Sunday, December 31, 2006


A reasonably good day. He ate fairly well and rested quite a bit. He welcomes your phone calls (though he only lasts a few minutes) but is not up to visitors quite yet. There will be weeks and weeks in the nursing home in which your visits will be a great blessing, but we are not quite there yet.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


I think it is safe to say that Dad has weathered the rough patch. He sat up for two hours today and ate most of his lunch and dinner. The contrast between Thursday morning and Saturday morning is remarkable.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Fabulous Friday

Wow. Dad is so much better. We are so appreciative of the good nursing care and attentive doctor care and your prayerful care and God's faithful care.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Last night the little grands (my kids) got to see Grandma and Grandpa for the first time since the accident. They handled the hospital environment quite well and were delighted to see their family. When we got in the car, they both said, "Thank you for hospital" and at bedtime reiterated, "Thank you Mama for Dedushka y Babushka (Grandpa and Grandma)." We talked a little about how sad it was to see Grandpa with Ouch. Andy said, "It's okay. More bolshoy (big) sad, no see Grandpa."

I'll resist cluttering this blog with my cute kid stories, but I thought this was so sweet.

Thursday Evening Update

Well they added a few quarts to Dad and his anemia is looking less alarming and the antibiotics seem to be helping his lungs as they no longer sound like a coffee percolator and best of all he ate a good part of his lunch as well as his dinner, so some of the day's anxieties have lessened.

Thursday News

Dad is in a rough patch. The medical team members are concerned about anemia and pneumonia and are taking preemptive measures. He is weary and we need to ask that you do not call the hospital or come to visit at this time. He needs to sleep.

It has been decided that he is not ready for rehab. He needs to get his strength back and let his ribs heal. We expect him to move to a skilled nursing facility sometime next week and then come back to St Joe's rehab in late January.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Well what do you know? The "Here-Have-Some-Pain-Med" nurse is out of the picture and Dad's appetite has returned.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

And Even More Tuesday News

Dad is all settled into his new room at St Joe's South Campus. He is all tuckered out from the move.

Though they are looking forward to visitors in the next few days, they are not quite up for it today.

When that changes, you'll want to know that visting hours on this floor are from 4:30 to 8:00 on weekdays. I'm not sure about weekends.

More Tuesday News

Moving today to St Joe's in Bellingham (!!!!!!).
Not receiving visitors.
Not receiving phone calls.

I'm at home and getting the news second-hand, so I'm really amazed by this. I'm trying to figure out if this is good news or bad news.

edited at 1:10 pm to add that I think it is good news.

Tuesday News

Not moving today.
Not receiving visitors.
Not receiving phone calls.

Dad is really weak and is not eating. He was eating pretty well until the weekend. I personally think the weekend nurse gave him too much pain med, as when that arrived his appetite fell off.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Posting from Bellingham:

The news of the day is that the chest tube came out yesterday (it was draining all the internal ick from the damage inflicted on the tissues by the jaggedy broken ribs) and that tomorrow or Wednesday Dad is expected to move to the Rehab center at the Pacific Campus of Providence Hospital in Everett.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


Well, we are all happy and excited here. The discharge nurse dropped by today, which was a pleasant surprise as we thought that we wouldn't hear from anyone until Tuesday. She says that he can move on next week. We are waiting on two things: an open bed in Everett and the chest tube coming out. We've found a very hospitable B&B for mom. The proprietress was a rehab nurse and is very welcoming.

On my way to the hospital this morning, I was walking in a daze and missed my turn. I ended up in front of an Episcopal church and was greeted by a friendly deacon. To my surprise I blurted out, "do you bring communion to the hospital?". They do. They did. We had a very small service bedside.

Dad's got the bed all situated so that he can watch the game. Mom and I are feigning interest, but I don't think he is at all fooled.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Today Dad snoooozzzzzzzzzzzed. It was a day of rest for him, napping nearly the whole day. He was awake for a few visits with friends who came by and was clearly delighted to see them. The highlight of his day (and Mom's) are the emails and phonecalls and visits. If you call, don't be sad if he can only talk for a few minutes. He savors the call for hours. So, a big thank you for encouraging and uplifting my parents with your thoughtful attention.

We are in the process of deciding where to do rehab. Of course, all the people whose job is to advise and inform us are out for the long weekend. Our choices are Providence Rehab Center in Everett or Harborview. The medical team here says that either one would be good, so we are trying to figure out the other elements. I think we are leaning towards Everett as we have found a nice place for mom to stay and it is much closer for visitors from home. If you have any experience with either of these rehab centers, do let us know.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Posting from Harborview Hospital

I am back in Seattle again, officially on duty as grape juice dispenser and fluffer of pillows. It is so good to see how much improved Dad is after four days away. The post-surgery mental furriness has dissipated and his color and spirits are good. The big adventure of the day was sitting in a wheelchair. First Dad got to sit in it, which tuckered him right out. Then we got to sit in it. I haven’t figured out yet how to do a wheelie, but I’ve got the 360 degree fast-spin down.

Tomorrow we will receive a few visitors (please call first if you are thinking of coming 360/920-4699) and generally hang out. Tim is here for the weekend, which is a joy to us all.

As soon as Dad’s chest tube is out he will graduate out of the acute care ward and into the next milder level of care. At this point we can probably get a better picture of where and when he will start rehab.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A week ago today

A week ago today, at about this time, Dad had his disagreement with the tree. When he arrived in ER, and for quite awhile after, his blood pressure was 50/33. How bad is this? See this chart. His core temperature was 80 degrees. How cold is this? See this article.

We are so grateful for the grace and mercy and generosity of God that He spared Dad's life; we are grateful for Greg and Jamie, for searching for him until they found him; we are grateful to the medical team for their skills and tenacity. Join us in our evening prayers of Thanksgiving.

Still a good thinker

Dad had his cognitive assessment today and passed with flying colors. This does not surprise me, but it is reassuring to hear it from people with credentials.

Today his projects include sitting up, napping, chatting with family, and the grand finale: transfering to a wheelchair and eating his dinner sitting up. He'll be exhausted, but every day he can sit a bit longer.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Future

On Monday before I left Harborview, we got to talk to the rehab doctor. Of course he was reluctant to make any promises for this particular patient, but we asked him if, for patients with this sort of injury, what we had pictured for the future was a reasonable expectation. He said "Yes."

So we are expecting that other than using a chair and having a rather complicated way of handling waste products, Dad will be able to live a relatively normal life: go to church, go to grandkid's sporting events, go to movies, do many of the things he loves to do. There will be a hard transition period, and certainly some pieces of the old life will not be coming back, but the new life can be pleasant and rewarding.

He and Mom have requested that, as soon as he is medically cleared for take-off, he be transfered to Bellingham for rehab. No one is willing to predict how long this wait will be. My secret (well not secret if I post it here) hope is that he will be back in Bellingham by his birthday, January 12th. They will start rehab and physical therapy at Harborview of course, and then move him when it is appropriate.

I'm still mustering up the energy to describe our experience at Harborview. It was rather a trauma unto itself.

Evening News

Posting from Bellingham, so this is all second-hand news.

Mom and Dad called this evening, absolutely thrilled to receive 17 emails as well as a handful of snail-mails. If you sent one, know that you have richly blessed my parents.

They also report that Dad sat all the way up today for 15 minutes. Every morning and evening he will sit up for a wee bit longer and they hope that tomorrow he can eat his dinner in a chair. Sitting up greatly reduces his risk for pneumonia, which is the last major risk he is facing.

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.

send an email

You can send Dad an email at the hospital. It will get printed and delivered to him. I don't know his new room number, but he is on 7East.

Monday, December 18, 2006

settled in

Dad graduated out of ICU today and is in a regular room with a door and only one other patient in it. He ate a bit of real food today and seemed to enjoy it. His spirits are good.

I drove home tonight and am dead weary. I'll try to post more tomorrow.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Evening Report

Posting from Harborview

Dad was fitted for his turtle brace, which he'll get tomorrow. Our old friend Tom Lane came down and prayed with us. Cousins came by. And then, much to our surprise, my sister's old Young Life leader is a nurse our on ward.

Dad started the day on a lot of pain med, probably too much as he is so unaccustomed to any sorts of meds. He fuzzed in and out of the day and I think the nursing staff has a better feel for how little dope it takes to have a big impact on him.

We were blessed today by visits from friends and family. If you are thinking of coming, wait a bit. He'll be here awhile and he'll be better able to converse with you and relish the blessing of your visit down the road a bit.


Posting from Harborview Hospital

Dad is doing great. Everyday that doesn’t bring pneumonia or other complications is a good day. Because of the rib injuries, deep breathing is painful. But deep breathing is necessary for keeping the lungs fully functional. So we help the nurse periodically harass him to inhale strong and deep.

We expect him to be in this ward one more night. It is a one patient / one nurse ward, so he is well tended, but it is very public. There are 24 patients in this room. The more traditional ICU unit is full-up, so the Post-Surgery ward is serving this function for Dad. They expect him to graduate to “acute care” tomorrow, but we don’t know if this will be a new ward or an actual room. We of course would love for him to have a room.

Today he will be fitted for his brace and as soon as it is on he can sit up. At that point the docs can better assess his readiness for rehab.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Good Tidings

Dad is out of surgery and nothing bad happened!! and it was much shorter than expected!! and because it was short he didn't swell up so it is likely that the breathing tube will come out much much sooner than predicted. We are so grateful.

They used steel plates to connect vertebraes 3 through 9 so that Dad can sit up. They expect to sit him up tomorrow. Because he has a small fracture on one of the vertebraes on his neck, he will be in a neck/torso brace for 3 months. This will probably be a blessing to his many broken ribs.

We are all giddy with relief and exhaustion.

Here is the link I promised to my Aunt Donna: The Inn at Virgina Mason.


Posting from: Harborview Hosptial

Dad went into surgery at about noon. The surgeon says 4-5 hours. The anesthesia staff said 12-15. We are averaging the estimates.

It is expected that he will be too swollen to remove the breathing tube until 24 to 72 hours after surgery. This means that they will continue to do his breathing for him and that they will have to keep him sedated it in order to make this work properly. So he will be groggy and unable to talk post-op; definately ICU. We are expecting that he will be down here for weeks healing and learning how to live his new life.

Please hold mom up in your prayers, as living away from home during this is very draining. We are staying in a lovely inn a few blocks from the hospital. They have a shuttle service to the hospital which we really appreciate. Even so, home is better for restoring one's fortitude.

The surgery, as I understand it, is to tidy up the bone fragments from the crushed vertebrae (#6) so that they don't make trouble elsewhere. There is a teeny tiny hope that this surgery would mitigate (only a little bit) his condition. My personal prayer is that it would lower the line of loss (current midchest) to 6-8 inches lower, which would give Dad the use of his abdominal muscles which would help him a lot. The medical staff, here and in Bellingham, have been consistent in telling us that even this little improvement would be statistically rare and not to be expected. So if you are thinking that the surgery will make him walk again, this is the reality check. Do join me though, I ask, in praying that it restores some useful muscles.

Surgery is in the basement where we get no cell phone service and no internet. We come up to the entrance to check messages now and then.

Do feel free to post or email your questions. I'll answer as I can.

We are clearly in a crisis and I keep wanting to call my Dad and have him come swooping in to the rescue, or even to just talk me through it. It's so weird to have him not in his role.

Friday, December 15, 2006

nightly update

surgery is in the morning

It took forever to get him out of ER -- he got in in the early afternoon and into his ward bed at 11:00 pm. Harborview is full to saturation with people that, in the big power outage, opted to use charcol brickets to heat their home. The halls, the rooms, every part of ER is full, one family per bed.

Greg got us a room at a lovely place - turns out to be the last room in the city as refugees from power outages have filled them all. We love GREG!!!!!

Dad is in good spirits. Weary.

We are off to bed.

Hard News

Dad had an accident while cutting down a tree. It bucked (?) and hit him hard. He must have seeen it coming as he had the presence of mind to turn away so it hit his back and not his front. He has crushed many ribs and damaged his spinal cord. Here is the conversation that Dad reports:

Doc: You've broken your back.
Dad: Broken my back? Does this mean I am paralyzed for the rest of my life?
Doc: I'm afraid so.

We are grateful that it is midback, so Dad has his arms and will be able to self-mobilize with a chair. He is feeling plucky and at peace.

He's just been airlifted to Harborview hospital in Seattle for surgery to fuse his spine so that when he does get to sit up he is not flopsy. I don't know when the surgery is: tonight, tomorrow?

I'll post as I can.