A costly tumble

Nineteen years ago, I made a trip to Chennai to see my uncle R K Narayan, who was then 95 years old. Though the doctors had only given him four to five more days to live, when I arrived, he looked very fresh and alive.

He took a good look at me and said in Tamil, “You don’t have any BP problems, you don’t have any sugar complaints, you don’t have any cardiac issues, and like me, you keep up a 5 km walk routine every day. But apart from all these plus points, I would still advise you to watch out. Do not ever fall, because it’s the fall which creates more than 50% of the problem for aged people, forcing them to stay in bed.”

There are terrible possibilities for an old man’s fall. The main one being the bathroom. But modern builders have been wise enough to incorporate light steel tubular rods into most bathroom models and attach them at all the critical areas. After four years of experience, I feel this is one of most brilliant innovations that adds to safety in bathrooms, especially for the elderly.

The next place to watch out for is the footrug outside the bathroom, where people keep experiencing falls from slipping. Sometimes, while walking on the road, turning your head suddenly to look at someone you seem to recognise, can also be a cause for a fall. Finally, never ever lock yourself inside the house when you are all alone.

I followed these instructions thoroughly for 10 years. However, in September 2011, walking outside my house, I miscalculated and stepped into a pit. I promptly fell down hurting myself. The pain was so terrible that I had to go through an MRI of the whole spine. The doctors at the M S Ramaiah Memorial Hospital said that I had a “broad-based disc protrusion of the 4th and 5th discs”. 

That excruciating pain has gone now, and since I don’t feel anything on the outside, I have moved on to live my life as normally as possible. The only issue is that the right side of my body is weaker now and I can’t walk for more than half-a-kilometre at a stretch.   

At one point, one of the younger doctors suggested said that he could set it right through an operation. But this idea was mercilessly shot down by another senior surgeon who said that he would never operate the spine on anybody above 70 years of age.

Today, I continue with my routine trying not to put too much effort on the right side of my body. And all this is the result of the simple act of “falling down”.

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A costly tumble

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