Your Rugs Are Trying to Kill You

Public service announcement: Get rid of your rugs.

On April 18, as I was about to leave the house to photograph two owl chicks that my wife had spotted near the elementary school in our neighborhood, my right foot caught the edge of a rug in my family room. Immediately my left foot attempted to swing up but the rug’s edge, now raised even higher, also caught the left foot. And then I was in free fall.

The sound of the bone snapping in my arm was clear and distinct and the ER X-rays later showed what appeared to be a clean break at the very lower edge of the left humerus (upper arm) bone. A CT scan later showed that that was only partly true. The bottom of the bone was broken off cleanly but that broken-off piece was a mess, shattered into at least five pieces (later the surgeon would say that there were several more pieces that weren’t clearly shown on the CT scan).

The choice was between a complicated surgery that would attempt to reconstruct the bones—several surgeons said it was too complicated for them—or replacing the lower humerus with an implant that has a ten-pound weight limit and would last only seven to ten years before itself needing to be replaced.

I chose the reconstruction and this is the rather visually alarming result: eighteen surgical screws, three plates, and a ten-inch incision (not shown to spare the queazy). From a surgical point of view, the surgery was a great success and we are on the path to the best possible outcome, though challenges still loom ahead.

But I wish I could have turned back time, just a little, just a few seconds, so that I didn’t fall.

Get rid of your rugs. The speed of the fall was brutally quick, the impact unmerciful, and the pain, at least for the first three seconds, was a thing unto itself. People at the hospital told me that rugs are one of the most common causes of serious injuries, one of the most common causes of broken hips, shoulders, and, to a lesser extent, elbows. To a young person such injuries might be something they bounce right back from. To an elderly person, such an injury might mark a sharp downward spiral. My fifty-eighth birthday was a few days after the fall so I’m somewhere in the middle.

Get rid of your rugs.