Accident (Los Altos Town Crier December 2013)
My brother had an accident. He was working overtime on the weekend, on a 10-foot ladder. The ladder slipped backwards from under him, and he fell with it onto a wood-composite deck. He broke both wrists, his shoulder blade, and every bone in his face except his lower jaw.
Day 1 –He spends in Intensive Care, in critical but stable condition, in an induced coma.
Day 2 – my brother is in surgery for nine hours, first for a tracheotomy to enable breathing, since his nose and sinus cavities are shattered, then to reassemble his face. The reassembly requires eleven titanium plates and ninety-three screws.
Day 3 – The doctors bring my brother out of the induced coma so they can test for possible spinal injuries. As he regains consciousness, according to a family member in the room “he made a sound of such excruciating pain that no human should have to make. He won’t remember it, but his son and his fiancée who were in the room will never forget it.”
The doctors put my brother back down into coma while they “adjust the pain-killers.”
Day 4 – With better pain management, my brother comes out of his coma. He can respond to questions with eye blinks, head shakes, and nods. Feeding tube and tracheotomy limit his speech.
Day 5 – His son brings in a white board. Holding a marker between two numb fingers, my brother can write a wobbly word or two. His first word: MOM?
Day 7 – My brother is out of Intensive Care. The doctors have found no damage to his spine, brain, vision. When he first put his feet to the ground he discovered another injury – a broken toe that had gone un-noticed earlier.
Day 8 – My brother goes home from hospital. Both arms are in splints, and his jaw is wired to prevent chewing , which might dislocate his carefully re-assembled face. He has lost twenty pounds during the three days before the feeding tube was inserted.
Day 15 – My mother and I fly up to help the care-giving team. We are apprehensive about what that new face will look like, but to our delighted surprise my brother’s new face looks pretty much like the old face – maybe the nose is a little shorter, a little straighter. My nephew shows me a picture of what his dad’s face looked like shortly after he was brought in to the emergency room – like a puddle of lemon jello with red eyes. Amazing.
I take my brother to see the facial surgeon who put him back together. A lady in the waiting room notices his arm casts and comments “I thought they only did facial surgery at this office.” With her attention drawn to the twin casts, she had not noticed anything odd about his face,
My brother’s family thanks God for his recovery. I’m grateful too, but I can’t help thinking “God, what a waste of Your time! It would have been so much more efficient if You had just steadied that ladder!”