7 November 2019 Blog Post: Self Reflection on my Fall and Appreciation Post

I wanted to thank my patients (and staff!) for bearing with my abbreviated schedule the past two weeks. On Monday, October 28th, I fell off a ladder in an ill guided attempt to string garden hoses in the midst of the #gettyfire.

It has led me to some interesting (and literally painful reflective) research on the epidemiology of these falls. A 2014 study by Jorge Con and colleagues showed that ladder falls accounted for 1.3% of all trauma cases observed during their study period The average age of a ladder fall patient was 55 years (I’m far younger), with a male predominance of 89.3%. Average fall height was 9.8 ft. Although the mortality rate is relatively low, the health care costs and opportunity costs from such falls are significant, with one study finding an average hospital stay of 1 wk followed by 6 weeks of disability. However among patients >75 y, mortality could be as high as 3.3%.

My injury patterns are pretty consistent with the general profile observed in this study. Thoracic and spine injuries were the most common injuries sustained. The remaining injuries in order of decreasing frequency were head, lower-extremity fractures; upper-extremity fractures; pelvic fractures and intra-abdominal injuries.

I experienced the entire event in slow motion and not only was aware of my surroundings but experienced them in significant detail and depth. This slow motion effect is a well described phenomenon called “time dilation.” Charles Stetson of Cal Tech and colleagues studied participants in a 31 meter free fall (into a safety net!) to better describe this experience. Interestingly, a participant falling estimated their own fall to last 36% longer as compared to a standing outside observer of the same fall.

Their findings were fascinating and suggested that time-slowing is a function of recollection, not perception. What occurs a richer encoding of memory therefore making the fall to appear as though it lasted longer.
 
With my enhanced recollection and frequent painful reminders of this event, I found the attached OSHA summary on ladder safety. My error was the ladder angle – the proper angle for setting up a ladder is to place its base a quarter of the working length of the ladder from the wall or other vertical surface.
 
Although, at this point, I don’t ever plan on climbing one again which should eliminate my future risk entirely.

𝗦𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝗨𝗽 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝘂𝗿 𝗡𝗲𝘄𝘀𝗹𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿

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