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Billy Reed: I took a fall and fractured some ribs and it hurt like crazy — but worst, I missed deadline

In my long career in journalism, I’ve always taken pride in making my deadlines. My track record is pretty good. But I had to miss my Saturday deadline for this column and, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to talk about that.

I’ve written much about injuries to athletes: Punctured lungs, snapped Achilles tendons, broken legs and arms, etc. Sadly, I gave the fans what they wanted, which was an answer to the question: When is the athlete going to be able to play again? I never thought about the human aspects of recovering — the pain and suffering of the injured.

Now I’m acutely aware of that aspect of it. The night before Labor Day, I took a nasty fall in my home. My left side throbbed with pain, and a huge bruise appeared on my back. A visit to Jewish Hospital downtown and X-rays revealed that I had fractured four ribs.

Billy Reed is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame and the Transylvania University Hall of Fame. He has been named Kentucky Sports Writer of the Year eight times and has won the Eclipse Award three times. Reed has written about a multitude of sports events for over four decades and is perhaps one of the most knowledgeable writers on the Kentucky Derby. His book “Last of a BReed” is available on Amazon.

I’m not sure anybody noticed or cared, because I’m only a typist, not a superb athlete who has the World Series or the Super Bowl on the line.  Nevertheless, I refused to go on the Disabled List. I typed a column while in the hospital, but couldn’t send it because the hospital people didn’t have a cord that allowed me to recharge my computer. I kid you not.

And so did I miss my deadline.

I’m not complaining about my injuries because a lot of people have it worse. My hospital roommate, for example, had been shot eight times, one bullet missing his heart by only two centimeters. When I overheard his sweet conversations with his scared and confused young children, my support of anti-gun legislation rose to new heights.

I took my first fall last May, just after my longtime friend Buddy Cowgill had given me a tour of Transylvania University’s spiffy new student center. On the way back to our cars, Buddy and I stopped in front of the library to say goodbye. Suddenly I was overcome by light-headedness and weakness in my legs. The next step I took, I went down as if I had been hit by the Tampa Bay defensive line.

Momentarily stunned, I next noticed I had blood, my blood, all over me. Buddy asked somebody to call campus security, and they were there in a flash, cleaning me up and asking me a lot of questions. They finally helped me to my feet. I walked to my car unassisted and drove back to Louisville.

When I reported the incident to Dr. Shannon Lynn, my physician, and she advised me to start carrying a cane so I would have something to steady me if I felt weak again. I didn’t mind because I knew I would use my Louisville Slugger bat cane. A friend of mine laughed and said, “That’s a babe magnet.” Sure enough, a large bunch of attractive women stopped me to examine my cane and talk about it.

Over the summer, I took a few more falls, both with and without the cane. But I didn’t hurt myself again until the night before Labor Day. I went down hard, knocking over a chair in the process, and got up with an aching left side. A couple of days later, hospital X-rays revealed I had four — FOUR! — fractured ribs.

At both Jewish and the University of Louisville Trauma Center, I underwent a battery of tests, and doctors agreed the proper course of action was for me to endure some pain while my ribs healed naturally. So that’s where I am now. The pain and bruise are getting better, but I’m still not ready to try out for our Olympic team.

I’ve been told that many older people fall repeatedly. Some seek help. But others, because of either pride or embarrassment don’t tell anybody until their bruises come impossible to hide. Trust me, they all need to see a doctor so they can find the root cause of their falls and learn how to deal with it.

Moving forward, I hope to have much greater empathy for, say, that jockey who gets thrown off a horse and suffers a punctured lung. They are forced back to work as soon as possible because somebody has a financial investment in them and the public demands it. Thank heavens, I don’t have to deal with that. I can heal at my own pace without anybody pushing me.

I’ve never been a hockey fan but I thinking of my heroes should be the great Mario Lemieux. He played a long time with Hodgkin Lymphoma, and I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. He played with excruciating chronic back pain, something to which I was recently introduced.

I don’t know if he ever missed any deadlines.

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  1. Syblfleming says:

    So sorry, Billy.
    Prayers for healing.

  2. Charlie Taylor says:

    Billy I feel your pain. As a center on my high school football team I broke two ribs and fractured two. I got taped up and kept playing. Painful doesn’t begin to describe every breath, every cough and every laugh! I feel for you buddy!
    Old age ain’t for sissy’s! Feel better soon!

  3. Wayne Smith says:

    Would you share what is the possible medical reason of your passing out, dizziness, or whatever it might be that causes you to fall? I have used a walking stick to steady myself on my walks (average approximately 40 miles weekly). People have asked why I carry it to which I reply: “It helps to keep the ladies away.” One smart aleck said he never saw girls chasing me. My retort, of course, was: “See there? It works!” Maybe it’s because I am 87 years of age and not the walking stick I sometimes suspect.
    Here is wishing you a rapid recovery with the hope that you have had your last fall. From my experience of having had broken ribs (Eight years ago a driver struck me with his illegal turn while I was in the crosswalk) I can fully appreciate your misery.
    With best regards, Wayne Smith in Dixieland

  4. Tommy says:

    Sorry to learn about your fall, but why did a long ago Labor Day incident cause you to miss the deadline for this week’s column? Were there lingering issues?

  5. Davis Downs says:

    Billy, Bonnie and I wish you a speedy recovery.

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