- Fall Rounds
There’s never a day someone doesn’t fall.
There are the usual minor trips and slips in the course of a day—the stumble on the stair, crack in the sidewalk, treacherous curb and whoops, there you go—and the larger falls—from grace, from favor, from fortune, the lost promotion, the rebuff from the one you love, more damaging than a bump on the head or a bruised instep.
Yesterday, when my loved one said she was hurrying off to Fall Rounds at the county hospital where she works, I thought that even beyond our daily tumbles, it’s been a fall of falls. The fall of housing prices, of the employed; the stock market’s dive. We’re tripped up, we’ve lost a step. We’ve fallen and we can’t get up. Everyone does their own little parody of the TV commercial where the old lady screams out that line as she lies there on the floor. Last night I saw two new TV commercials aimed at the elderly—which will be all of us, you know it’s true, all of us, get in line. One advertised a walk-in bathtub with special handrails and fall-proof nonskid surfaces. The other was for a tub with a side door that opens to let you enter its chamber. The gray-haired announcer regaled its wonders. “Bathe without fear,” he said. “Step right up and step right in.”
When he started in about the easy, no muss/no fuss payment plan, I found myself yelling at the screen, “And what handrails and pulleys are out there to lift the rest of us up? What have you got to help all of us climb out of this deep, deep hole we’re in?”
Fall Rounds. Shots was in such a rush she didn’t have time to clarify what that meant. I was left thinking that maybe a little posse of docs and nurse [End Page 35] practitioners move in unison towards a hospital room where a patient patiently awaits with some weird illness that colors outside the lines and caused him or her to fall out of relative health into disease.
My mother, who did fall recently, could be a recipient of that white-coated attention. She could be the unusual one with her new diagnosis of a rare cancer few have heard of, with a presentation even fewer have heard of, a nasal pharyngeal cancer that turned up first in her toe, then her other foot, then her right hand, then in her ear, each new bright red spot sending out a pulsing signal like a red light on the sea. The cancer finally showed up where it was supposed to show up, in her nose, but not before taking the Grand Tour, an ambulatory jog around the body’s bases before sliding into home plate.
I found out later that day that I had it all wrong. It turns out that Fall Rounds investigates how people literally fall in a specific context in a specific ward of the hospital. There’s never a day someone—a patient, specifically a mentally ill patient, specifically a schizophrenic or someone with bipolar disorder or a psychotic with grand delusions, interred at the hospital’s mental rehabilitation ward—doesn’t fall down.
“We go over the case study of each person who has fallen in the last week and try to find out what caused them to take a tumble,” she said over last night’s meal. “To do that we have to put it in reverse, go backwards, imagine how they fell. We take one step back, then another. What happened right at the moment of the fall, the split second before the fall, the minute before that? Was it a change in meds? Did the person suffer a small stroke? Did one of the voices that circle around the inside of a patient’s head—you are Brigitte Bardot, the sky is falling, eat sheep, burn the mattress—cause them to take a high dive from the nurse’s station counter into the small pool of spittle on the floor?”