Preparing for the unexpected

For the second winter in a row, I have found myself with a cast on my leg. This time, I became cast-worthy after tripping on the hem of my jeans (I was wearing heel-length jeans with flats) and falling down a flight of stairs. I didn’t break anything, but my podiatrist said I tore the muscles off the bones in my foot and something else awful to do with my ankle. (I’m a little vague on the ankle stuff because I got a bit light-headed after he said I’d “tore the muscles” off my foot. Yuck. Just typing it makes me queasy.)

Thankfully, this whole cast situation is temporary, and my husband has been a rock star around the house taking over most of my chores and parenting responsibilities. My son also believes I’ve started transforming into a robot, which makes me the coolest mom in the world.

Winding up in a cast once again reminded me how important it is to be organized before you have an accident. I was lucky that all I did when I fell down the stairs was mess up my foot and ankle. I’m well aware I could have been injured much more severely, especially since I went down the stairs like a stuntman in an action scene in a movie.

Before you have an accident, be sure to:

  • Carry your insurance card on you at all times.
  • Wear a medical alert bracelet if you have any allergies or severe medical conditions.
  • Have your doctor’s name and phone number stored in your cell phone or written on a sheet of paper in your wallet.
  • Have a file in your filing cabinet with “In case of emergency” as its name and let your friends and family know about it. In this file, list the bills you pay every month and other important and relevant details someone else might need to know (contact information for your health insurance agent, your boss, your child’s teacher, etc.).

Life is unpredictable — I certainly wouldn’t have guessed I’d be in a cast twice in less than a year. What have you done to prepare for the unexpected? Share your advice in the comments.

41 Comments for “Preparing for the unexpected”

  1. posted by Mary on

    My father died after a sudden two-week hospitalization a few years ago. My brother and I were spared a lot of headaches because Dad had most of his bills paid automatically. That was lesson #1. Lesson #2 had to do with just what you describe: although we knew all of Dad’s personal contacts, we didn’t know all the contacts for each other, so we set all that up after things settled down. Lesson #3: Organize your files not only so that YOU can find things, but so that your loved ones can find things too if they need to. Dad’s filing system worked for him, because he knew where things were. We didn’t. I’ve remembered all this as I arrange my office area. I have a file like you describe, where I’ve put all the info my brother would need, should anything happen to me. Great peace of mind.

    Good luck healing, Erin –

  2. Avatar of

    posted by khagee on

    I have a legend of my files at the front of each drawer of the filing cabinet. The files I have left are things that I need paper copies of and do not want to store off-premises.

  3. Avatar of

    posted by writing all the time on

    Oh, Erin, I’m so sorry about your injury – is this the same foot as last year? I hope you recover quickly. I think it’s pretty awesome that your little boy thinks you’re the coolest mom in the world right now!

    I’ve already gotten a list like this underway. DH has mental processing difficulties that make such a list mandatory.

    Advice from Auntie Ruth, survivor of many foot injuries:
    Keep the strap on cast – do not get rid of it. When my very arthritic/gouty foot is aching badly, the only thing that helps is wearing that cast for a few hours. I will never let it go.

    Keep your foot elevated – whenever you sit down, your foot should be elevated to at least hip level. Makes a huge difference.

    Do whatever stretches and mild movement that you can while seated. It aids circulation, and circulation is a primary factor in recovery.

    And, from my former safety officer life – Be Careful!


  4. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Writing — Last year it was the left foot, this year the right. I’m equalizing the discomfort :)

  5. posted by momoboys on

    As one who had scheduled foot surgery in May, I sympathize. Healing thoughts being sent your way!

    My ideas for the little nuisance crises: I have at least two suppers’ worth of “heat and eat” in the fridge or freezer at all times (nothing fancy–maybe a Stouffer’s lasagna or enchiladas). My work means I am on-call every moment of the day and often emergencies leave my husband in the lurch with two hungry kids. The first 48 hours are the worst of any health-crisis/ unplanned surgery/ER visit(usually) and just making sure everyone is fed is huge burden off of my mind.

    Also, keeping a small stash of money at home, for when a neighbor or friend stops by and asks “is there anything I can do to help?” you can hand them the money and send them to the grocery store, pharmacy, take the kids for ice cream, etc! Also helps for impromptu babysitting payments!

    For more serious crises, a couple of very practical tips: make sure your spouse/sig other is on your checking accounts. Who will pay your bills if you can’t? I also post EVERY phone number of immediate family on the inside kitchen cupboard of our house. It’s a real pain when the cellphone dies at the hospital and no one knows the cell number of your sister. Oh, and both my sister and my sister-in-law have a key to our house AND know how to access our safety deposit boxes and safe. That kinda thing.

  6. posted by Dee in Bc on

    I think your in case of emergency file suggestion is great. Sure my hubby knows all this stuff , but what if something happened to both of us?. Sorry to hear of your injury Erin. I hope everything heals well & quickly. Dee

  7. posted by Rosa on

    This is all good advice – and good to see in practice, too. I hope you heal fast!

  8. posted by ArtGal on

    OOOOUCHHHHH!!! (Reading this made me queasy too!)
    I myself have the grand ability to break a toe at the same time every year…always a different toe…always in July! Although this is not nearly as bad as your injury, it certainly puts a hitch in your giddy-up! I’ve learned to plan light in July :) and have everything up to speed as far as bills, cleaning, etc.

    Take Care…I hope you can use this healing time to catch up on some more sedate activities! :)

  9. posted by ListfulWistful on

    I need to get working on the “In case of an emergency” file. @khagee, the legend is a great idea, too!

    One other thought, which doesn’t apply here, obviously. I’ll be putting my facebook password (and if I used Twitter and other social media sites I’d do those, too) in my “In case of emergency” file. That way my profile can be disabled if necessary.

  10. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    I am sitting at my desk reading your post so I took a few minutes and wrote down my emergency info and put it in the front of my file cabinet in a bright yellow, labeled file.
    Good suggestion.

    Hope you are well soon!

  11. posted by Dawn on

    Wow – not a good way to start of 2011! I am very sorry to hear about your tumble (did you score a 10?) and I hope you have a speedy and full recovery, Erin! :)

    I have my emergency contacts listed in my cell phone under the names ICE1, ICE2 – for In Case of Emergency (I cannot remember where I read that suggestion). The numbers are for my parents and my husband. An EMT or an acquaintance may not know my husband’s name or parent’s name, but if they are familiar with ICE they can easily contact my family quickly.

    I have a few hundred dollars stashed in our at-home safe so we have fast access to cash if needed (including some rolls of quarters).

    I have a single bright red plastic storage tote that is our Evacuation Stash. It is filled with basic evacuation stuff (think I used a list from American Red Cross). It takes up very little room and everyone in our family knows exactly where it is and we review the contents annually.

    I always keep the pantry stocked with basic staples so we have access to basic food items at all times – some emergencies could involve weather and/or power outages (especially this time of year).

    I have our family filing cabinet folders labeled very clearly and logically to easily determine what is inside of that folder.

    I do all of the household finances, but quite a few times each year I review EVERYTHING with my husband so he can feel like he has some sense of where things are and where we stand financially – regarding the basic monthly expenses, etc. I also have a single spreadsheet that details our average monthly budget along with how those bills are received (some online, some in the mail, some neither such as private school tuition).

    Happy 2011 to all!

  12. posted by Sue on

    Since spending more time with my aging Mother this past year, I am learning more and more of what to do and not to do, in regards to keeping one’s self safe at all times.Although she is 23 years older than I, and 13 years older than my husband, I feel we are learning some valuable tips as to what to change for our own sake,in the upcoming years.

  13. posted by Karen (Scotland) on

    I am responsible for all the paperwork in our household (my husband’s at sea half the year so it’s easier if it’s in my name.) (Plus, I’m better at it :-))
    I decided I’d better pull all the “big” stuff together (location of wills, life assurance policy numbers etc) in case of my death and I started a file called, temporarily, death.doc.
    I forgot to tell my husband about it when he came home and he found the document and became a bit tearful (seriously) while reading it. I think he had got a fright and thought I had something awful to tell him.
    Poor guy!
    Anyway, he knows where the file is now. Now that I’ve read this, it’s made me think that I should do something similar for my parents/sister in case of the awful scenario of both of us dying.
    Also, online passwords. Hubbie and I have a system we use with passwords so we can ussually work out each other’s but I guess I should leave info in some format for our survivors.
    Hmm, a lot to think about.
    Karen (Scotland)

  14. posted by Amy on

    Dear Erin, Small boned caucasioan females are at great risk for osteoporosis. It may be time to consider taking calcium supplements. It will probably help you in the future. Hope you get better soon!

  15. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Amy — Bones, thankfully, are not my issue. But I agree that more women need to watch their Vitamin D levels and calcium intake!

  16. posted by Just Breathe on

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

  17. posted by Sue G. on

    @Mary – my heart goes out to you. My father passed away suddenly within 48 hours of hospitalization this last spring. Nothing like an unexpected death to make you realize how disorganized your affairs are (especially if you have to muddle through someone else’s mess).

    @momoboys – always thought it was a good idea to keep some cash at home for blackouts (machines down), but I hadn’t thought about being able to easily ask people for errand help. Good idea!

    @Erin – Apparently it needs to be said – You’re not allowed to break yourself anymore. ;) Heal well.

  18. posted by Gigi on

    My husband takes several prescriptions but never remembers the names or dosages of them. I made a card (business card size) listing the meds, dosages, doctor and pharmacy names with phone numbers. He carries it in his wallet and I keep one on file at home. His doctor thinks it’s a great idea and appreciated having this clear, concise information.

  19. posted by Jadielady on

    At work, I have become the only person who knows how to do a lot of things. Which makes me very hard to get rid of easily, which is good, but it also means my stuff doesn’t get done when I go on vacation.
    However, in the (hopefully unlikely) event I were to go on some kind of unexpected “vacation” whether it’s an injury or whatever, I do have a notebook filled with notes on how to do what I do. I have each section labeled, with as good of an SOP as I’ve been able to document.

    Fortunately at home it’s just my hubby and me and the cats, so he’s pretty immediately aware of things I do or don’t do :)

  20. posted by Karen on

    Ouch! Hope you get better soon.

    Good idea about the doctors number. I will put a sticky with that on my insurance card.

    I use a password manager and gave that information to my sister along with a copy of my will. If anything happens to me, it will be easier for her to access all my on-line accounts.

  21. posted by Lose That Girl on

    Oh, Erin! I hope you’re all healed up soon!

    After having far too much illness in my family over the past three years, I’ve become an expert at carrying medical information with me. I’ve created my own tracking docs for meds, surgeries and tests… and have Excel sheets to track multiple medications. They worked a charm when my Mum was ill.

  22. posted by Marjory on

    More quick additions, from my farming background.
    Get first aid training. It’s cheap, fun, and life-saving. NOTHING helps more than knowing what to do first. If nothing else, you’ll know what to avoid.

    Find out if a neighbor has medical training and if so, get the phone numbers. When my FIL flipped his tractor over on himself, a neighbor with Vietnam era first aid skills helped, but another neighbor with vet tech training got him stabilized.

    In rural areas, the ambulance and fire department and sometimes the constables are volunteers. It may take several minutes for them to get organized and arrive. Keep a whole tank of gas and a new unwrapped tarp in your larger vehicle. My mom transported a neighbor to the hospital that way – he had cut his leg open with a chain saw. The tarp saved the car’s interior.

    When your child is 5 or 6, teach how, where, and when to get help.

    Finally, TELL your relatives very clearly what you want BEFORE you need it. Don’t let me be sent to this hospital, I prefer this doctor, no extraordinary measures, I do want my organs donated. It’s nice to have this information in writing, but your relatives will feel better if you’ve told them specifically too.

    Finally, a black washcloth and a cold can of soda work wonders to stop hysterical crying with slightly injured children. The washcloth hides the sight of blood, and the cold soda gives the kid something to focus upon. I’ve had this work on teenagers too.

  23. posted by Mary C. on

    Erin, I am so sorry! Heal quickly and completely! Sending love!

  24. posted by Kerry on

    Oh, Erin, my heart sank when I saw your cast. I’ve been in a walking cast 5 times in eight years and know all too well how awful it is. Please do as the doctor tells you so
    your recovery will be speedy!

  25. posted by Molly on

    Oh dear. That sounds awful.

    Last night I was very thankful for being mostly organized – we are having to move on very short notice, and this makes packing SO much easier.

  26. Avatar of

    posted by khagee on

    Erin, so sorry to hear of your accident. Recover strongly and quickly.

    I came across a few links for s Personal Health Record. The one I chose is small enough to fit in a small purse. I have printed it and will be assembling it this afternoon (No time like the present.

  27. posted by Cathie on

    Great advice. I fell the week before thanksgiving, and my leg and foot are still trying to heal. No broken bones, or torn-off muscles (owie!) I am NOT looking to equalize my pain.
    Hope you get better very soon, and stay that way!

  28. posted by Bibliovore on

    Erin, I’m sorry for your injury, but glad it wasn’t worse. Best wishes for a speedy and thorough recovery!

    My grandparents kept a black binder, their “black book,” in their office with all relevant information in case of health emergency — their medical histories and lists of allergies and current medications, their insurance info, copies of their latest will and living will and power of attorney documents along with contact information for their lawyer, details and contact info for my grandfather’s military benefits, numbers and contact info for their various accounts, etc. Close neighbors and everyone in the family knew where to find it, even the estranged family member, and it was invaluable when they each had their final illnesses.

    I kept telling myself I was “too young” to make something like that myself, but I finally realized it’d be a huge boon to my family in case of emergency, so I started one last year.

  29. posted by Nana on

    No one is ever “too young” to need this, unfortunately.

    Keep emergency contact names and numbers in a baggie in the refrigerator…with a red sticker alerting emergency personnel — a suggestion from my retirement community.

  30. posted by KJ on

    Good ideas, Erin and everyone. Sorry to clog up the comments with another get-well wish, but I can’t stop by without leaving one. I broke my foot a few years ago, so I know that it’s a REAL pain (literally and figuratively), hobbling around in that thing. Mostly, we are so glad you are okay after such a scary tumble. Take care: We need you around here!

  31. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    Maybe it’s just because I’m 5’10″ but heels are clutter! Look: you have to have jeans/trousers in multiple lengths (or bear the consequences) and even without that, you have to worry about how to walk and whether the surfaces are heel-friendly. I wear shoes I can walk in for long distance every day. I do, at this time, have some shoes that do not have a lot of cushioning (dressier) and some with cushioning (I sing in a choir and end up standing for a couple of hours at a stretch.) Sore feet and knees, even if I don’t fall down, are a cluttering event!

  32. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kathryn — The great ironies of ironies is that I haven’t worn heels since my accident last year. The jeans I was wearing are my “laundry day” jeans that I only wear when I’m laundering all my other pairs. So, I never hemmed them because I don’t wear them in public. Alas, I paid the price!!

    I’m fairly tall, too, by the way (I’m 5’9″). And when people who read me on the internet meet me in person for the first time, they almost always say, “You’re taller than I expected.” I never know what to say to that … “Um, I must write short?”

  33. posted by Deb on

    Erin, glad to hear it wasn’t more serious, hope your recovery goes quickly.

    I learned a lot about planning in the last year, when my dad passed away, after a hospital visit for a splenectomy.

    We were lucky dad was a contingency planner, and so organised. He’d purchased a book called “My Last Wishes” which he’d filled out with helpful pieces of information. That meant that decisions on the service were made more easily, because he’d already indicated his preferences. Very well organised!! (Didn’t extensively cover social network sites, but dad wasn’t big in the online world)

    They don’t yet do an online version, but I’d recommend the paper version to anyone, it covers lots of stuff you’d never have thought of.

    Also I’d suggest people think about their assets. Mum and dad had been married 40+ years. There were still things which were only in his name, rather than in both. Not sure how it works in US law, but here, when the bank were told of his death, even though she’s his executrix, and receives all his assets, they still froze the accounts in only his name, and will not release the money until probate is granted. The ones which also had her name on them were transferred straight to her.

    Also a warning about credit cards. Dad had a credit card (paid it off monthly, fabulous credit rating) with his bank for decades. Mum used a secondary card on that account, but dad was the account holder (alone). They made her go through the entire credit card application process from the start, and initially rejected her application – they’ve now given her a card with a low limit. Then there were the issues with transferring the direct debits from Dad’s card to another.

    I’d STRONGLY suggest that each person in a couple needs to clearly understand the banking process they have in place, and that both of them have clearly established relationships with a bank, so if one of them dies, the impact is minimised.

    Good luck getting that foot better!

  34. posted by Mimi on

    get well soon, robomom :)

    i prepared for the unexpected by writing all the numbers to call in case of emergency in my filofax. and my BF has power of attorney for the banking matters.
    the rest is managed by my guardian angel, who does a good job :)

  35. posted by genie on

    The prof in this article was a friend of my husbands… it could have so easily have been us. They didn’t have a will – now the person who gets to raise their baby is left up to the court system – not them.

    Young parents like us (OK, so not so young) apparently don’t seem to consider wills are required. I don’t have one, yet, but we will this week. Upon polling my friends, only one has a will. One. We all have toddler aged kids.

    Part of the issue is that we don’t think it will ever happen to us. Most of us have never known anyone that it has happened to either. And yet it does happen.

    Beyond wanting to protect my child and say who will get the joy of raising her should this ever occur to us, more importantly, I want the ability to say who will NOT raise her. Estranged family? Religious beliefs other than your own? Totally different parenting philosophy, carnivore instead of veggie…? There is only one person I want to have her, but many that I do NOT. I get that choice when I have a will.

    And, aka Flylady, I have a “control journal” full of things for running my house. Recipes, schedules (that i never follow) and post it notes with user names and passwords on them (easy to change out as needed), all in plastic page protectors inside of my 3 ring binder. I started this partly to protect myself – each password is different to prevent a hacker from taking over my life, but as it turns out, it will also be great for those final days.

    Hubby and I need to work on this part of our lives, get stuff written down, organized and in one place with a copy at his parents. We’ve had a big dose of reality this holiday season and need to follow through and be as prepared as we can. Thanks for the reminder.

    Oh – and at 6 foot tall and a lady… I never wear heels either. But then, I stay at home as a mom, so where would I wear them to? Life is to short for uncomfortable shoes!

  36. posted by gypsy packer on

    Ouch! For emergencies, I stop RX pain meds as soon as I can go on OTC’s, then stash the leftovers. Keep a small stash of money well hidden. I keep the house arranged so that I can’t trip over anything, but even so, have had two broken ankles–same one–in two years. I wear ugly but practical elastic-hem sweats indoors. Hem those jeans, please!

  37. posted by leigh the sewing diva on

    that sounds like something i would manage to do! how i don’t end up in plaster more often is a mystery!

  38. posted by Marisa on

    Thanks for the suggestion. My father broke both of his ankles at the same time after falling off a ladder (he landed on his feet). My father’s motto is the classic, “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” which made it easy on my mom to manage the household while my father was in the hospital. Hope you recover quickly – as you may already know, ankle injuries appear deceptively simple, until you have to have surgery!

  39. posted by Karla on

    haha–”write short.” Speedy recovery, Erin!

  40. Avatar of

    posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    “Um, I must write short?” – love it!

    Conversely, your fellow organiser Cynthia Townley Ewer says that people expect her to be tall and willowy from her writing so are surprised that she isn’t.

    Have you seen the site that will analyse your writing and tell you which famous writer you write like? Apparently, on my blog at least, I write like Arthur C. Clarke – not that I’ve read his stuff, so I wouldn’t know.

    This is a timely post for those of us in the eastern states of Australia with the flooding and consequent evacuations some have had to endure.

    I was away from home this week so was busily imagining how I’d organise my ‘easy to grab’ important items (jewellery, new passport, laptop, back-up ED, cameras, specific photo albums) for a quick getaway if our area came under threat and retreat was necessary. Then I remembered that our house is on stumps (for those only familiar with slab-on-ground houses, stumps are short support posts) so, if water came up to our floorboards, retreat would be rather difficult as the car would already be flooded! :-)

    As it turns out, our area is in a different catchment from the ones that have had all the news lately and hasn’t had as much rain – you wouldn’t even know there was flooding in the nearby major city if you didn’t get any news and didn’t leave our area.

    However, I am trying to find a way to have things ready for an emergency evac (you never know when a bushfire / nearby house fire / other situation might put you in danger by remaining at home) without making things too easy for thieves to take.

  41. posted by Bibliovore on

    Gypsy packer, saving leftover prescription painkillers for later use is actually not always a good idea. Not only do medicines have a shelf life, but something that was prescribed for you at one time might not be considered safe for you (or at all) any more at whatever point you might need painkillers again — you might be taking something else by then that clashes badly with the earlier drug, or have a new condition that makes the old med no longer safe for you. If nothing else, please first phone your doctor or emergency room before taking the old drug, just to make sure it’s okay, and if you do take it, make sure you tell the paramedics or doctor or whoever sees you for the new emergency so they know not to give you anything that’d be harmful with the old med.

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