Ladder injuries are a surprisingly common event.
Of those that come to hospital, about a third of them come to Intensive Care; and of those in Intensive Care, about a quarter of them will die. Of the people that survive Intensive Care, less than half of them will be home and independent at 12 months.
Certainly, those with head injuries are often never the person that they were before.
The majority of our patients with ladder injuries are men, most of them are over the age of 55. They’re often doing something they’ve done for a long time, and perhaps as they get older their reflexes are less, or their speed is less, or perhaps their strength. At the same time, these are people that are often responsible for their family and those around them.
When the families come into Intensive Care and see them for the first time – often unrecognisable, with injuries to their head, to their body, perhaps on life support machines – it’s a frightening environment.
Often after that injury there’s a readjustment where family now have to care for them. They may or may not be able to drive, or they may not be able to walk. They may require family members or those around them to look after them for things like showering and dressing.
There are a number of things that I’d advise older men about what they might do when using a ladder.
Perhaps the most important would be the way they think about setting up the ladder. If they can pause to reflect and make sure that the ladder is on a stable surface, and leaning against a stable place, and if they can think about having people around with them who might hold the ladder, and if they can keep three points of contact on the ladder at all times. Finally, over-reaching is something that we see contributes quite a lot, so rather than over-reaching, to get back down the ladder and move it.
It sounds ridiculous to talk about ladder injuries as being something that is a big impact on people. I’m sure many of those patients are left wondering if they’d just done something at the time they were using the ladder, whether things would be different.
The effects of these injuries can be physical and psychological; and can affect the patients, but also those around them, in profound ways.