I apologize for ignoring all my email messages for most of the week, but I was not answering any messages because of a serious tree-and-chainsaw accident that I was having last Tuesday, November 7th. I was in the hospital, my computer (and all of your emails) were on my desk at home. Thanks for understanding!
I decided to write this message for several reasons. My main motivation is to put your minds at ease and thank you for your many, many prayers for me during the past several days. I am so grateful to God that he has spared my family a serious loss–we realize more and more that God still has His work for us to do on earth together, and that thanks to His grace I am alive at all.
Our big Black Walnut tree between the garage and the barn
It all started on Tuesday when I decided I needed to cut a nice dead branch off our Black Walnut tree in the back yard. This big “two-trunk” tree had a nice, big and very dead branch on the left-hand (forward) trunk, which would make a good collection of seasoned, ready to split firewood. The entire branch was already dead, with no leaves growing on it this year, and most of the bark already peeling back for most of the length of the branch.
I set up our aluminum ladder on the right-hand trunk, so that I could reach the branch that I was after with the chain saw, and got to work–I made a cut to the bottom side of the branch and then the top… but then the branch let go of its trunk with a very sudden snap, and the butt of the branch swung sideways and hit me on the left side of my head.
You can see from this picture how the branch landed far to the right of the right-hand trunk and the ladder (which I was standing on)–It’s all physics, I’m sure–centre of gravity and all that, but as soon as the branch was suddenly no longer supported by the left hand trunk, it snapped to the right, hit me in the head and knocked me off the ladder. I am re-constructing this, because I don’t remember anything from the time I made the top cut–until I woke in the hospital some time later. Here’s what happened in between:
Norma Jean was right nearby in the chicken coop at the time, and she ran over to find me on the ground under the butt of the branch, which somehow had landed on top of me after bringing the ladder down. She got the branch off me and says that I was bleeding from where the branch had hit me in the head, and while she thought of calling “911” right away, instead she decided to run to the house, get the phone and the car keys and get me to the hospital right away herself. She drove the car over to where I was on the ground, and got me in the car (with my “help”, but I can’t remember any of this part of the day).
Here’s the butt of the branch that hit me in the head. Somehow, I was underneath this (and, somehow, Norma Jean lifted it off me).
Norma Jean said that I talked to her on the car-ride to the hospital (it’s about 20 minutes), but as far as we can tell it was all incoherent: for example, I asked her several times if she had “found my glasses” (she had–they were bent); and when I was in the hospital I said to her, “You have grey hair?” (as if I didn’t realize this before today…)
She got us to the emergency room at the Norfolk General Hospital in Simcoe, Ontario and the staff there helped get me taken care of, stabilized and stopped the bleeding. Since it was a serious head trauma, any scans or needed operations would have to take place at a hospital better equipped for physical trauma cases. The Norfolk General staff decided then to transfer me by ambulance to Hamilton General Hospital trauma unit, about an hour away.
Several of you were praying by now; Norma Jean messaged some people from our church in Simcoe, and a few came to see me at Norfolk General Hospital. We left Norfolk General at about 7:30 PM, and it was about then that I was “awake” and answering “neurological questions” (like, what’s my name, what day is it, etc.) I answered lots of these questions every day for the next few days in the hospital.
I was admitted right away to the Hamilton General Hospital physical trauma unit, and several tests (besides the questions they asked) were taken: blood tests, CT scans and regular “vitals” (temperature, blood pressure, pulse rate). The various “teams” at the physical trauma unit assessed my neurological, skeletal, and internal condition from the accident.
It turns out I had (still have) a depressed fracture of the skull with very little internal bleeding, somewhere above my left eye and ear. I received this skull fracture from the branch, I expect. Further CT scans confirmed this and also concluded that I have three cracked vertebra as well. I was dosed up with some pretty strong IV pain medication on the first night, but then the staff started to give me regular medications by mouth starting on Wednesday to manage the pain.
How do I feel? My head still hurts the worst, most of the time. Then my back and chest, then “all over” like I was hit by a truck. It comes and goes, depending on the timing and effectiveness of the pain medications.
By Thursday at the trauma unit, various departments were “signing off” on me–I was “out of danger” neurologically, I could have the neck brace removed when the spine team agreed, and then the Occupational and Physical Therapy people could start to do their work. It hurt to move, hurt to roll out of bed, even with help. They started me on a “walker” and then I graduated to using a “cane” (which I still use). A couple hours of this practice around the ward became my routine on Thursday and Friday, as I waited for final clearance to go home (and waited to take some more pain medications).
Meanwhile, Norma Jean checked into a housing unit that was available for family members of patients in care at the hospital. She stayed with me through the hospitalization except for a quick trip home to pick up personal effects and be sure that the animals were cared for. Thanks to our friends from our Simcoe church who helped us with all these details! Thanks to all of you who were praying us through these days of “trauma”, both the physical and the emotional.
Friday, and I am almost ready to go home from the hospital: I am released just after lunch. Our daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Eric came up to Canada from Connecticut to spend a week with us and help to look after me here at home. They converted the “living room” into my own home “hospital ward”, where I now stay. They are carefully caring for me, monitoring my diet and medications, and seeing that I don’t hurt myself hobbling over to the bathroom.
We have prescriptions to take now, and several return appointments to medical professionals who will be monitoring my long recovery period. We are taking a hard look at our upcoming plans over the next few months.
It hurts more on the inside than on the outside. Only the Lord knows what the recovery period may be like, but we have been learning some lessons:
- Healing takes time
- I will get “someone else” when chainsaws and ladders are both in the plans
- We will be quietly cancelling or postponing many of our current plans and activities, until we know how I am doing
- God is very, very good to us, and certainly not surprised by this
Thank you all for your prayers.
By the way, I have known for some time in logging culture that such branches and trees that can fall in sudden, dangerous and unexpected ways have been called “widowmakers“. I am so grateful that this one didn’t.
Eventually, I will be getting caught up with my correspondence. Thank you for your patience. One Hundred Eighteen to go.
With our thanks for God’s care and your prayers.
Bill & Norma Jean