four years …

Four years ago this week, I nearly lost my life.  I reflect a bit on this every day.   And when the first week in July comes around I think about just how fortunate I’ve been. 

When I was looking for something in our garage last week, I came across the the bicycle helmet I was wearing. It was not designed to withstand a run-in with that red Ford F150 truck. Yet somehow it did.

Here’s the journal entry Kris wrote about that first day :

Written Jul 2, 2008 8:56am

Paul was hit by a car while riding to work yesterday. He sustained severe damage to his head. He had some internal bleeding in the area over his left eye, so they performed an operation to relieve the pressure on his brain. He currently has a piece of his skull removed and the brain has expanded into the opening. They are keeping him sedated and monitoring him to watch for more swelling. They will be putting an IV into a main artery into which they will put a 3% saline solution. This will help draw the fluids away from his head and into the rest of his body where they can be flushed by his kidneys. The next 48-72 hours are a critical time where the primary focus is to reduce the swelling. After that, we will be able to start assessing whether there is any brain damage.

The most helpful thing you can do right now is send all your thoughts and prayers to Paul.

Thanks,

Kris.

And here’s the journal entry from six days later when woke up (I remember many of the things Kris writes about) :

Written Jul 7, 2008 10:06pm

Wow, what difference a day makes!

In the morning, Paul was able to tell the doctors his name, and respond to commands in a more definitive manner. When the doctor told Paul that Hal was on his left, he turned to look at him. And when the doctors asked if it would be okay to put an intravenous line in, he said no. At one point, he said “Out!”, which is what Kayla used to say when she wanted out of the jogging stroller 😉

When I arrived around noon, he was once again awake and the nurse was asking questions. He was able to say his name, where he was, and the year. He also was able to put up 2 fingers on each hand, wiggle toes, and squeeze the nurses hand.

When the nurse was done, I went to his side and started talking to him. He told me he couldn’t hear me, so I talked louder. At one point, he asked me to kiss him, so I knew he was feeling a lot better!

Throughout the day, he continued to engage in conversation in between periods of rest. He was shocked when I told him he’d been there for 6 days, then asked me what was broken. After I listed all of his broken bones, he said something that can’t be repeated in this forum 😉

At around 3pm, I asked him if he’d like to see the girls, and he gave me an emphatic YES! I immediately called the people who had picked them up from camp, and they brought the kids to the house so that Matt could bring them to the hospital. They arrived around 4:30pm, and I showed them a picture of Paul and talked about what they would see.

The girls were shy at first, but they both talked with him a bit, and they we let him rest. While he rested, the girls filled out a “About My Family and Me” chart that the hospital gave us, and then we went to dinner.

When we came back to say goodbye, Rachel told Paul and old family joke about a duck in a bar. Paul’s face lit up and he gave us a huge lopsided grin!

I remember nothing between the first and seventh of July 2008.  The journal Kris kept has helped me understand more about what those first days were like for me medically, and for my family as well.  She included notes sent by people who stayed with me too.  Some of these entries are inspiring.  Some of these are scary.  And some of them are amusing. 

In the two months following my accident, I was completely dependent on others for care.  I required help standing, eating and everything else.  To say the least, it’s humbling to go from running marathons to requiring help getting to the bathroom.  As humbling as this felt sometimes, having someone with me all the time proved to be a source of hope as well. 

I cannot express how much it meant to see familiar faces and to hear familiar voices. I laugh when I think about some of the conversations that happened while I was drifting in and out of a medicated dream-like state. And I smile when I think about how many of these visits helped me redirect my fears about what might lie ahead and instead focus on enjoying the moments we shared, and on the things I could do. I still read about them sometimes.

In addition to spending time with me, our community brought food to my family, took care of our children, and offered rides when they were needed. 

Later this week I will visit the first responders at Redmond FD Station #12 (I’ve done this several times before).  I’ll also go by the Neuro ICU at Harborview Hospital (have also done this several times before).  I’ve had the good fortune to have met some of the people who treated me that morning.  It’s important to me that these folks know that what they do matters so much. 

These powerful gifts of hope I received four years ago were absolutely essential to my recovery.  And I think about this every day as well.  And for this, I say “thanks for everything”.

The original version of this post included a a reference to my helmet and head passing under the rear wheel of the truck that hit me.  Witnesses to the accident told the police that this is what they saw – it is included in the police report.  It seems more plausible that my head injuries were the result of my collision with the truck or with the ground.  I’ve revised my post to reflect that.

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3 responses to “four years …

  • jon clark

    Paul,
    Even before the accident you were an inspiration. I feel fortunate to be one of the lucky to say that I know you and your family.

    Jon

  • Larissa

    You are really so amazing and so blessed! The people who took care of you will love seeing you again; it’s so awesome that you go back and see them from time to time! Thanks for sharing, Paul!

  • LaVonne Finnerud

    It still gives me chills to read about it and makes me approach my bike rides more carefully. You are both lucky and inspirational. Thanks for continuing to share your story.

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