“How did I manage to get myself into this situation? I have just got in from work and need to unwind!”, I thought as I stood in the lift with, seemingly, no possible way of getting out! I had run through a list of options and as each one drew a blank, the seriousness of the situation began to dawn on me. I no longer found this fiasco as amusing as I did when I first held down the up button on our through- the-floor home lift, and it travelled for about two seconds, jolted and then came to an abrupt stop. I initially thought I had eased the pressure I was applying to the button, as the button for the direction you are travelling in must be pushed until you get to your destination. I therefore pushed harder, but nothing happened. Assuming I just needed to hold the down button to release the lift car and at least get it to go back down, I giggled a little when nothing happened. Pushing the up button again did nothing either; it then dawned on me that I was stuck.
“OK, Ronke think; there’s got to be a way out”. My optimistic mind started working as I started having my usual internal conversation as I do in situations like this. “At least there is no chance of feeling claustrophobic or there being of a lack of air if I am here for an extended period”. All the walls of the lift which is built to travel from our living room to the bedroom, are made of completely transparent glass. Coupled with that, the lift and has a stable like glass door which is only half the height of the six foot tall lift. This means that apart from leaning with half of my body out to get fresh air, there was a free flow of air coming in from the living room.
I knew that pushing the door open which was the normal way of opening it would not work and that the latch would remain locked until the lift was firmly on the floor. That did not stop me from trying; I pushed and shook the door several times. Apart from it rattling, the latch remained firmly locked. Climbing over the stable like glass door would be easy peasy for an able bodied person. However, when you are a right leg above the knee amputee with little control over the knee movement of the prosthetic leg, it is almost impossible. Just for the record, I did actually try. I put my “good leg” over the door first but alas my prosthetic leg was not strong enough to give me a push up to help me swing it over the door. I also tried to do it in the reverse, but I did not get anywhere trying to put my prosthetic leg over the door first as I had to hold the leg straight with my left hand to even start the manoeuvre. Try holding a 42 inch leg straight, in a space that is the width of less than half the length of your leg, and you know you are fighting a losing battle.
“Call the lift company and let them know you are stuck”, I continued my inward conversation. Fortunately, I had my phone on me, so I called them only to get their voicemail with no option of who to call in an emergency. It then dawned on me that the reason the emergency button in the lift sounds nowhere but within the house is because emergencies are meant to be dealt with by people in the house. In dire circumstances, we are expected to call the emergency services! No wonder the lift company said nothing about calling them in an emergency when they installed the lift three weeks ago.
Option number two for getting out of this sticky situation was less desirable. Call my husband, who went out about an hour ago and would not be back until late and get him to make the journey back to help me out of the lift. Thinking of how my husband would panic when I tell him I am stuck in the lift and how long I would be waiting for him to make the journey back to help me out, I started to search for his number in my phone. I was about to tap his number when I stopped short as a sudden realisation dawned on me. He is not going to be able to get in! Not only did I apply the security lock to the door, I also left the key in the door! He will not be able to get in without someone opening it from the inside and that “someone” was stuck in the lift! “OK, this is getting serious. I am no longer amused! I could call the emergency services but replacing the front door they would have bash down will cost a fortune, and what would we do to secure the house overnight?”
Survival instinct kicked in! “I’ve got to get out of this lift with as little drama as possible.” Doing this with my prosthetic leg on was not going to work so despite all my senses saying, “don’t take it off!”, I did. The least arduous way to take the leg off was to take it off with my trousers. What did it matter? It wasn’t like any surprise visitors would be able to enter the house. Once I took the leg off, I leant it on the wall inside the lift car; There was no way I was leaning over the door to put it against the outer wall. Supposed it fell to the floor and for some reason, I still had to call the emergency services?! How do I even start trying to explain to them how I ended up on one leg in the lift in just my top and undies, while my prosthetic limb is lying on the floor outside the lift.
I started to device a means to get out. If I could push my left hand and foot against one of the walls and do the same with my right hand on the wall on the opposite side, this may give me enough strength to push myself up so I would be level with the top of the door. I could then sit on the top of the door, swing my leg and my stump over and jump out. Feeling like spider man, I started my manoeuvre and to my great surprise I was able slide upwards on just three limbs within about a minute, albeit by this time sweating and panting. For a few seconds I stared at the door thinking, “Do I really want to sit on this door?” This was one of the scariest things because although it was jammed shut, I remembered how it rattled when I shook it making it feel very flimsy. I had visions of me putting all my weight on it, making it fly open. The words amputee and broken bones are not a fantastic combination!
Mustering all the courage I could, I sat on the top of the door and jumped down on my leg, ensuring that I bent my knee as I landed so it would not take the full force of the impact.
Once I realised that I was free, the adrenalin rush mustered by survival instinct subsided and this was replaced with sheer annoyance! Someone had to be blamed for me getting stuck in the lift. I called the workmen who had been in the house earlier that day to ask if they had touched the lift and as expected they said they had not. A call to my husband yielded the same result though he felt sorry I got stuck in the first place and was relieved that I had managed to get myself out with no broken bones!
The only other people to vent on was the lift company who I called the following day; they sent an engineer to see what was wrong. Locating the fault was not my bugbear, it was the amusement on the engineer’s face when I told him how I got out. Getting in the lift, closing the door and pushing it up to the level where I got stuck, he said, “all you had to do was this”, as he completely removed the door by holding it on either side and pulling it up firmly, making it slide out of the hinges and the latch. Even seeming more amused, he brought out a bank card, and said if you had one of these on you- which by the way I did have when I was stuck in the lift- you could have slotted it into the latch to release the lock. As he was talking, he demonstrated this very simple manoeuvre, asking me, “didn’t anyone tell you this? I could have come up with a myriad of inappropriate responses, but my Christian heart got the better of me and I simply smiled and said, "No". After he left, I resolved to put the experience down to part of my “the adventures of an amputee” series.
You’ve gotta laugh!