance. I'll go in my son's car. It's brand new and he will drive carefully. He has to go down the hill anyway."
He talked and talked trying to convince me that the ambulance was safer; especially since you have had POLIO! "Riding in a car might incur permanent damage. I can't let you leave here in a private car."
I continued to argue with him so he had another brilliant idea. He went and got a syringe full of demerol and shot it in my butt (which wasn't hard to do since I could only lay on my side and my butt was facing him). My arguing didn't last long after that. Demerol puts a smile on my face no matter how much pain I am in and no matter what they say they are going to do to me. Demerol is the only drug that I find in any way pleasant. Demerol puts me in a wonderland that has pain, but I really don't care. It doesn't take the pain away, it takes me away from the pain. He had me! The ambulance attendants walked in and slid me, butt down, on a flat board. I smiled. They strapped my legs down. I smiled. The strapped my chest down. I smiled. They turned to the doctor and he said, "Take her to the hospital." Then he smiled.
The attendants took me out to the ambulance and strapped me down some more and I smiled at them. I even smiled when I said goodbye to my mother and my son's beautiful new Camaro. Then we started down the mountian. Have you ever been strapped down flat on your back, pumped full of drugs, in the back of an ambulance that is in a hurry and takes curve after curve down the mountain as fast as possible? I smiled the whole time that I threw up. I got so sick to my stomach that I thought the world was spinning and I was in the vortex. By the time that they had gotten to the bottom of the hill I was no longer smiling. I was strapped down like a convict, was horribly nauseated, was in mortal pain, and smelled like vomit. It was not the most wonderful 2 1/2 hour ride I have ever taken. But the ER doctor had gotten rid of me. Bet he was smiling!!!
My doctor met me at the hospital and did the x-ray thing all over again. I had broken my tailbone. The base of the spine is the site of the polio virus so there was no going home. I had to stay in the hospital for two days while they monitored if I had done any permanent damage to my spine or my legs. POLIO once again. My doctor told me that he sees at least 100 people a year that think they have broken their tailbone, but it is rare that it actually happens. There you go! Penny always has to go one step further and make a special effort to do the one thing that most people don't do, but I was in the hospital and they pumped Demerol into me and I found it incredibly funny that I was the 1 outof 100 that actually 'did' break their tailbone. And I just kept smiling until my doctor told me I could go home and the Demerol eventually wore off. I had to go to his office the day after I was released and I informed the doctor that I wanted to go back to work, and HE smiled. He made me stay home for six weeks. I had to sit on a ring and sleep on my side and wish to hell I were somewhere where Demerol was available so I could smile again.
I have NEVER put my butt in a beach chair again.
Everybody else goes to Big Bear and breaks a leg skiing. I go to Big Bear and break my butt SITTING!!!!!!