Glen Taylor is just happy to be right-side up.
The Hermiston octogenarian spent a harrowing 20 minutes or so stuck upside down on an inversion table last Thursday evening. He’d purchased the device after watching an infomercial about health benefits of inversion therapy.
Advocates of inversion tables say hanging upside down can relieve backaches, soothe arthritis, stimulate the immune system, improve circulation and otherwise counteract the effects of gravity. Taylor, who relies on a wheelchair and walker to get around, was intrigued with the idea. He deals with both diabetes and back pain and is a lung cancer survivor. He had polio as a boy.
He ordered a Teeter ComforTrak Inversion Table, which arrived several days later. A friend helped Taylor assemble the unit. The 82-year-old tested the table a couple of times with the friend spotting and liked how his back felt. On Thursday night, Taylor, who lives alone, found himself in the mood for a little spinal decompression. He climbed onto the padded board and strapped his feet to the device in his bedroom. He tipped back and let gravity do its job. In a flash, he flipped 180 degrees.
“It threw me back,” Taylor said.
When all safety features are enacted, users control inversion tables with arm movements. Taylor’s bad eyesight had prevented him from reading the instructions in depth and he didn’t watch the Blu-ray disc that came with the unit because he only had a DVD player. If he had done either, he would have connected a tether strap that controls the desired angle of rotation.
The retired truck driver and sheet metal worker attempted to rock back around and couldn’t.
“I realized I was really in trouble,” he said.
His orange cat, Pest, wandered around the apartment but wasn’t in the mood to help. However, Taylor wore a Life Alert help button around his neck on a black string. After a few minutes of panicked inversion, he pressed the button and told the operator he was stuck. Two paramedics and a police officer sped to Taylor’s Hermiston Avenue apartment, not knowing exactly what they would find.
“We received a 9-1-1 call,” said Hermiston paramedic Chris Wrathall. “Initially, we went to the front door and heard someone yelling inside.”
The front door was secured with a deadbolt. The paramedics peered in the windows, wanting to assess the situation before damaging a door or window. Wrathall said he didn’t see Taylor at first as he looked through the bedroom window, but finally spotted the older man off to the right near a wall.
“I had to look at an angle to see him,” Wrathall said. “And there he was on an inversion table.”
The paramedics assessed Taylor through the window and determined that the man’s condition wasn’t life threatening.
“He was talking to us and he wasn’t turning purple,” Wrathall said.
They decided they had time to call the apartment complex’s maintenance person to let them inside. Before he arrived, however, Taylor started complaining of a bad headache and began sweating profusely. Hermiston Police Sgt. Kelly Parsons forced the front door open with his shoulder. Soon, a relieved Taylor was upright.
He decided to share the details of his encounter, hoping his experience could help someone else. He advises using the safety strap and not getting on the device when alone. He’s not giving up on the inversion table, though.
“I love the damn thing,” Taylor said.
After his harrowing upside-down experience, he called the manufacturer to report the incident. The operator, he said, scolded him for not reading the instructions.
A phone call and emails to the Teeter company by the East Oregonian in a quest for more details about benefits and safety weren’t returned.
Taylor said he feels gratitude to his rescuers.
“The next morning, I called the fire department and thanked them,” Taylor said. “Then I called the police department.”
Contact Kathy Aney at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 541-966-0810.