Doctors at the Iowa City VA Health Care System in Iowa City, Iowa, are baffled by the case of a local man who appears to have lost the ability to remain vertical while standing for more than five minutes at a time. In fact, Ernest Umble has been seen at various emergency rooms throughout Iowa City no less than 14 times in the past 30 days, and hospitalized 5 of those times for two to three days on average.
For lack of a sound diagnosis for these falls, Mr. Umble’s primary care physician, Dr. Stan Dupp, has concluded that the patient presents himself as being cursed with a very rare condition known as hyper-gravitational disorder or HGD.
While Parkinson’s Disease has been ruled out, the doctors have not yet ruled out other potential causes for Mr. Umber’s inability to remain erect, including the supposition that he may just like lying down better than he likes standing up, a theory that Mr. Umber says is totally preposterous.
“If that were the case, don’t you think I’d make sure I was standing on a soft surface, such as a bed or a mattress before deciding to lie down?” asked the frustrated patient.
This statement elicited a few giggles from a local newspaper reporter who was sent to cover this strange medical drama playing out in various venues in and around Mr. Umble’s neighborhood, most commonly in his home and/or the very hospitals where he has been treated.
“His first fall was at home, down the stairs, while trying to avoid one of my cats,” said Margie Umble, Ernest’s bride of just under 7 months. “It was downhill from there,” she said half-jokingly.
“We had just moved into a new townhouse, and were joking around about how the cats sleep in the darndest places,” said Margie, “when Ernest lost his footing trying to step over my cat Freckles on the 5th step. Down he tumbled,” said Margie, “…Ernest, not Freckles that is.”
That fall landed Ernest in the hospital with a fracture of the lower spine, and necessitated surgery to repair the damage. Ernest wasn’t home more than two or three days recuperating from that surgery when he contracted pneumonia and had to be re-admitted. Doctors say the next fall, suffered in the hallway of the hospital where Ernest was being treated for the pneumonia can be linked directly to the lack of oxygen, a symptom of severe pneumonia. According to Margie, Ernest was trying to maneuver his IV stand over the threshold to his hospital room when he went flying into an adjacent wall.
However, the other falls, 12 more since that first fall, have left Mr. Umble’s doctors scratching their heads. Short of strapping Mr. Umble to his bed for the remainder of his life, or until a suitable treatment plan can be designed to keep his falls to a minimum, doctors are running out of answers.
“It is getting to the point where we are seriously considering wrapping Mr. Umble in bubble wrap from head to toe in order to minimize any further damage,” said Dr. Dupp.
In the meantime, a team of physicists from Stanford University have asked Mr. Umble for his permission to study him in hopes that his unique inability to stand erect for more than a few minutes at a time may somehow prove the last part of Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Mr. Umble has yet to respond due to the fact that he is currently in traction at Mercy Iowa City Hospital after falling UP the stairs at his home on Thursday.
The good doctor added “Mr. Umble is giving new meaning to the term accident PRONE.”
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