By Heather O.
I broke Rick’s nose once. Not intentionally, mind you, and it’s not like it was perfect to begin with. But those horrible moments I was talking about? Yeah, that was one of them.
It happened on a day I took Rick to work at Boston College, where he was helping them develop a new augmentative communication device by tracking the movements of the eyes. They were basically trying to come up with something where they could eventually use a person’s eyes like a mouse. Cool stuff.
The day in question was after he had recently gotten a new wheelchair. His old chair was huge, red, and sort of metallic, and it didn’t fit completely onto the lift of the van. It sort of hung over the edge, so you couldn’t lock the small gate on the edge of the lift designed to keep the wheelchair from falling off. It was with this chair that I was trained with, and, well, old habits die hard.
Once he got the new chair, of course Rick trained all the PCAs to lock that little gate. For that matter, a good, conscientious PCA should always lock a wheelchair’s breaks anytime she can not be physically holding on to the wheelchair. It’s basic safety, and I’ve since learned how necessary it is. It was a hard lesson, though.
As I was loading Rick into the van that day, I got him all the way up to the top of the lift, and he was about to roll back into the car. Well, somehow I got distracted, whatever, and he didn’t roll backwards. Rather, he rolled forwards.
I have seen the moment a thousand times replayed in my head and in my nightmares. Brakes unlocked, Rick rolled forward, pitched over the edge of the lift, where I had, per previous habit, not locked the tiny fence, and he landed face first onto the concrete sidewalk below, falling about 3 feet. I don’t remember much about the rest of the moment–somehow I was next to him, somehow we were both covered in blood, and somebody, who knows who, asked me if he could do anything for me.
“Yes, call 911″, I said, and somewhere in the back of my brain, you know, the part that doesn’t actually do anything but just records things, said, ‘I can’t believe you just said that.’
Again, I don’t know how events transpired, because I was so terrified about the extent of Rick’s injuries, and seriously, how would I tell Dick Hoyt that I had killed his son? But somehow an ambulance got there, a nurse materialized out of nowhere to mop up the blood and figure out what we were dealing with, and we somehow got Rick to the hospital.
When all was said and done, Rick was basically ok. He had suffered a broken nose, but no deviated septum. You can thank the fact that he fell literally flat on his face for that one. His pinky on his right hand had been sort of squished in the fall, but the X-rays showed no broken bones. He was bruised, bloody, and was in some significant pain, but nothing he wouldn’t recover from. And he was even ok enough to crack a few jokes. When I told him I was certain that he had suffered brain damage, he said, “That’s ok. I already have brain damage.”
And hey, I guess he can’t complain too much. In the hospital, to shrink his swollen nasal passages (Rick is an obligate nose breather, so having a plugged up noggin made him pretty anxious) the doctor’s gave him some cocaine. Seriously. Nothing like sanctioned illegal drug use to lift the spirits, I always say.
Like I said, that was a horrible moment in my life. I relived it over and over, both awake and asleep. My roommate at the time said that I was thrashing in my sleep once, and she said I started yelling about Rick. If Rick were reading this, I’m sure he’d be trying to make a crack about being the man of my dreams. Sorry, guy, you were more like a nightmare!
But Rick never held that moment against me, nor did his father. Or if they did, they both hid it pretty well from me, and we all moved on. Sure, Rick once joked that if I was ever looking for a second profession, I should really consider becoming a mortician, and he did say that I had completely given up my shot at the title of ‘BEST PCA EVER!’
“Good PCAs don’t break other people’s noses”, he said. I guess he does have a point.
But all in all, they accepted my profound apologies, and Dick even made me feel better by telling me about the time HE dropped Rick, getting out of the car on their way to a wedding. Blood all over the tuxedos–not a pretty sight.
So of all the lessons I have learned by working for Rick, this one is paramount:
Always lock the brakes.
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