My husband fell from a ladder: a cautionary tale

Suzette Standring
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March 24, 2019

David’s in the hospital. He fell off a ladder in Falmouth trying to clean the roof of our home. Eight feet up, he was trying to scrape lichen off the roof when the ladder slipped back.  He fell face first, his nose hitting the rung of the ladder, leaving multiple facial fractures.  He wandered into the house, blood pouring onto the kitchen floor and puddling into the living room.  It was a crime scene.  I came out from vacumming in the back, and followed the trail of blood. EGADS!  GET IN THE CAR!

The doctors did a fantastic job at Falmouth Hospital ER, but he was sent by ambulance to Brigham Hospital in Boston to be treated by facial surgeons. From there,I didn’t get home until 3 a.m. and woke up three hours later to see him in Boston. So if I had anything planned with you today, my apologies for cancelling.

Yet I woke up this morning with gratitude.  It could have been so much worse. He could have broken his neck, he could be paralyzed, he could have broken his spine or cracked his head, or had a severe concussion. He was dazed and bleeding pools of blood right after the accident, but he was alert and lucid the whole time.

He’s going to need plastic surgery on his face, but he’s healthy otherwise and alive. He dislocated his shoulder but they put it back in Falmouth, and no other broken bones.

Now that I know he’s safe, I said to him, “You just HAD to scrape the lichen off the roof, after I told you it would be dangerous. You….GUY!”

Last week, I actually had a premonition something life-threatening was going to happen to him, and on Sunday, while I was at church, I was praying for God to protect him, to deliver him from harm, and to keep him safe, that I didn’t know why I had this terrible feeling.  The accident happened four hours later, at 2:30 p.m.

Thank you, God, for sparing him from worse.

I’m OK, I don’t need anything.  Just beam prayers on his behalf if you’re the praying type.  In my life, I know God listens. 

March 25, 2019

Update: I spent the day with him and he’s so much better. His face was a bloody mess yesterday, and swollen beyond recognition. I did Reiki on him last night and with the superior care of the nurses and doctors at Brigham Women’s Hospital, his swelling is way down. Instead of looking like bludgeoning victim, he just looks like a prize fighter who lost.

He’s no longer leaking rivulets of blood down his face. Small victories! 

I now realize I should have called an ambulance when it first happened. Like an idiot, I drove him to the ER but he was walking and talking so I thought it was safe to do that. Once we got to the ER, they went into overdrive to “stabilize his neck.”  

Then I learned you never move a patient and his neck should have been stabilized right away.  Honestly, between the ladder and me, it’s a wonder the guy is alive.

David is in very good spirits, bu requested that I not post photos of his injuries. Duh!  

I told him, “Darling, that’s not my idea of blowing up Instagram.”

The doctors are keeping him for another day to assess the swelling and to determine when facial surgery can be done, probably in a week.

David was smiling, and talkative, and asked me what I was doing with my day, and I said, “Getting rid of all the ladders in the house.”

So I came home, collapsed for a while, and I’m returning to the hospital later tonight with Star and the girls to see David for dinner. 

At this point, I don’t need anything, just your prayers.  Today all is better!

March 26, 2019

Tuesday in the Trauma Unit at BWH: Well, my cautionary tale to all DIY husbands is coming home today. He’s having a final X-ray done. His nose still leaks a little blood and they want to make sure it’s not brain fluid. That gave me pause. I full out stopped munching on my chocolate bar. But all indications are against that, the nurse hastened to add.

So we go back next week to meet with surgeons since he broke his nasal, his orbital (eye) and forehead bones. The doctor said that if untreated, it “could cause his eyeballs to drift.”
I. Couldn’t. Even. Ask.
But my Beloved is in good spirits, and so am I.
David asked, “Suze, do you think we can buy something at CVS to stop the blood leaking from my nose?”
I said, “You mean like a nose tampon? We can improvise.”
Thank you all for your prayers (it’s all we really want) and warm wishes and goodies.
I’m really pooped.

Oh-oh, not cleared for takeoff. The doctors are concerned there might be a tiny leak in the thin wall between David’ brain and nasal area. If so, it could possibly lead to infection and meningitis. 

I cracked at the words, “possible meningitis.” I started to cry, and David pooh-poohed and said, “Suze, c’mon! Fake news!”

For all appearances, David is robust, and power-walked a couple of laps around the floor. Even his nosebleeds are way down.

Still. We’re waiting for an OK to go home from his team of doctors.
He’s sharing a room and there is very little privacy. We were looking at the hospital menu, and I whispered to David, “What would you like me to order for you?”
And behind the curtain, his roomie said, “May I make a suggestion? The chicken Alfredo is very tasty.”
Later his roomie was talking to his wife on speaker phone, and I heard him say, “I’m sharing the room with an English fellow, very congenial.” 

And his wife said, “IS HE THE ONE WHO FELL OFF A LADDER?”
Her husband was very flowery about how nice we both are, but really, what else can he say? We want to go home now.

March 27, 2019

David came home today. His team of doctors felt there were no indications to keep him hospitalized. In fact, he’s healing so rapidly, they didn’t even prescribe antibiotics! When the doctor gave his okay and left the room, I’ve never seen a man with a smashed face and (previously) dislocated shoulder turn into a quick change artist.


David was tearing off the monitor pads and saying, “I want to leave before they change their minds.”
I said, “Slow down before you hurt your arm again. You never listen, that’s why we’re in this fine mess.”
His roommate said, “She sounds just like my wife.”
David said, “Oh, I have to watch her!”
I said, “You have to watch ME? Funny, it wasn’t me lying in that bed for the last three nights.”
The Bickering Bickersons are baaaack!
So they gave David an envelope full of instructions and he’s grabbing his bag (“David, GIVE ME THAT!”) and he’s trying to hail a cab (“David, I’ve got Uber coming. Relax!”) and then he’s trying to direct the driver with what he thinks is the fastest route home (“He’s got GPS for crying out loud!”)
So against all the odds (80 to 20 according to the nurses early in the day), they let us go home.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU for your prayers and beams of light and love. God heard you. It’s like David is George Bailey.

March 28, 2019

The surprises keep coming. David’s bruising and swelling is reduced.  He’s been downgraded from racoon to panda. 

Breaking news: the top cranial facial surgeon at Brigham called to say that David poses a rare case, something they see maybe once or twice a year.  

That is, even with the severe trauma, there is a possibility David may heal with minimal surgery. The doctor was calling to warn us against “overenthusiastic young surgeons.”

Good to know. We have appointments next week.

How is this even possible?  Well, I know.

March 29, 2019

So back on Day 1, somewhere between Falmouth and Boston, David lost his Rolex. Even as he was dripping blood, hardly able to breathe, unrecognizable, he was so upset about it.

I said, “Listen, let it go. It’s only a thing. If you had to trade that watch for not being paralyzed for life, you got a good deal.”

He said weakly, “But I really liked my watch.”

“Oh, well,” I said.

Star went back to the house on the night of the accident. I went back, too, neither of us could find it. The hospitals couldn’t find it.
Then tonight, our landscaper, Joe Bucchini, owner of JB Tree & Landscape, called from Falmouth. He saw all the blood and the fallen ladder on the deck, and he said, “You don’t have to be a Philadelphia law student to figure it out.”
(Why Philadelphia law student? Never mind.)
He found David’s watch in the yard, and will return it to me.
I was hollering with excitement.
Joe has a really broad Dorchester accent, and he was yelling back, so excited, too, “Do me a big favah, OK? Don’t tell David. Just keep it a secret and you can put it in a box and he’ll be all happy when he sees it. Can you do me that one favah? Wouldn’t that be funny? Do it, OK? Don’t say nuthin’ to David.”
I said, “I don’t know, Joe. David’s in the next room and I think he heard everything.”
The world is full of good people.

April 1, 2019

The Ladder Epilogue. On April 1, we visited two surgeons, one to examine a suspected shoulder fracture. Another was a plastic surgeon for David’s broken facial bones. We are hopeful.

David’s face has gone from purple to carnival yellow, a sure sign the bruising is fading. His eye size is back to normal. There was concern that tendon damage might cause his eyes “to drift.” But so far, his eyeballs look secure in his sockets. All that is left are the Franken-stitches on the bridge of his nose and scabbing. He’s come a long way since his ladder fall, nine days earlier, and now we consult with doctors. April Fool’s marks the day.

David gazed out the kitchen window on this beautiful spring day and mused. “It won’t be long before that apple tree will need pruning.”

Now unless he can levitate, doesn’t pruning require a ladder?

The Wrath of Khan coursed through me, “WTF!? How dare you spit in God’s eye after what we’ve both been through?”

He said, “I’m not spitting at anybody! Suze, it’s just a stepladder, not a big one.”

I said, “Forget it. I’m posting “free ladders” on Milton Neighbors.”

“Suze, c’mon.”

“ LALALALLALALALALA, I’m not listening. Excuse me but I need to call an Uber to get to the hospital, thanks to your shenanigans.”

We get to Faulkner Hospital, and the orthopedic surgeon gives him range of motion tests, examines David’s X-rays, and pronounces NO surgery needed, just physical therapy. The doctor remarked how lucky he was not to break his arms or legs. “Good luck and stay off ladders.” I arched an eyebrow at David.

Then it was off to Brigham to meet with a plastic surgeon for fractures to his nasal and orbital (eye) bones. Now I was nervous. 

At night, David has not been able to breathe through his nose. If he tries, it’s sounds like loud radiator hissing. The bridge of his nose took the full impact of hitting the ladder rung. If nose and eye bone surgery are required, it would be complex, and maybe disfiguring.

Every day I do Reiki on him, and the sincere prayers of many pour in. I keep hoping he can escape surgery but it seems like a long shot given the severity of his fall.

Now the doctor is here.

He tests David’s facial muscles and looks at a 3-D head scan on the monitor and says, “Your nose is a tiny bit to the left, but it doesn’t look bad. Do you want that fixed?”

David said, “I can’t breathe through my nose. Will surgery fix that?”

“You can’t breathe because it takes six to eight weeks for the swelling inside your nose to go away. Your breathing will return to normal. Surgery is not necessary for that.”

NO SURGERY? We sat there dumbstruck.

David said, “I want to avoid surgery.”

The doctor continued, “Well, you can. Most people who fell like you did have their noses smashed all the way to the sides of their faces. You are very lucky that you’ll be able to heal on your own. My concern was for your orbital bones. If the tendons are damaged, the eyes can drift uncontrolled. Again, you’re very lucky.”

AND on top of the no-surgery-icing on the cake, the doctor made the most healing pronouncement of all, “I’m over 50 myself, and I gave up my ladders years ago. There’s no reason for you to ever get up on one. Put your ladders in front of your house with a “FREE” sign and somebody will take them away. That’s what I did,” he said.

“Or,” I chirped brightly, “I can offer them on-line on Milton Neighbors!”

David looked sheepish and nodded.

God is good. No surgery, complete healing with time, and David will even get his lost watch back. (Joe of JB Tree & Landscape, thank you and I’m calling soon!)

Thus closes the chapter on our cautionary tale to all DIY husbands and wives. I bet we’ve saved at least 30 lives. People all over should be hollering at their spouses, “GET OFF THAT THING NOW!”


  1. Dear Suzette. what a story and I am so glad I wrote to you and you wrote back. I will include you both in my prayers.
    I am glad we have been friends for these many years. While sorting some knitting papers I found some directions for making a bigger opening for a child’s neck on a sweater. I had it for you, but it never got delivered. That was the time you brought me home and met Oliver. A long time ago.
    Love to you both, Marion Nelson