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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Dad and the Rock that Changed His Life

On August 26, 1991, my Dad had a life-changing day.   Although he worked from home and traveled around to Farmer's Co-ops as a field representative for his company, he would occassionally have to travel to the home office in Oklahoma City.  The drive was about 2 1/2 hours from where he and Mom lived at the time.

On that particular day, he was about an hour into his trip when something terrible happened.  Mowers were mowing the ditches on the right side of the divided interstate and one of them threw a rock up into the air.  The rock went through the window of my Dad's car, struck him in the face, hit the roof of the car (slashing the carpeted top) then landed in the back window ledge, causing a huge crater.  This rock wasn't just any rock - it was a 9 1/2 pound rock - a HUGE rock.

The rocks were in the ditch because a mountain had recently been blown up to make the divided highway.  Unfortunately, the rocks were not disposed of properly and left them in the ditch only to be covered by grass and weeds.  Three mowers were mowing the ditches.  They were brought in to cut the grass and weeds, but the drivers had no idea what was underneath what they were cutting at the time.

Thankfully there was a kind lady, named Kathy, who had been following behid my Dad and saw something happen to my him and his car.  She saw a "poof" of what she thought was smoke, but it was actually the glass shattering.  Then she saw the car begin to head off into the ditch and my dad slump over in the seat. Kathy stopped to help my dad and the three mowers stopped, as well.  Kathy stayed with Dad until the ambulance arrived, picking glass out of his eye.  He was taken to the hospital in Lawton, OK, which was about 30 minutes away.

My mom was teaching school in Eldorado, OK, and she and my sister left school as soon as they heard the news.  Someone drove them to Altus, OK, where my husband and I also drove from Tipton, OK,  to meet them and drive along together to the hospital. 

I remember that drive like it was yesterday. It was a terribly long drive.  A long and very scary drive - scary because we didn't know what we were going to face when we arrived.  I don't think any of us really thought Dad would be alive when we got there, but we were prayerful he would be.

When we got to the ER, Dad was still alive, but we were told that they were very worried about his condition.  The ER nurse explained things to us at first, then the neurosurgeon visited with us.  He explained that we could go in and see him for a little bit, but that soon he would be taking him in for exploratory surgery.  The doctor said that Dad was paralyzed on his left side and that there was a big laceration on the right side of his face from his ear to his neck. At that time he was not sure if Dad would live or not.

We went in to see Dad in the emergency room. He looked bad. He was kind of jerking around, but not moving his left side at all. His head had been shaved and bandaged. It was all swollen and there were tubes all over him. It was very scary to see him lying there.

There were over 40 people in the waiting room during those first few hours.  What an inspiration having friends and loved ones around for support!

Dad's surgery lasted seven hours.  At various times during the surgery the doctors (there were many of them)would come out and tell us how things were going.  A few hours later we were able to go in and see Dad.  He was cleaned up from how we had seen him the day before and his head was bandaged. He had a lot of tubes everywhere and was extremely swollen. The huge cut in the right side of his face had been stitched, his ear had been sewn into place, and some reconstructive surgery was done. The nerves in his eye were badly torn. He had begun to bruise badly. 

The neurosurgeon told us that first night that the chances were 30% that Dad would die, 20% that he would live, and the rest was pure uncertainty. He figured that Dad would have to stay in the hospital until the end of October.

Dad was moved to the CCU (Critical Care Unit) and he made it through the night with a lot of prayers from family and friends. His story was on the news and in several papers the next day and the following days because no one could believe what had happened.

The next few days went really slow. We were able to go in and see Dad for 30 minutes on the even hours in CCU. Each time we went in we hoped to see him move. For many days nothing happened.  But, finally, after several days, Dad began to show some movement. One of the nurses came and told us that he had squeezed her hand. We were so excited! My sister and I told him to squeeze our hands and he did!  Then he squeezed Mom's hand!

Dad was in ICU from August 26 until September 6.  He was then moved to the regular floor.  We have funny stories from this time and later on.  He would say and do things that were "crazy" and we love to tease him about those things now.  He laughs about it now, too!  Laughter in times like these are needful and helpful.  Of course, tears came often and helped, too.

The next few weeks were progressive for the most part.  There was one scary situation when it was found Dad had a hole in an artery, right above his right eye.  He was taken to Oklahoma City where it was repaired.  Actually a teeny, tiny balloon was inserted into the artery to fix the hole and the leak.  He stayed in Oklahoma City for one whole week and then went back to Lawton for another week.  After that it had been one whole month since the accident.

The next step was rehab where he learned to walk again, regained strength in his arms and legs, and worked on life skills in the specially designed rehab center (What an awesome place it was!).  He was in rehab one month. 

My mom stayed with him except to go back home a few times (twice I think).  Home (for her, my Dad and my sister) was over an hour and a half away.  My husband, sister, and I would stay with him sometimes, too. 

Those stays also bring back funny memories we like to tease him about!  One time he said to me, "I want to go to Walmart and buy a 2 cent pair of scissors!"  He wanted me to take him and he wasn't happy when I said no.  I asked him why he wanted to go and he told me he was going to cut the tubes and straps off that were keeping him bound to the hospital bed.  Who could blame him for wanting up and out of there?!  It was hard not being able to help him.

On October 26, exactly two months after the accident, Mom brought Dad home. My sister and I decorated the house, made a sign, and a Welcome Home cake.  We had it all ready when they arrived. We took pictures and went for a walk. Dad was so glad to be home!

After several months Dad was able to go back to work.  He began driving, going around to the Co-ops again, and doing things for himself little by little.  He faced other eye surgeries and ear procedures.  He lost total hearing in the right ear and lost some sight in his right eye, too. 

Through all of this, Dad was really strong. He taught everyone courage and determination never once feeling sorry for himself.  In fact, he felt blessed and he was grateful because he knew God allowed him to live. Not everyone would have pulled through something like this.  Many would have just given up. But, because of his strong will (which we tease him about) and determination and faith,  he made it. He had many, many prayers offered for him. The prayers and support from everyone helped so much.

We all realized after the accident, and still do now, that we shouldn't take things for granted.  We shouldn't take our people for granted. We shouldn't take our family for granted.  We all learned to appreciate our lives and relationships more.

Dad's life changed as a result of this accident....and so did the rest of ours.

For this Gratituesday, I am grateful for My Dad and thankful he is still here with us today.

To read what others are grateful for, visit Heavenly Homemakers.


Wa Wa Waughs said...

I can SO relate! Great story!

Lesley- "Life's not always easy, but God is always good" said...

Thank you for sharing. I am touched and so grateful that all is well with your Dad. I can't even imagine what your family has gone through, but glory to God, it has brought you all closer and strengthened your faith.

Teresa said...

What a blessing that your dad survived! I enjoyed your site. If you have time visit me at

Blessings to you!

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