Gravity wins — again

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

If there's one thing I've learned, it's that everything happens for a reason. In my case, life's challenges are apparently meted out by the gods for the sole purpose of entertaining you, the long-term care professional, at the expense of my personal dignity.  

Over the years writing for this upstanding publication, nothing has been off limits — no matter how humiliating — if there's a chance it will provide amusement and diversion to my stress-riddled audience. Not everyone thinks these pieces are actually funny, as the comment sections sometimes attest, but I think we can all share in the rich commonality of my human shame and embarrassment.   

I've written about ripping my pants from knee to waist in a bustling office setting, and taking a nasty spill in Nicaragua. I've fearlessly bared my soul on the topics of baldness and plantar fasciitis, and shamelessly exposed my fashion foibles, sometimes even including pictures.

Through the ancient process of alchemy, events causing deep mortification to me are magically transformed into sparkling comedic jewels of therapeutic distraction for all of you who selflessly serve the frail and vulnerable seniors of America. More importantly, every story I tell is evidence-based, and the positive impact on the profession is no longer merely anecdotal.

Data clearly shows that the laughter mercilessly evoked at my expense frees your souls and energizes your spirits, resulting in better care and outcomes, higher resident satisfaction, stronger census and a healthier financial picture for your facility. The knowledge that I'm single-handedly saving long-term care gives me the courage and strength to continue mining my existence for further tales of woe. It's a beautiful, self-perpetuating cycle.

And yes, it's happened again.

While hiking a muddy Oregon trail a couple weekends ago, an unseen force grabbed my ankles, pushed me backwards and threw me awkwardly to the ground. While hurtling toward earth, I remember thinking, “I'm kind of heavy, and this could really hurt. I wonder if there's a body part I could use to brace my fall. I bet my little finger could do the job nicely.”

In the ensuing battle between inviolable natural law and my frailest digit, gravity won — hands down. (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Sitting there in the mire, I looked down in horror to see four of my fingers pointed due west, but the fifth now angled more toward magnetic north. (See above right) After posing for the requisite selfie, I filled a Ziploc with snow and began the Shackleton-esque four-mile trek back to the car. “Pardon me,” I plaintively asked each hiker who passed, “but by any chance are you an orthopedic surgeon?”

Hours later, the doctor at urgent care said it was “dislocated,” a technical term that has an intriguing etymological background. “Dis” is derived from the Greek word “heredis.” Literally translated, it means, “What finger did you hurt? Dis one right here.” “Located” is drawn from the Spanish word “loco”, which means, “You're crazy if you think you can balance your entire body weight on your pinky.”

After reviewing my x-rays and musing aloud that the finger “isn't supposed to do that,” she numbed it with a needle the size of a North Korean rocket and gleefully snapped it back into place like a Tinker Toy. Ten days later, it's still numb and swollen, won't bend properly and I can't really use it for anything. (See left) But other than that, it's fine. And thanks for asking.

As always, there's a long-term care lesson to be drawn from this, my latest self-incriminating tale of woe and sadness: In a time of crisis, never count on your least qualified employee to save the entire team. It never ends well.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.