Saturday, November 29, 2003

I've promised to make this entry for a while, so here it is....

I have earlier made comments about an accident a couple of years back, which was the catalyst for the upcoming amputation surgery. I have shared this story several times verbally, but this is the first time to do it in print, so here goes:

One of my best friends was building a 60'x40' shop for one of his favorite hobbies: Car Restoration. Anthony is a GM muscle car man, and has a nice variety of examples. The shop was designed to have a paint-bay, a vehicle lift, small office and work bench. The exterior of the building was done, and it was time to pour the concrete floor. The previous weekend was spent laying plumbing lines for the paint bay and small restroom, and final preparations for the concrete. On Monday June 25, 2001, the guys Anthony contracted with to help with the concrete arrived and we started work. The rebar work was first, and these guys showed us the ropes. We had originally planned to spend the Monday getting all the rebar in and then have the concrete trucks come on Tuesday. By 11am, we had decided we were moving ahead with enough speed, that we could have a couple of concrete loads poured that afternoon, so the call was made.

Around noon, the first truck arrived. While no one was assigned a particular duty, since I was near the main entrance door (approx 10' wide by 14' tall), I decided to climb up the wall to check the height of the truck. Just as we were afraid, the truck would barely fit under the door, and once the concrete was removed, it would be too tall to exit. Anthony got his tractor out and we started to 'trench out' the entrance of his shop. We finally got enough dirt removed that we felt confident the truck would be able to leave when empty. The first truck was brought in, and we proceeded to pour the concrete in the back third of the shop. When that driver pulled out, the concrete company was contacted for another truck to be dispatched.

Second truck arrives near the 2 o'clock hour. It appeared the second truck was taller than the first one. As it started backing toward the entrance, I again climbed up the wall to check its height. Since I had been up and down the wall several times during the building of the shop, I got careless in my actions. When I got to the top of the door, while reaching around the door frame to grab onto the ledge, I started leaning to the side to get an "eyeball on the truck". The next few moments happened in slow-motion, at least to me (skip this next paragraph if you are squeamish):

While leaning, I never got the hand-hold I was needed and started to fall. I started waving my arms around in a circle to keep my balance, and started looking at the ground, trying to figure out what was below. The only thing below me was the area we had earlier dug out for the first truck to get in, and that was surface was now at a sideways angle. When my right foot touched the ground, I saw my foot and ankle roll to the right, then disappear from sight. I then distinctly remember seeing two whitish 'sticks' just above where my ankle had just been but then those two sticks jabbed into the ground. While falling, I was trying to remember not to fall backwards, as the door frame had a sharp metal corner that would tend hurt if hit and as such I tumbled forward. When I looked down at my leg, my right foot was not at the end of my leg, but my leg was curved at a 90 degree angle a few inches above my ankle. The two sticks I saw were the tibia and fibula, and I was still looking at them (now covered in dirt).

At this point, while not feeling any pain yet, I proceed to start yelling, "It's broke! It's broke!". When the guys came to where I was, the looks in their eyes was not what I wanted to see. (Quick Note: I had been a police office for 8+ years prior to this, leaving that profession a few years prior to this accident. As such, I had learned to keep a cool head on my shoulders in times of emergencies. This training started paying off very quickly). Not being the shy type, I started instructing each of the guys their "duty assignments". "Anthony, your cell phone is on the dash of your truck, call 911", "You, go to the intersection, wait for the ambulance and direct them here", "You, go tell that truck driver to move that truck so the ambulance can get in here", "You, take a few steps to the right, so you will block the sun from my eyes". I was a regular bossy guy, but I wasn't to concerned at the moment.

I have no idea what it is like to be looking down at a close friend and see, what appears to be, a leg severed from a body. Please realize that I love Anthony to death, always have and always will. But the next part is somewhat humorous, now that time has past. Anthony was stumbling across his words when talking to the 911 dispatcher. I told Anthony what to tell them, even down to the point of "compound fracture, right tib/fib". Once the dispatcher was through talking and told Anthony to hang-up, I asked him to call my wife. Again, I have no idea how it feels to call the wife of a close friend, so I just asked for the phone and told her what was going on. Then, for some unknown reason, I called my office to let them know I wouldn't be in the next day. All this time I wasn't feeling any pain, but it never registered in my brain that I should be hurting.

After what seemed like hours (was more likely just a few minutes), we finally heard the ambulance siren. When it finally pulled in, and the EMTs rushed to me, I saw that same look in their eyes, as I had just experienced with the other guys. The EMTs immediately went into the 'calm talking mode' to reassure the patient, something I had observed and done several times during my law enforcement days. Once they realized I wasn't freaking out on them, nor was I writhing in pain, they started the exercise of securing my leg as best possible with the equipment from their ambulance and got me loaded. As long as I live, I will never forget Anthony coming around the back of the ambulance to check on me prior to us driving away (Anthony, I won't share our conversation here, we have already had our own private laughs about it).

I don't remember being scared, until the ambulance driver turned on the siren when we headed to the hospital. I always believed that a code three run to the hospital meant bad news for the patient. When I questioned the EMT working on me about it, he advised it was policy for a "hot run" whenever a compound fracture is involved. To this day, I don't know if it really is policy, or just his 'calm talking' routine again. When we finally got to the hospital, and rolled back into the emergency room, it wasn't long until I felt true comfort. This happened when I heard the familiar squeaking of the wheels from my daughter's stroller. That signaled to me that my wife was there.

While this day still has a lot of writing to do, I think I will save it for a future entry.

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