Tuesday, December 19, 2006

What Happened?

Here is, as best I know and likely with many small errors, what happened.

Sometime after 1 on Thursday the 14th of December Dad went out to either cut a tree or cut a branch off a tree. Jamie and Greg seem to think it was a tree, Dad says it was a branch. I haven't been there yet. The cut split (?) and bucked back (?). I really don't understand this part, but guys that cut wood seem to know what that means. Anyway, a large piece of tree fell on Dad. Apparently it heard it coming and wisely turned away. I just now realized how grateful we should be that he didn't get tangled up with his chainsaw at this point.

The tree hit him mid-back, a bit more to the right. He was knocked out and lay in the cold and the rain until he was found sometime between 7-8. According to the hourly report of weather for that day, it was below 40 degrees the whole time he was there, and then jumped up to 50 when the famous storm blew in around 8:30. At first glance I thought, "how sad that it didn't get warm until right after Dad was found". Then I realized that that is one more thing to be grateful for. But we are getting ahead of the story.

Somewhere between 6 and 7 Mom called us as she was worried she couldn't find Dad. Hours earlier she had blown the horn for dinner (they have fog horn they use to call the dogs or to call Dad in if he is out on the land somewhere). He hadn't come. She had looked around the obvious places but couldn't find him. His car and billfold were there. They had planned to go to Kayti's concert that evening. So, either he had left in someone else's car, completely forgetting to tell Mom and forgetting that they had plans, or he had been injured such that he couldn't respond to her calls. I relayed this to Jamie and he put on his coat and went to search.

Jamie and I thought Dad had probably been up on a ladder or something and had fallen and possible rolled downhill and/or tried to walk down hill to the nearest neighbor's house rather than uphill to his house. So Jamie searched the back pasture and the orchard and the field. Finding nothing he searched the house, the attic, the garage, the barn. When Greg (Christy's hubby) and Bob (Dad's bro) arrived, Jamie and eliminated the house and their land. Jamie and Greg searched the roof. They stood in the driveway, flumaxed. Greg noticed an extension cord crossing the driveway and wondered about it. They followed the cord with the spotlight. It left our property and went down the hill, what we used to call the trail to the woods, but is now the shortcut used by residents of the trailer park at the foot of the hill. Very far down the hill, the spotlight found the chainsaw stuck in a tree. Below it lay what appeared to be an unliving body. Jamie and Greg rushed over, of course, and to their amazement, Dad turned his head and looked at them. Jamie shouted up to Uncle Bob to call 911.

Greg reports this conversation:
Dad: "Who are you?"
Greg: "Greg"
Dad: "Who?"
Greg: "Greg Hart. I'm married to Christy."
Dad accepted this, so he appeared to remember her.

The ambulence came and got Dad loaded onto a back-board. I had already called over my dear neighbor to be with the kids so I could join the search, so I had my coat on and was heading out the door when Jamie called me to say that he was found. I asked if his life was in danger; Jamie said he couldn't lie.

I got to the hospital right after Greg and Mom. Not a one of us was allowed back to see him. The chaplain came. This should have been a clue. At this point we thought Dad would be discharged that night or the next day and we would all scold him soundly and he would take it easy over Christmas. We didn't know that he was so badly damaged. The chaplain acts as liason between doc and family. She was kind and helpful and very gentle as she kept having to bring us a little more bad news. Dad's core temperature was 80 degrees; they were having trouble warming him. He had a collapsed lung with lots of fluid and blood. They were taking him to a full body CAT scan to check his internal organs. At one point they told us that after CAT scan he would either go to surgery or to ICU. I think this is when we realized that he wouldn't be home over the weekend.

So, they moved us up to ICU waiting room. We had a long wait and lots of fretting. At this point we thought that the hypothermia was the big deal. The charge nurse assured us that they felt confident they could get him warm. They were pulling his blood out him, heating it up, and putting it back in. It was working. She mentioned that the neurosurgeon on call was en route. This should have been another clue. I guess I didn't want to hear it.

We were sitting in the ICU waiting room when a tall doctor came in.
Doc: "I'm sure you know about spinal injury."
Us: "No, this is the first we have heard."
Doc: "Blah blah blah 6th vertebrae blah blah no chance of recovery." (I'm not hearing well at this point.)
Me: "What kind of timeframe?" (I'm thinking he just told us dad is dying.)
Doc: "????"

So we get it straightened out that he is not dying, just paralyzed. So the paralysis news hits me at least as good news.

So Dad gets settled into ICU. We get to see him. He asks what happened and is incredulous that a tree would have the nerve to hit him. Out of the blue he says "But I didn't have my chainsaw with me." "Yes Papa, you did." He doesn't yet know. Later, the hospital tramua liason, a very kind man, explains to us the surgical options: St. Joe's or Harborview.

Mom and I spent the night at her house. We dozed off around 4. I woke up at 5 and went back to see him. He was awake. The first thing he did was ask if I knew the worst. The morning Doctor had told him. He was fairly resigned to it, though deeply sorrowful for the impact it has on Mom and the rest of us. He particularly grieves for the change this will incur in his time with his little grandkids. Here is one of my favorite pics of one of their favorite pastimes.

In the early afternoon they helicoptered him to Harborview. That will be a new post.

1 comment:

Harvey said...

Thank you so much, Suzanne. I know your dad from FPC, where we are in a men's group. Our family is praying for him, and for all of you.
- Harvey (and Carrie) Chute