By Carol Curtis


Ajijic-cobblestonesWhen living in northern New England, sliding on the ice was always a worry. Each winter, Gary and I would pray that we would survive another icy slip n’ slide season; each winter one of us came close to ending our time on earth by a misstep on the slick pavements of winter. The closest I came was lying in my driveway looking up at the stars wondering if I’d be found before morning. I had come home late from work and pulled into our driveway. I got out of the car, slammed the door shut, took my first step, and performed one of those banana peel falls seen in cartoons. Both feet went out from under me … I was airborne for what felt like a full minute … then down I crashed onto my back while slamming my elbows into the icy pavement. 

Without much breath and in a lot of pain, I lay there wondering if my husband had heard me arrive. After a few minutes, I realized that my arrival was not noticed by anyone. I was going to have to figure a way out of this myself. Standing up wasn’t an option; the driveway was too icy for me to get a grip. So, I scooted on my back over to the edge of the driveway into a snow bank. Here I could possibly manage to stand up. Trying not to lie too long in the foot of snow, I did manage to turn over and get my feet under me.  Slowly I walked through the snow at the edge of the driveway and made it to the mudroom door. Covered in snow with blood dripping down my arms, I limped inside. My beloved husband of close to forty years looked up and said, “I was beginning to worry about you. What took you so long?” I simply asked, “How long will it take you to pack for Mexico?”

Ah, Mexico. Lake Chapala would present us with no icy challenges.  We’d be safe.  That is until I went up against the cobblestones and lost. Many stories about trips and falls caused by the pesky cobblestones are passed on from resident to resident. Now I can add my own story to the other legends.

After a lovely morning, I was walking back home.  Sunshine, no job pressure, a good retirement life was mine.  I was carrying a glass canning jar with a wonderful pickled lemon concoction inside, a gift from a friend. In the other hand, I had a square, hard plastic CD case with some interesting research done by another friend. One minute I’m healthy and upright 30 yards from my door; the next I’m lying on the cobblestones with some serious injuries.  Seems that whether it’s ice or cobbles, when fate reaches up to slap you there isn’t time to ask for a recount. The glass jar had broken upon hitting the cobblestones; I first noticed the large piece of glass that was embedded in my left palm. I was dripping with pickled lemon juice. 

Seemed bad enough until I looked at my right hand. The innocent CD case had gouged a large chunk out of my right palm and sliced open the area below my thumb. I knew I had to get home, but how was I going to get up?  Given that this is low season, our block was almost vacant. I couldn’t push myself off the ground due to the hand injuries. I did manage to pull the glass out of my hand, though, so I could partially sit up.  Lucky me, two workers a few houses down had heard the crash of the glass.  Realizing that I needed help, they came running. 

They were able to pull me up and help me home. Serendipitously, a neighbor called and learned of my accident. She came running, avoiding cobblestones, I hope, with a first aid kit. After a few minutes trying to stem the bleeding, we agreed that I needed to get to a doctor quickly. So, off we went.  Our first experience with emergency Mexican care.

With both hands in dish towels and blood soaking through, we entered a clinic in Ajijic a few minutes later. One look at my hands and the receptionist got me into a room. She never asked my name or for proof of payment. In came the doctor and nurse. Quickly they began the process of washing the wounds and examining the damage. The gouge was deep and wide, but there could be no stitches to help with that injury. Nothing left to stitch together!  So, it was cleaned and bandaged.  The thumb … well, I was looking at my husband who was on my left as the doctor moved my right thumb.  Husband went white and said, “It’s really hot in here.  I’m going outside for a moment.” 

That’s when I looked to my right.  The poor doctor was drenched in blood. As it dripped off his glasses and as the nurse wiped off his hair, he calmly explained that I had severed the artery in my thumb. I kept apologizing, but he explained that this was rather normal around here. The good doctor cleaned, injected, stitched, and bandaged my hands.  He got me into a sling and helped me outside into the waiting room. 

Within a few minutes, the doctor, in clean clothes and all washed up, brought us into his office. He told me how to care for my hands and gave me the prescriptions.  Then we finally went to pay the bill. 

My battle with the cobblestones turned out to be a long one. Both hands were mummy wrapped for 3 days. Try getting your panties up or down with no fingers to help you.  “Oh, honey, could you come here please?”  Eating was also difficult. Even when I could use a few of the fingers on my left hand, I learned how hard it is to change a pattern.  Food just didn’t easily make it to my mouth. All the tasks that seemed so simple became quite difficult … brushing teeth with a weak left hand … lifting the dog up onto the couch … cutting an apple. 

Six weeks later, I’m almost back to normal. The right hand is insisting on leaving me with a permanent reminder to avoid the cobblestones when possible. The feeling in my thumb is not normal. Know what it feels like when you have a body part really fall asleep and then tingle itself awake?  Well, that’s my thumb. I have to look at it to remind myself about the task at hand. If not, then whatever I’m trying to hold onto will crash to the ground. 

With new admiration for cobblestones, I continue to move through retirement in Mexico. So, tonight I’m carrying a box of wine to our neighbors’ house and making sure that I walk on the paved road.  We’ll toast the fact that the only ice we have is in our drinks!  And to the cobblestones that move the rain waters along so nicely.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

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