Sidewalks shouldn’t be skating rinks
Better bylaw enforcement means fewer broken bones
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.