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Carelessness can cost you

The tab for a brief instant of inattention? More than $1,900 so far.

By Donna_Freedman Jan 14, 2011 11:02AM
Last May I broke my toe in a moment of carelessness, i.e., I was exercising while thinking about something else. (Really bad idea.)

I wrote about it in a post called "Inattention can cost you. Ask me how I know," describing the incident as "a slightly painful reminder to focus on what I'm doing while I'm doing it. Next time I might not be so lucky."

Guess what? I wasn't.
Last week I was house- and dog-sitting for a friend in Los Angeles. As I headed out for my final walk with Trevor the golden retriever, I started to think about organizing my suitcase. The next thing I knew, I was flying. I'd missed one of the steps down to the sidewalk.

I landed on my left wrist and left knee, twisting my right foot underneath me. Somehow I managed to get back into the house, fix an ice pack and sit down by the back door, foot propped on a chair. (I chose the back door in case the dog needed to go out.)

And boy, did I feel stupid. Multitasking is fine if you're sitting at a desk. If you're walking at dusk with a dog on a leash? Not so much. It was a repeat of last spring's bonehead move, and this time the physical and financial cost would be greater.

My foot's on fire

When my friend and her family returned that evening, she wanted to drive me to the emergency room. I declined, but gratefully accepted her offer to bring me an elastic bandage.

In the middle of the night I woke up, ankle on fire and needing to go to the bathroom. I rewrapped my foot but the idea of putting any weight on it made me feel sick. Instead, I crawled down the hall and back again.

The next morning when my friend said, "Please let me take you to the ER," I accepted the ride. Several hours later, the verdict: Bad sprain, nothing broken.

Here's what my moment's inattention has/will cost:
  • $17 for pain medication (should have asked for just two or three tablets but I was too tired to think clearly).
  • Tips to wheelchair-pushing skycaps at the Burbank, Phoenix and Seattle airports (I went from the dog-sitting job to visit my daughter).
  • About $7 for a gel ice pack when I arrived.
  • $3.29 for the soft drink that allowed me to sit in a lounge area for several hours (my airline counter wasn't open when I arrived).
  • $50 to check my carry-on twice.
  • $35 plus tip for an airport shuttle home, vs. a $3 light rail/bus combo.

The total will go up -- way up -- once my insurance has had a look at the ER bill (whatever it winds up being). I believe my deductible is $1,750.

Of course, a lot of self-employed people don't have any insurance at all. I was lucky to be accepted by a Seattle HMO a few years ago. The monthly tab is now $408, but I pay it because no machine runs for more than 50 years without some maintenance issues.

The HMO has "partnerships" with clinics and hospitals in other states, in case you're injured while traveling. Imagine how much this little mishap would have cost me if I didn't have coverage.

(Note: If you couldn't get health insurance because of a pre-existing condition, be advised that states and the federal government have put together temporary coverage options for high-risk patients. These are stopgap plans until health care reform is up and running.)

It didn't have to happen

The injury also cost me in terms of enjoyment. I hadn't seen my daughter for almost a year and was looking forward to taking walks with her and visiting museums and cultural attractions. Instead, I spent way too much time stuck in the house with my foot up on a chair.

And all because I was thinking about packing, instead of thinking about walking down a few steps to the sidewalk.

I'm lucky it wasn't worse. My left knee was scraped and my left wrist was sore but neither they nor my ankle were broken.
But didn't I say that the last time this happened? "It could have been worse." The fact is, it didn't have to happen at all.

I hope that you'll be a lot more careful about where you put your feet. This is especially true for those who text while walking. Seriously: Cut it out. You may be proud of your ability to multitask. Sure, it's possible to do dangerous things -- until it isn't.

And if you end up in the ER, hurting and also fretting how much this is costing, you'll feel about as stupid as I did.

Donna Freedman is the MSN Money Living With Less 
columnist and also blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

Jan 20, 2011 1:13PM
Oh do I hear that!!  One moment of inattention shattered my ankle (not good for a 58 year old woman!), causing numerous trips to an orthopedic center 180 miles away, two surgeries, hospital stays for both surgeries (the ankle joint had to be pieced back together again), off work for one week short of 6 months (thank God for STD!!), lots of physical therapy.  After effects:  early onset arthritis in my shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands due to having to be on crutches for 4 1/2 months, totally non-weight bearing.  I was so angry at myself!!  I had never broken a bone or spent any time in a hospital aside from the birth of my children!   I am in good health, continue exercising and can get around just fine, but am reminded daily of my clumsiness!  Pay attention to your surroundings - always!
Jan 14, 2011 3:09PM



Sorry for your mishap.  Hope you're back on your feet soon.  How awful that this happened on vacay.  When I'm sick on vacay, all I can think about is that I could be miserable at home FOR FREE.

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