Several months past my husband got a phone call from his best friend Bill. Usually there is a lot of bantering back and forth and laughing as they continue to talk. However, this time there was complete silence on my husband’s part and I immediately knew something was wrong.
My roommate from college and Bill were both in our wedding. Bill was best man and Jane his wife was one of my bridesmaids. Jane passed away almost two years now and so we make sure that we stay in touch with Bill. Our friendship has lasted over 55 years, so we know from the tone Bill’s voice the event had to be awful.
My husband put the phone on speaker. After a long pause, Bill started out by saying Steve, his son, had an accident at work. Steve is a foreman for a tree trimming company in Crawforsdville, Indiana. Crawfordsville is where both my husband and Bill grew up. Bill went on to discuss the accident. The first question was how bad of an accident? Bill said, “it’s bad.”
Apparently, there were two people ill that day at work. The tree job that Steve and his partner were going to do only left Steve to take down a tree. Normally the job would have been cancelled; after the inspection of the job from both Steve and his boss saw no complications and Steve got the clearance. The lot was flat, so no problem on getting the tree to fall the way he wanted it to fall. As he finished up the notching of the tree it began to gently fall forward just as planned. Steve had his back turned to the falling tree when he heard a loud crack. The tree was falling but there was a branch from another tree sticking out just enough to break the fall and throw off the tree’s trajectory. The tree fell in the direction Steve was walking. It happened so fast that he never saw the tree heading right towards him. The tree gave a bouncing blow to Steve’s upper back and to the back of his head.
The homeowner was standing at the window and watched in horror as the accident happened. Before Steve hit the ground the owner was on the phone with 911. The first responders were there within minutes and had Steve transported to the hospital. The one responder told the homeowner that if that tree had fallen squarely on Steve’s back, he would not be alive. They estimated the tree was over 800 pounds. However, the glancing blow caused a lot of damage, how much they couldn’t tell right away.
Bill said the doctors induced a controlled coma because of the severity of the injury to the spine. Any movement could bring on paralysis. The doctors also agreed to take Steve to the main hospital in Indianapolis so specialists could begin their assessment.
As we ended the phone call my husband and I discussed whether to tell our daughters right now or wait till we heard more. Decision made we began calling our family. Each one expressed shock at the news but also asked how Bill was faring with this crisis. Our answer was that he was doing as good as could be expected and he was up to the challenge of guiding everyone through this crisis.
For the next week we got a nightly report from Bill on Steve’s progress. On day three the doctors operated to put stabilizing rods in his back. They also were monitoring the swelling of the brain. The doctors had a consultation with a head trauma doctor from one the best hospitals in the area. Day 10 and it was time for Steve to be brought out of the coma. At first, he did not know what happened and had little recognition of Bill or his own wife. The doctors had warned them that he may be slow to gain memory back but all should be fine within a few weeks. The next day when Bill went to see him, Steve greeted him with, “hello dad!” We got to talk to Bill that evening, he was just really relieved. The other news wasn’t as good from the doctors.
It seemed the glancing blow to the back and the swelling due to the broken bones had paralyzed him from shoulders downward. The doctors explained it was way too early to know if the paralysis was permanent, partial or just temporary.
Three weeks after the accident the pain level Steve was having was having to back of the head was great concern to the doctors. Once again, a consultation happened and a new course of action was taken to relieve the pressure from the back of the brain. A shunt was placed in the area of the swelling. Now it was a wait and see if the shunt reduced the pain level. Finally, a successful procedure!
Steve’s upper shoulders were beginning to get more feeling but nothing below elbow area was responding to the daily tests.
Two months into the recovery time Steve said he felt tingling in his fingers and arms. An excellent sign the doctors said but, that did not mean he would have full functionality to the rest of the body. Caution was the word.
It was now almost three months and from talking to Bill we were beginning to worry about him. He sounded so exhausted. We asked if he wanted help? He said in the future he may need us but just keep everyone in our prayers.
The next week was a turning point. Morning checkup proved to be excellent news. Steve was now having partial feeling in his legs! Over the next week feeling in his legs was stronger and stronger. From a sitting position on the hospital bed the doctors tried to have Steve stand. He could do the standing with the assistance from the doctors but he told them he could not feel his feet. Not to worry one of the doctors assured Steve that was temporary, soon he would be able to feel his feet. The optimism of the words from the doctor wasn’t going to happen.
Progress was not happening and everything seemed to be at a standstill. It was decided to let Steve go home but to come back daily to receive physical therapy. Steven ended up going home in a wheelchair. His attitude all through the process was positive but when he got home his attitude was even better.
On a visit to his doctor Steve complained of the outside of his legs hurting and stinging. Once again, the doctors consulted with other specialists. The decision was the nerves were beginning to wake up. The doctors called the family in for a consultation at which they believed that his body was ready to respond to more aggressive physical therapy at a special facility in Denver, Colorado.
Arrangements were made for Steve to fly to Denver four weeks ago. He makes a phone call to his dad every day to tell him of his progress. Yesterday Steve told Bill that the doctors said that instead of two months at the clinic he would be home for Christmas. But that is not all, he will be walking to get on the plane to come home. Better yet, he will not be returning to Denver!
Now, isn’t this a real Christmas story?
If you have a wonderful Christmas story please send it to Barbara Trimble, 308 Commercial Street, Atchison, KS 66002 or email: Barbara.