93°F
weather icon Clear

Gravity always wins

Fall is just around the corner.

Not the season, the physical act of falling.

Social media are loaded with memes depicting why women live longer than men. Some portray a precarious situation caused by two or more extension ladders, some lumber and a pick-up truck to perform a simple task. As with most comedy, a streak of truth lies therein.

After two of my friends were hospitalized because of falls from ladders, I thought an epidemic of old guys falling may be afoot. Of course, I am younger than my friends, but not by much. However, I stopped using ladders a few years ago.

Unfortunately, this near-epidemic has been going on for decades.

In 2002, 60-year-old retired four-star general Hugh Shelton, who had recently retired as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suffered catastrophic injuries from a fall. He had used a ladder to climb 10 feet to trim a tree limb. A dead branch collapsed onto his ladder, causing him to fall.

His paratrooper training and 400-parachute jump experience kicked in, and he instinctively placed his feet together to fall. The top of a chain link fence broke his fall but changed his trajectory and propelled him headfirst onto the ground. Shelton was temporarily paralyzed, and had it not been for his excellent physical condition and superb medical treatment thereafter, he may have been a paraplegic.

This incident was burned into my memory at that time because if a highly decorated Special Forces general officer with two combat tours in Vietnam and one in the Persian Gulf War could sustain such injuries from a ladder fall, so could I.

The statistics from falls, and specifically from ladder-related falls, are alarming.

Over 34,000 folks die each year from falls. That is almost 100 a day.

Falling is the third-leading cause of unintentional injury deaths for all age groups, but it is the No. 1 cause of death in folks 65 and over.

There are over 300 ladder deaths each year, half of which are at construction sites. The other 150 ladder deaths occur at or near home. The term “near home” is tongue-in-cheek because it includes the times when one falls onto someone else’s property while on a ladder.

On any given day, scores of folks will be in emergency rooms with injuries from falling. There are over a half million ladder-related injuries each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

I encourage my peers to cease performing their own handyman tasks, especially if they involve climbing or using a ladder. Perhaps your huge, tightly bound wallet restricts your cranium blood flow and prevents you from comparing a $150 labor charge with the co-pay for a hip replacement. Otherwise, find a good handyman and staple his card to your important papers for your future widow’s use.

If you are eligible for old-age Social Security benefits, you should not have any ladders in your home.

In the end, gravity wins. Just ask Gen. Shelton and my two friends.

Dan Jennings is a retired Army captain and a retired BCPD lieutenant. He can be reached at bcpd267@cox.net.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Political choices dictate nation’s economy

Since March 16, I’ve been at home on the computer sharing educational materials as much as possible with as many folks as possible on social media sites, sending them personal messages and calling them. I’ve done this because, believe it or not, I’ve seen education work wonders.

Science smashes coronavirus conspiracy theories

Baseball legend Yogi Berra famously quipped about a 1973 pennant race, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” Berra’s oft-repeated observation couldn’t be more apt for the current public health crisis, as governors (Republican as well as Democrat) lead efforts to contain the nationwide devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. Berra’s Mets did eventually come back to win the division title that year. The U.S., and the world, must take decisive, even unpopular steps, to ensure that the coronavirus doesn’t also make a huge comeback.

Who is that masked man?

The other day, my husband and I had to run out to the grocery store to pick up a few things. In these days of COVID-19, it was certainly a different experience than it had been before.

Virus was scam to get political control

After three years of historic economic growth, record unemployment and a proliferating middle-class lifestyle, the anti-Trump cadre, without missing a beat, migrated from their failed three-year impeachment circus and transformed a pandemic into a gigantic economic demolition derby.

Make your mom proud

Sunday is Mother’s Day. To all the moms (and dads who fill that role) out there, I wish you a happy day and offer gratitude for what you do.

Sense of normalcy slowly returns

We are beginning to look toward making a way back to our normal lives. More likely, we will find ways to a new normal. It does not appear it will be done quickly as the COVID-19 virus threat still exists.

Little love, luck help us through quarantine

I hope you are among the lucky ones who are quarantined at home with someone you love. I can’t imagine the feelings of loneliness that would come with being truly self-isolated.

News organizations need your help

The newspaper or news website you are reading is in trouble. Like many other businesses, the COVID-19 crisis has eliminated most of its revenue but not its expenses, delivering a body blow to a business model that was already under pressure. But it continues to publish, providing your community with timely, accurate information about the crisis.

Nothing campy about backyard excursion

Like most of you, I am missing time spent in the great outdoors.

‘Bizdemic’ numbers tell real story

As I write this commentary, the majority of businesses other than grocery and hardware stores, gas stations and convenience stores are shuttered. I realize that this pandemic is serious and will likely cause many to suffer the illness and many will die from it. However, I don’t believe it is necessary to shut down the entire U.S. economy.