Monday, May 19, 2008

I Fell in the Shower and Injured My Neck

Six weeks have passed since I've felt well enough to write an entry.  Much has happened to delay my writing, one incident being the death of my mother on April 16.  I received a flood of online comments expressing sympathy and concern for my wife Krissy and me; I want to thank all of you who kept us in your thoughts and prayers.  Mom will be missed.
The latest delay began on Sunday, May 4th.  Krissy and I were getting ready for a two and a half hour drive the following day to see my hematologist/oncologist at Hershey Medical Center.  Late that night I decided to take a shower to get a head start on what we knew would be an early, busy Monday morning.  While in the shower I slipped and fell backwards, smashing the back of my neck on the rim of the bathtub.  The pain of the impact stunned me, and the force of the impact split open a respectable length of skin behind my right ear. From the other end of our apartment,  Krissy heard me fall like a bag of bricks, and she came running to help.
Though we had a lot left to do that night, we were forced to make an unexpected trip to the local Emergency Room.  The pain in my neck and shoulders was severe, and we were afraid that I might have done serious internal damage.  The ER staff took my injury too casually to suit my impatient mood.  After I explained all the important details, the triage nurse handed me a beeper and told us to sit in the waiting room until someone from Registration was ready to see me.  They were having a slow night at the ER, so there was no one ahead of me waiting to be seen.  When I had been there three weeks earlier with what I had thought was bronchitis, they had taken me from triage directly to an exam room even though they had been quite busy that night. 
Upon arriving in an exam room, the ER doctor had blood drawn to make sure my platelet count wasn't too low due to my bone marrow transplant.  The lower your platelet count is, the more likely you are to have internal bleeding.  Thena Radiology technician had me walk to the CAT scan unit.  On previous visits the staff had always insisted on wheeling me over.  I didn't know why this visit was different.  The results came back before too long.  My platelet count was quite low, but not dangerously so, and the ER doctor said the CAT scan images were normal.  The doctor closed the wound on my neck with some kind of super glue.  He told me to go home and resume normal activity.  Krissy and I weren't sure if we believed him or not.  The pain I felt certainly wasn't normal.  We got home at about 2:30 AM.
Later that morning I drove us to Hershey.  The neck pain was bad and my neck muscles were stiff, but I could turn my head and see in all directions well enough to drive safely, if not comfortably.  My doctor's appointment went very well.  My hematologist/oncologist said he believed my two cancers would never come back.  He did order an Aranesp injection, though, to raise my hemoglobin, which was significantly low.   We stayed in Hershey overnight at Hope Lodge, and I drove home on Tuesday.
A week after I fell, my neck hurt as badly, if not worse, than it did the night I fell.  Monday, May 12th, Krissy called my local Primary Care doctor.  Krissy explained my situation and the nurse said if we could get to my doctor's office in half an hour, my doctor would see me.  I don't know how she does it, but Krissy gets things done.  Seeing a doctor on 30 minutes notice is next to impossible. 
We got there on time.  My doctor examined my neck, then sent me downstairs for X-rays.  My doctor said the X-rays showed that a piece of bone had broken off one vertebra in my neck.  He told me to buy and wear a cervical collar, and he referred me to a spinal surgeon.
I saw the spinal surgeon the next day.  He did a series of neurological tests on me, then sent me down the hall for more X-rays, about 15 of them, with my neck in all different positions.  After a while, the surgeon came back and told me that my vertebra was not fractured, and that what had looked like a piece of bone was actually a calcification which had been there for a while.  I wasn't sure exactly what a calcification was, but I have since learned that it is a hardening of soft tissue which is far less serious than a fractured vertebra.  The surgeon told me that I had a sprained neck which would take at least a few weeks to heal.  He scheduled me for physical therapy and gave me other instructions, which I'm following.
The pain is considerably less than it was a week ago, but it's definitely not gone.  The cervical collar seems to be helping a great deal.  I'm writing this entry, so you can be sure that I'm feeling better than I was.  I expect to be fully recovered before another month goes by.
Do yourself a favor:  Be careful when you take a shower.  A sprained neck is very painful, and I could have been hurt much more seriously.  All it takes is one bad step.  Good health to you, your family, and your friends. 


  1. They do say most accidents happen at home and showers, tubs and stairs are the worst things.  Glad you are much better.  Take good care.  'On Ya' - ma

  2. First, I am so sorry about the lost of your mum.
    Having a hair line fracture in my back from a car accident two days bfore my husband was to return to Iraq, so I can relate. I pray you heal quickly.

  3. John, so glad to hear from you but so sorry that you have had this misfortunate fall; I'm glad you are starting to feel a bit better and have less pain; it is sad the first ER visit wasn't one with a compassionate staff; I always thought they treated neck injuries a lot more seriously than they did with you this time; I can only hope you don't need any more visits to that ER but if you do, that they will treat you with more kindness and dignity and urgency with your problems

    it is hard to have your mom pass, I know she was a wonderful lady and she will be missed; allow yourself to remember her and share her with us when you can


  4. John, I am so sorry about your Mom.  I lost my mom 5 years ago.  You have my heartfelt condolences.

    Weekend hospital visits always seem to go wrong! I'm glad your neck is feeling better. Sprains "can" indeed take quite a while to heal.

    When I lived near Chicago (early 90s) , I had one of those beds with the tubes of water and I was lifting a tube when my hand slipped and I jerked my shoulder and neck and landed oddly onto the bed.  I ended up slipping a disk and pinching a nerve in my neck and having to wear a soft collar for quite a while. Back then I delivered pizzas while going to college and the collar actually helped the tips, lol.

    I hope you get well soon.  You and Krissy are always in my prayers.


  5. I'm glad your feeling better. Maybe you should start using a shower chair? If you have a bathtub, they make them to fit inside the tub and you can sit while showering. Just an idea.
    Take care John. Good to hear from you.

  6. I'm glad your feeling better, but I'll be even more glad when you tell us your neck is back to normal!  Be safe and enjoy your week.

  7. holy crap...a sprained neck!  I do not envy you at all.... I have enough issues with my neck to be able to identify.  I hope they gave you plenty of muscle relaxants!!


  8. I think that's one of the biggest hazards for people ~ slipping in the bathtub or shower.  So happy to hear your injury wasn't any worse.  But thanks for the reminder of all of us to be careful.  Take care and go have a massage...Linda in Washington state  

  9.     I haven't been around a lot lately because of work. This is the first I've heard of your ordeals. My condolences to you on the passing of your mother. I know how that one feels. Please take care of yourself. You and Krissy are in my prayers.

  10. Hi John.  It took me awhile to get over here.  Wow, this sounds terrible.  I don't have any of those grip strips in my shower.  I think I better go get some.  Hope you are feeling better each day, sweets.  Love, Val xox

  11. I'm so thankful it didn't prove to be more serious!!  Thank God!!  -  Barbara

  12. Wow!  I am so glad it was only a sprain.  You are right - it could've been so much worse!

    Physical therapy is amazing.  I injured my shoulder lifting weights at the Y - had to go to physical therapy.  I am still amazed the pain is gone. LOL!

    Hope you are pain free soon!!


  13. John,

    Glad you are ok.  I fell last night in my shower like a bag of bricks also.  My wife came in very quickly much to my surprise.  I hit my head on the wall on the way down but that is it.  I was a little shaken at first since I have never fallen in the shower before.  today i am a little stiff in the shoulders and my jaw hurts (left side) but i think I will be alright.  Hoping you feel better.