In the Paint
Join Date: Dec 2007
Being Old Rocks!
or not? From the San Jose Mercury -
Rubber duck woman's lifesaver
By Dana Guzzetti
Shirley Madsen, who turned 90 Thursday, survived three days trapped in her bathtub by drinking water from a rubber duck.
"I have never been so terrified in my life," Madsen, of Walnut Creek, said of her harrowing experience.
Madsen's daughter, Diane Weber, of Walnut Creek, said doctors at John Muir Medical Center-Walnut Creek Campus were amazed at her mother's ability to recover from days of little sleep or water, and no food.
The potentially fatal episode began when Madsen returned from a seniors' bus trip to Cache Creek Casino Resort on the evening of May 27. "I love the Indian casino. They have such wonderful buffets," Madsen said.
But she skipped the buffet before boarding the bus for home.
"I only had an egg and a half of a pancake for breakfast," Madsen said. "When I got home I was trying to decide whether to have dinner first or take a bath."
The spunky woman chose the latter, not expecting that she would be too weak to get out of the tub, and unable to reach anyone for help.
"When I tried to get out of the tub, I just didn't have the strength to lift myself out," she said.
Daughter Christine Steigelman, who lives in Camarillo, had talked to her mother during their regular 3:30 p.m. phone call, and called her again at 7 p.m.
There is a telephone in Madsen's bathroom, but this time, she forgot to place it next to the tub when she got in.
"When there was no answer, I thought it was bingo night," Steigelman recalled.
Madsen, a former Walnut Creek School Board member, is active with friends at the Pleasant Hill Senior Center, a regular at the "old boys'"‰" weekday morning coffee klatch at the Countrywood Shopping Center in Walnut Creek, and meets family for weekend breakfasts out.
That vitality is one reason relatives were not more alarmed when she was unreachable for two days.
"She is always so busy, we figured she was out having a good time with the senior citizens," Weber said. "It is perfectly logical, yet it is still unexpected because she is so healthy and independent."
But in fact, Madsen was at home in her bathtub fighting for her life. Throughout the ordeal, she repeatedly replaced the cold bath water to stay warm.
Madsen's biggest fear was dehydration because she was not able to cup enough fresh water in her hands to drink.
"I have this collection of rubber duckies. There is a fireman, a policeman and others," Madsen said. "I jokingly tell my friends that I am going home to take a bath with the boys."
On the second day of her watery ordeal, Madsen discovered that the sailor duck, a recent gift, had a hole in it, and that became her drinking cup.
"I could hear people walking by and the phone ringing from time to time," Madsen said. "I was calling for help, but I guess they just couldn't hear me.
"I kept thinking they would be horribly upset to find me dead in a bathtub," Madsen recalled.
At her Southern California home, Steigelman had become so concerned that she insisted that her sister go to their mother's house early, instead of meeting her as usual for breakfast on Saturday.
"Thursday, I started to get a bad feeling," Steigelman remembered.
A stunned Weber was on her cell phone with Steigelman when she arrived at Madsen's home. "The car was in the driveway and there were three newspapers in front."
Imploring her sister not to hang up, Weber reluctantly entered the house. "I was walking in the front door "... then I hear 'help' in this tiny, little voice," she said.
After an ambulance trip and three days in the hospital, Madsen is back at home recovering from dry skin, the equivalent of two bed sores and a deep tissue bruise.
According to all concerned, this could happen to anyone.
"We are close (family) and we had a routine, but we did not have a plan," Steigelman said.
Now, Madsen is getting a waterproof medical alert device to wear and the family has a plan in place to go to their mother's home if she does not answer their twice-daily phone calls.
"I will never get in another bathtub, ever," Madsen said.
With a laugh, she further advises: "Get a bunch of rubber duckies and make sure one of them can't swim."