Shall I Tell?


I have a hematoma on the top right corner of my head. When I cup my hand over it, it feels almost as big as half of a boiled egg, but I don’t think it is, quite. On the medical record of my visit to the doctor it is called a “contusion” which is just another word for “bruise.” Beside it there is a thick scab about the size of a quarter.

“Hematomas exist as bruises (ecchymosis)….Some hematomas form into welt-like formations that are hard to the touch. Such a formation is a sac of blood that the body creates to keep internal bleeding to a minimum. In most cases the sac of blood eventually dissolves, however, in some cases they may continue to grow or show no change. If the sac of blood does not disappear, then it may need to be surgically removed.

Hematomas can gradually migrate, as the effused cells and pigment move in the connective tissue. For example, a patient who injures the base of his thumb might cause a hematoma, which will slowly move all through the finger within a week. Gravity is the main determinant of this process.”

Mine has been “migrating” down the right side of my face, beginning with a bright red color in the soft tissue at the side of my right eye, and covering most of the right side of my face with various pastel shades. I have had it for 12 days, though, and the colors are now barely noticeable.

How did it happen? On November 6th at about 10:30 in the morning, I put on my walking shoes, my smaller cotton hat (the one I bought in Athens in 1985) and got my walking stick (a bamboo stick with a rubber cane tip) and went to the mailbox to mail a letter. (I have the habit of using the walking stick, because loose gravel has been knocked out onto the edges of the driveway.) As is often the case, the mail had not been picked up the day before, so I folded the advertising papers around the letters and started back up the hill.

On the last and steepest part of the hill, I have two choices. I can come on up the driveway, or I can take the concrete steps with railings that Manuel has designed and had built during the past few years. I often choose the driveway, but that day I chose the stairs. On the 2nd or 3rd step I saw a white length of wire that looked like a straightened clothes hanger. I’ve seen it there several times before and it really wasn’t bothering anything, but this time I thought about picking it up. But it might have been left there for a reason, so I decided to just push it over to the side, I think with the walking stick. (Could it have been with the side of my foot?”)

I’m not sure of the chronology of the next few seconds. I know I was very angry at my self on the way over backwards and shouted, “Oh no!” and hit my lower back and then my head with a hard blow. I was falling downhill to a place that was partly dust with pebbles and partly the edge of the concrete paving of the driveway. I got myself up, gathered the scattered mail and looked around for my walking stick. I saw it about 10 feet down the hill, went and got it and walked up the driveway, not the steps. I lay the mail on the table and on the way past the refrigerator picked two plastic bags of wheat germ out of the freezer and sat down in my recliner with one bag on my head and the other on my back.

While sitting there, I was wondering whether or not I would have to tell my kids. I was mentally composing a description of what happened, thinking I would go to the computer when I got up and write up the details to leave on the kitchen table in case they came home and found me unconscious. (Dumb? I know.)

After 15 minutes, I stood up and started for the kitchen to put the ice bags back. I am so glad I got across the 4 feet of carpet before the blood started running down my face and onto the kitchen floor. The next few minutes were occupied with wrapping my head with a string of paper towels, discarding at least one application and applying another, and discovering my hat with a 3 inch blood stain on it. I must have left it on while I was holding the ice packs to my head, otherwise I would have known it was bleeding.

Julie was at work at the Neighborhood Health Clinic and does not answer her cell phone during working hours. (I didn’t have the clinic number, but I do now.) I called Manuel at the church and told him that I had fallen and needed to go the emergency room. He came quickly and took me to Zion, the San Diego Kaiser hospital. If I had had signs of losing consciousness I would have gone to the nearest hospital, but it is about 10 minutes drive to the local hospital and 25 minutes to Zion, and I doubted if there would be much difference in the lapse of time for getting attention.

After more ice to slow down the bleeding, a shampoo of sorts to discover that the puncture wound was short and, according to them, did not need stitches, a cat scan to determine that my skull was intact, a tetanus shot, and a prescription for an antibiotic, Manuel brought me home. He then went down to the scene of the accident and found a pebble with a bloodstain on one corner. Without a DNA test, I guess we can’t tell for sure if that was my blood, or if there was already a blood-stained pebble in the area.

There remains the question of whether it was a purely “mechanical” fall, or if I had a momentary dizziness that caused me to lose my balance. I’m up-to-date on blood tests and eco-cardiogram and my blood pressure readings have been normal. I do remember that a couple of weeks before the incident I had awakened with a mild vertigo that kept me a little uneasy all day. I also notice a slight weakness after eating breakfast. I assume that my blood supply is occupied digesting my food, so I usually sit and rest for about 20 minutes after breakfast.

And, in post-analysis of the way my brain works, I notice that I have a very bad habit of seeing some other little thing that needs doing while on the way to whatever impetus got me up off my chair. And when I change directions, the gyroscope in my head does not seem to change as fast as my body does and that leaves me a little unsteady on my feet.

I’m enjoying the quiet days in my apartment with so many papers and pictures and books and other little tasks to enjoy. I have never had any severe pain, even the first couple of days, just sore places here and there. I feel somewhat subdued and chastised and at least temporarily disinterested in lone world-traveling adventures.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Shall I Tell?

  1. sister #4

    My goodness. I’m glad to hear that you are healing nicely. Those falls where you know you’re falling are the worst, I think. As you know, my last mishap was being run into from behind by a guy on a bike, and I didn’t know what had happened until I got up. I was glad to be spared the anticipation, anyway. Take care of yourself–maybe the vertigo is of inner-ear origin like mine is. It’s pesky, but just something to get used to. I don’t think I’ll call for a few days, because I don’t want to think of you jumping up to answer the phone. (Mine is never where I happen to be.) Maybe you might like to rent a couple of old movies while you’re taking it easy; that’s one of my favorite things to do besides reading. Take care.

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