Side­walks shouldn’t be skat­ing rinks

Bet­ter by­law en­force­ment means fewer bro­ken bones

Edmonton Journal - - IDEAS - DON RET­SON

As a stan­dard­ized pa­tient at the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta, I get paid for play­ing the part of a pa­tient experiencing just about any kind of health prob­lem.

That’s how I spent Feb. 11, at the Fac­ulty of Nurs­ing Sim­u­la­tion Cen­tre. Around 8 p.m. that night I changed back into my street clothes and headed for my parked car.

I never made it. On an icy patch of side­walk, I slipped, did a 360-de­gree flip in the air and crashed heav­ily. As my feet hit the ground, I could ac­tu­ally hear the bones snap­ping in my right foot and leg.

For­tu­nately, a nurse com­ing off shift was driv­ing by and saw me go down. She rolled down her win­dow and asked if I needed help. I was in shock, but not so much that I didn’t no­tice my right foot was now bent and twisted in a strange po­si­tion.

“Yes,” I shouted back to the Good Sa­mar­i­tan. “I can’t get up. Please, I need your help.”

The nurse and an­other passerby helped me across the street and into her car. I was driven to the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal emer­gency en­trance where an or­derly took over.

In­side, some­one in triage re­moved my right boot. She took one look at my swollen foot and asked if I needed to call any­one. “You aren’t go­ing any­where tonight,” she said.

Min­utes later, I was wheeled into an ad­ja­cent room and helped onto a gur­ney. The place quickly filled with med­i­cal per­son­nel.

At one point, I counted nine peo­ple hov­er­ing over me, ask­ing about my spill, my health his­tory, tak­ing my vi­tals, hook­ing me up to an IV, ex­plain­ing what would hap­pen next.

I was se­dated so my right foot could be snapped back where it be­longed. Later, I was X-rayed. I had three breaks. I’d be need­ing a plate and screws in my an­kle to make it right again.

As bad as my in­juries seemed, they were noth­ing com­pared to two of the three guys I shared a hos­pi­tal room with that week. Both were look­ing at nu­mer­ous surg­eries fol­lowed by a full year of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion just to be able to walk again.

In my job as a stan­dard­ized pa­tient, I’m used to field­ing ques­tions from the next gen­er­a­tion of doc­tors and nurses. Still, my sit­u­a­tion that evening seemed sur­real. How quickly I’d gone from be­ing a pre­tend pa­tient where I some­times cry pre­tend tears to be­ing the real McCoy!

As for the ac­tual surgery, it didn’t hap­pen right away. This has been a ban­ner win­ter in Ed­mon­ton for bro­ken bones, of­ten re­sult­ing in a sur­gi­cal bot­tle­neck at lo­cal hos­pi­tals.

Three days later, on Valen­tine’s Day, on my way to an op­er­at­ing room, a sur­geon asked about my ac­ci­dent. When I told her about my fall on a city side­walk, she nod­ded non­cha­lantly. The vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple she sees are a lot like me: Their in­juries were caused by spills on treach­er­ous side­walks.

I want to be clear. I’m grate­ful for the ex­cel­lent care I re­ceived dur­ing my five days at Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal. We are lucky to have uni­ver­sal health care in Canada. What re­ally ticks me off is the fact that so many side­walks fronting large com­mer­cial ven­tures in Ed­mon­ton of­ten re­sem­ble skat­ing rinks.

That cer­tainly was the case where I went down — right in front of a parkade near Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal. You’d think the folks who own and op­er­ate such lu­cra­tive busi­nesses could af­ford to keep their side­walks safe.

I sus­pect it comes down to a lack of en­force­ment by the city.

By­law en­force­ment of­fi­cers are cer­tainly vig­i­lant when it comes to tick­et­ing any­one who dares let their park­ing me­ter ex­pire. But when was the last time you saw a busi­ness tick­eted for fail­ing to keep their side­walk free of ice and snow?

Maybe it’s time to start. Don Ret­son is a stan­dard­ized pa­tient/client and for­mer Ed­mon­ton Jour­nal re­porter.

When I told (the sur­geon) about my fall on a city side­walk, she nod­ded non­cha­lantly. The vast ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple she sees are a lot like me. — Don Ret­son


An Ottawa pedes­trian deals with a slip­pery road. Too many side­walks next to big Ed­mon­ton busi­nesses don’t get cleared of ice and snow, Don Ret­son writes.


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