Sunday, June 26, 2005

Modern dangers

Today's Austin American Statesman has a local story about Evelyn Davison, a Christian talk show host, who is suing her neighbor because she fell into the neighbor's garbage can.

The garbage can had been emptied, and dumped by the garbage truck crew so that it blocked Davison's driveway. Davison tried to move it and fell in, and had to be rescued by passers-by. Her hand got injured, and later infected, such that bones eventually had to be removed from two fingers and replaced with implants.

Davison's show is called "Love talk," and she also publishes the "Good News Journal," described in the Statesman as a patriotic and inspirational journal, distributed at local Walmarts.

The lawsuit is joined by Davison's husband, who wants damages for "loss of household services," not to mention "loss of spousal consortium," which the newspaper helpfully glossed as loss of sexual relations.

Wow. Bad injury.

Now I am actually not criticizing the Davisons' lawsuit, nor making light of their Christianity. The injury turned out to be serious, and cost them upwards of $100,000 in medical bills. I assume this is simply what has to be done in America to get medical treatment without becoming destitute. The neighbor has insurance, and apparently has no ill-will towards the Davisons.

I am simply taking this as a Sunday morning opportunity to share a human interest story revolving around my late wife Kay. Many years ago we lived in a shack next to Onion Creek here in Austin, and the shack, which was on high piers because of Onion Creek flooding, had a porch six feet above the ground. We had one of these giant roll-out-to-the-street garbage cans. But not giant enough.

It was Christmas, and Eve was about 10 years old and Anna was home, so there was lots to stuff to unwrap. Boxes. Wrapping paper. Once a week trash service. So, very soon, the receptacle is full and more bags need to be stuffed into it. Kay went out with a big sack of paper. Won't fit. Kay pushes mightily. Then it occurs to her that she can get up on the porch and jump down onto the top of the trash to compact it. No sooner had she thought this, than it was done. She was in the air.

She said events unfolded in slow motion after that, she was an observer along for the ride, but the laws of physics had taken over. The garbage can had wheels, of course. The sum of the forces operating on the can was such that the wheels rolled rapidly out from under Kay as she landed on the can with her full weight, her arms windmilling backwards, yodeling. I heard the cry, and the crash. I went outside and Kay was sprawled out on the ground and the trash can was five feet away from her feet and most its contents strewn between her and the can. I had no idea what could have happened--the scene made no visual sense.

She was OK--sort of. I helped her up and when she could talk she explained what happened.

She had landed on her tailbone, but fortunately the ground was soft, and she didn't break anything. But her tailbone was badly bruised, and she had back pain for a long time afterwards, and hobbled around several months.

She said she felt foolish the moment she left the porch, but--too late.

We had insurance. And besides, we had nobody to sue. Kay went to the doctor, and I think she tried a chiropractor when the physicians didn't help her back.

Eventually it healed itself.

I think I had loss of spousal consortium for about a week.

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