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When I Fell provides a vivid perspective of an elderly woman’s sudden trauma and hospitalization after shattering her pelvis in an unfortunate fall. The story is presented in a narrative, first-person account by the defenseless, often sedated patient. From this viewpoint of a hindered woman, author Sandra Kolankiewicz and artist Kathy Skerritt have assembled an exquisite literary and richly illustrated backdrop for a deep, socio-psychological essay.
The main character is an 80-year-old woman already resigned to her assisted-living status. Her vulnerability is compounded by the accident, the need for surgery vital to avoid rapid degeneration, permanent infirmity, perhaps even death. Readied for surgery while contemplating the questionable outcome of a life-threatening operation at her advanced age, the patient waits her turn, flat on her back in an overloaded hospital. In the meantime, she capitulates to the effects of heavy painkillers--narcotics that arouse wild hallucinations and sporadic outcries in reaction to fragmentary flashbacks. Oddly enough, an inspired, clairvoyant, attending nurse hones in on the patient’s wavering cognizance, taking it upon herself to prescribe what she calls 'traveling', a form of astral projection, as a method for revisiting the past in lucid detail.
At this terminal intersection of the story, Sandra Kolankiewicz chooses to recalibrate the patient’s emotional imbalance rather than the prognosis for surgery and its aftermath. The author leverages the sufferer’s immediate helplessness and passivity to medication and meditation to affect a dreamlike appraisal of her lifetime. As the moments pass, the bed-ridden woman begins to clearly recount both her joys and regrets, unearthing a bone of contention: that the suppressed nature of her white-bread upbringing contributed to her personal downfall in womanhood. The author builds the proposition that the crippling impacts of deep-seated social conventions continue to impart considerable misery on women and others constrained by precedence.
When coached by her mysterious nurse, the patient enters a psychic self-examination, exposing the circumstances of a failed womanhood dating back nearly half a century. As the liberating effect of her astral travel heightens, the injured victim begins to unlock her most humanitarian sentiments on childhood, race, sexuality, education, marriage, family, community, and death. She ponders why she surrendered her natural yearnings to wasteful social convention with nothing but shame to behold.
Instructively, the author feeds the patient full doses of conflicting memories; forcing her to swallow the good with the bad until she admits her secrets and attempts to redeem what’s left of life and love. The story’s philosophic message confirms that true emancipation takes a back seat to artificially-imposed customs, formalities, and inherited legacies. Relevant as a discussion on free will and self-determination, When I Fell smartly re-wires the connections between moral behavior and societal values.