I would have updated before now, but a major earthquake has hit my family this past week.
Saturday morning, the phone rang at 3.07am. At first, I thought it was wrong number, so when I realized that my mom had answered, I rolled over to go back to sleep. Easier said than done. I had only been asleep for about two-and-a-half hours, so the jolt awake was pretty effective. As I lay there, I realized that my mom was still on the phone. My brother and sister had gone to a late movie, and I had gone to sleep before they had come home, so my first thought was that something had happened to them. I got up and went down the hall to my parent’s room. My brother was standing just inside their door. At that moment I knew that that call was about Dad. I felt a huge squinch in my gut. There must have been an accident. My dad works on an off-shore oil platform. Accidents on an off-shore oil platform are bad. Very bad. My mom was repeating directions to a hospital. So far it’s not the Other Call. Ben turns to me: “There was an accident at work. Something about Dad’s shoulder.” The squinch shrunk a little at that—after all, it didn’t sound really bad. About eight months ago, my dad separated the bicep on his right arm. --“Do you think it’s his bicep injury?” –-“I don’t know.” We waited while mom continued talking. Finally she hung up the phone. We walked into the room. She looks shaken. She started with what we know. “Dad’s been in a accident at work.” Then she added what we didn’t. “He’s at West Jefferson on the West Bank. His shoulder is injured and they need to do surgery. Tammy from [Dad’s company] and her husband are there with him.” My brother, who is more of a man than he realizes at times, said, “Do you need someone to go with you?” –-“Yes, please go with me. Renee, do you and Tina want to come.” –-“I don’t know—Christine’s still asleep—should I wake her up? What do you think would be best?” She thought for a moment. “Well, I guess just stay here with her until we know what’s going on.” –-“Okay.” Ben went to get ready. He’s kind of woozy having had less than an hour’s sleep. I helped Mom as much as I could. They were out the door by 4am saying that they would call when they got to the hospital. I went back to bed, taking the phone with me for good measure. Not like I slept very well. At 5 ‘til 6, the phone rang. Ben: “Dad is going into surgery. Apparently a compressor blew and a piece of metal severed his shoulder. The surgeon is going to go in and clean out the wound and sew his shoulder back together. He said the surgery would take about an hour-and-a-half.” –-“Do you think I should get Tina up and come?” A pause. –-“No. I guess just wait until he’s out of surgery and then we’ll see.” --“Okay. Thanks for calling. Call me when he’s out.” The squinch in my stomach had grown again. I wondered how they could repair his shoulder in only an-hour-and-a-half, but I wasn’t really awake enough to think about it much. I went back to fitful sleep. At 8am, my alarm went off—we had been planning to go see a young friend who was in the hospital here that day—and I answered the phone. Not the phone. I turned off the clock. I slipped in and out of sleep for about 20 minutes. The phone rang. It was Mom. “Dad just got out of surgery. The bone that connects his collarbone and his shoulder joint on his right arm was shattered. The surgeon said he wired it back together as well as he could. He isn’t really sure how well it will heal. He said Dad will have to wear it in an sling to keep it immobilized for 2 months and then they’ll see.” –-“So what was the injury? 2 hours doesn’t seem like very long to put a shoulder back together.” –“The surgeon talked to Ben—I had to go the bathroom, and the doctor talked to Ben—he said that the nerve bundle and the blood vessels to the arm were all intact, so he just wired what was left of the bone together and sewed the muscles back over it.” Relief surged through me. When Ben had said “severed,” I was afraid of the worst—intricate nerve and blood vessel re-attachment, and maybe not being able to use his hand. . . . Then she said something about an ENT surgeon looking at his face. “His face was hit with shrapnel, too, but he said they can fix everything.” That was vague. Oh well. “Dad’s in surgical recovery, but if you two leave soon, by the time you get here, he should be in a room.” I woke up my sister with “Get up, Tina. We’ve had a busy night and need to go to New Orleans.” –-“Why are we going to New Orleans?” –-“I’ll tell you when I get out of the shower, so just get up and get going.” When I got out of the shower, I briefly explained what had happened and where we were going. She immediately went to get ready. By 9 we were on the road. While we were on the way, Ben text messaged my sister to let her know that Dad looked bad—that the shrapnel had gashed the right side of his face and severed much of his right ear. I can’t even explain how weird it was to see my dad lying in that hospital bed. He was really pale. His face was stitched, his arm bound up and his shoulder bandaged. My dad is a big, strong man who’s made his living working hard at a dangerous outside job. It was very unsettling to see him so helpless. Since Saturday morning, we’ve gotten the rest of the story. Apparently it happened while Dad was doing his rounds (checking the oil wells and natural gas compressors) around midnight. Just as he walked into the compressor room, one of the gas compressors blew. Dad believes that it was a valve from the compressor (a 200 pound piece of metal) that flew into his shoulder, nearly severing it completely, and then ricocheted into his face. He blacked out for a minute and then woke up in a pool of blood. He found the glasses that had blown off his face, looked at his shoulder and then realized that he had to get out of the room immediately—the compressor was releasing thousands of cubic feet of natural gas into the room. He held his shoulder together and crawled up the stairs to the living quarters on the upper deck. When he couldn’t get the door open, he kicked it until the mechanic woke up and came to the door. Tom called for a medivac while Dad held a bag of frozen rice on his shoulder. My dad is amazing. I can’t even imagine what that was like—and have avoided thinking about it too much. I have also tried very hard to avoid thinking about how close we were to the Other Call. If my dad hadn’t woken up when he did. . . if he hadn’t been able to get up the stairs. . .if Tom hadn’t heard him soon enough. . .if this had been last year when Dad was on a platform by himself. . .he would have died. The surgeon told my brother that my dad narrowly missed death in the actual accident. I can’t even begin to understand how close the line was: if he had walked into the room a moment before or a moment later. . .if his arm had been in a different place. . .if his head had been at a different angle. . .if he had been looking in a different direction. . .if his body were turned any other way at any other moment he wouldn’t have even made it ought of the room. My God is amazing.
As of today, my dad is completely off of the morphine. Amazing considering how many times he was having to dose himself a couple of days ago. The plastic surgeons have all said that there should be no problem rebuilding his ear to look almost natural. His facial nerves are all intact. He can move his fingers and flex his bicep. The main concern at this point is getting his blood count back to where it should be, avoiding infection, and how the bone is going to heal since the surgeon couldn’t find all the pieces. My mom is doing okay—she’s staying at the hospital with him. We can’t make it every day since it’s about 2 hours away from here. It’s good hospital, though, so it’s all right. They are talking about moving him this weekend, though. Please pray for us. Pray for my mom. This is so hard mostly because we’ve always known something like this could happen, but we never really expected it. Pray that my dad doesn’t get too restless—he likes to be doing things, and being in bed isn’t so good for him. Pray for my grandmother—I think she was really shaken seeing my dad like that. Pray for guidance, as there is many things that need to be taken care of because of this. Pray for healing. Pray for my brother since he started spring classes—he needs to focus. I know we’ll be all right, but it’s going to be long road for all of us.