Where it all began.
"Mom, he fell off the tractor." This was the first thing I heard when I answered my phone, thinking it was my love calling to give an update on how his morning was going. The night before we had experienced a pretty bad storm- high winds that woke us up from a dead sleep at 2 AM wreaked havoc all around us. We woke up in the morning to find the power out, our trampoline had flown to the middle of our 20 acre property, some trees were down and some shingles and eaves trough were loose on an out building. Not so bad we thought. He had to head to "the farm" to do some chores and his sister had called to tell him it was pretty messy with trees that had broken limbs up there. There were other trees broken in the neighborhood as well. So, off he went like he had a million times before to clean up at the farm. That was the last time I saw my husband walking.
He had been gone just a couple hours when my phone rang, his name on the caller ID. I answered it only to find out it was my son calling to tell me there had been a terrible accident. As my love was trimming tree limbs that were broken, he was standing in the bucket of the loader tractor to be able to reach. Something that he'd done many times before, without a second thought. Only this time, one limb he was trimming hit the bucket he was standing in on the way down, knocking him off balance and he fell to the ground. In that split second, our lives were changed forever. He landed on his neck and shoulder, effectively breaking his neck and sustaining a concussion and some contusions on his head as well. My sister in law was there with him as well as our oldest three boys, so 911 was called immediately and I was called second. My son was panicked and freaking out, repeating "Mom he fell off the tractor, He just fell!" After I got him to take a few deep breaths, I was able to find out it was my husband that had fallen, not only off the tractor, but out of the extended bucket and he was laying on the ground unable to get up. I was also informed that the first responders were on the way and that I should come too. So, I quickly gathered the 4 youngest kiddos and got the generator turned off, and headed to the van. By the time I got that done, two of our sons had showed up with my sister in laws car, so I hopped in that and sped over to the farm while he stayed with the littles.
When I (finally) arrived, the paramedics and fire fighters were wheeling him on a stretcher across the front yard towards the ambulance. After some quick introductions and decisions on which hospital we were headed to were made, we were off. Sirens blaring, we made it to the hospital in about 10 minutes. We quickly figured out he had a concussion as he couldn't remember what had happened and every 5 minutes or so he was asking what was going on. After an hour or so in the ER he was transferred up to ICU and underwent a 2 hour MRI to get a full scope of the damage. The previous x-ray and CT scans had shown 3 broken vertebrae but the extent of the damage to his spinal cord wasn't clear without that MRI. Thankfully my brother and his family were in town, so he and his wife were able to be with be during that long wait. I had also had a short visit with our pastor before my brother got there.
After the MRI, I was told that he had broken his C2, C6 and C7 vertebrae, with C6 bring completely shattered. There was also a small fracture at the base of his skull and the dura (membrane surrounding the spinal cord) was shredded, he had a hematoma pressing on the spinal cord and swelling. The surgeon on call that weekend recommended transferring him to another area hospital for surgery so he had familiar colleagues on hand that were potentially required to perform all aspects of his surgery. I was told it was expected to take about 5 hours to complete.
Hubby was transferred via ambulance, many, many papers were signed and surgery began at around 7:30 PM. MY brother and sister in law had left to be with their kiddos, but I had a few friends willing to sit with me through surgery until my sister in law could come back for the duration. We received occasional updates from nurses through the night and at 4 AM we were told he was done and had done well. They ended up fusing his spine from C5 to T1 and had to go in from both the front and back, so basically 2 surgeries that took 8 hours. Thankfully they did not need to break his breast bone to gain access from the front. Thank Jesus for that! I was warned we wouldn't know the extent of his function until he was woken up from the sedation, but at that point, I was just so thankful he had made it safely through the grueling surgery.
At 5 AM I was finally able to see him. He was hooked up to a ventilator, sedated, with wires, tubes and drains attached everywhere. I asked my sister in law to take photos of him- I just couldn't do it myself, but knew it was important to document as much as possible. She graciously obliged. After pulling the all-nighter, she and I were both completely exhausted and she left at around 6:30 to return to her family and I tried sleeping on the small couch in his room for a couple hours. That was the first 24 hours of the rest of our lives.
All through that first day, there were so, so many things that reminded me that God was near. The fact that my hubby was not alone when the accident happened and was able to have help so quickly, that my brother and his family were still in town and were willing to be with me, that I had friends willing to drop everything to come be with me as I waited during his surgery or, if they couldn't be there in person, to lift our family in prayer, and the peace I felt. That wonderful, unexplainable peace that can only be explained by God's arms surrounding me in those hours, I never felt panic. I didn't have to worry about my kiddos, they were well taken care of. The Bible verses and hymns that rolled through my brain at just the right moments. Friends, it was such a calmness that I couldn't really explain. God is close to the broken hearted.
"The Lord will give strength to His people, the Lord will bless His people with peace."