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Slippery ice, broken bone

March 16, 2011 - Jodelle Greiner
On Sunday, I became one of the hundreds (thousands?) of people who slip on ice, fall and break a bone every year. In my case, x-rays showed a hair-line fracture in my main arm bone near the wrist. I’m wearing a huge splint that wraps around my elbow and makes everyday tasks a challenge, if not impossible. For instance, I’m typing this one-handed. I’m sure I’ll be blogging about other challenges in the days and weeks ahead.

I was on my way to church, walking on the sidewalk just a few houses down from my own home when my foot went out from under me and I tried to break my fall with my arm. The ice was smooth as glass with a light dusting of snow on top. I’m pretty sure the ice patch was from snow that had melted during the day, then froze overnight.

I’m wondering, as I sit here with my arm propped up in an attempt to hold down the swelling, why sidewalks can’t be engineered the way football fields are?

Football fields are designed with a peak in the middle to facilitate snow and water run-off. Just walking down my street — which I have in the past many times — I’ve noticed the sidewalks are a jumbled patchwork that seems to be cobbled together. I’m sure different parts were put in at different times by different homeowners, but shouldn’t there be some kind of standard? Shouldn’t sidewalks have a code stating they need to be constructed in such a way to shed water whenever possible? And that the grass/dirt on either side should be sloped in such a way to keep as much water as possible off the sidewalks?

Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to prevent falls and broken bones? A broken bone doesn’t sound like a big deal — you get a cast and wait for it to heal — but it can have major consequences.

I don’t have statistics at hand, but I do know that broken hips contribute greatly to deaths in the elderly each year. Those that don’t die often wind up living in nursing homes.

As for me, I’ve already lost two days of work and I expect to lose more before I’m healed. Fortunately, I have the time to take off, but what about those people who don’t have that advantage? Nobody plans to break an arm, hip, or leg falling on the ice, and not being able to work for days or weeks can be devastating to a paycheck. Add to that the ensuing medical bills — I have an emergency room visit and an upcoming visit to the orthopedists, for starters — and your wallet can really take a hit.

If we put a little time and effort into the construction of our sidewalks, it could save us thousands of dollars and countless hours lost at work each year. And that would benefit everyone.


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