You have had a horrible year. I hope the new year is a fresh start.
I went through a couple of FUBAR years in the 60s and all I can tell you is to hang in there. Maybe my 'luckiest day' will make you feel a little better.
September 9, 1965 I was running a minute or so late (not unusual) and the Long Island Railroad was running right on time (very unusual). As I was running up the stairs of the train station, I heard the train start to pull out. Not wanting to be late for work, I scanned the moving train for an open door and saw two near the middle of the train. Having boarded moving trains many times before, I ran toward the open doors, reversed direction and attempted to jump on -- through the first of the two doors -- almost.
Instead of landing inside the train, I fell between the two cars and onto the tracks. The train's undercarriage beat me up pretty bad and my left arm was crushed at the elbow. It spit me out about twenty yards from the station. No one saw me fall – if they had and pulled the emergency brake handle, the train would have stopped with me under it and I would have bled to death while they jacked the train off me. As it was, I was conscious, going into shock and managed to get closer to the station platform.
Two unidentified men arrived and saw me on the tracks. One jumped off the platform and used my tie as a tourniquet on what was once my left arm (ties ARE good for something). The second man ran down the stairs and flagged down a police car that was passing by just at that moment. Remember, AT&T put 9-1-1 into effect in 1968 and there was no such thing as a cell phone back then. When the police officer radioed the local volunteer fire station two blocks away, two firemen were having coffee before heading off to work and rushed to my aid. Both had trauma cards that allowed them to move seriously injured victims. They had me in the hospital (six miles away) 13 minutes after the accident.
The only nurse in the hospital’s emergency room, who happened to be a former neighbor, found I had no pulse and gave me a Demerol injection to slow my heart down (it was fibrillating). The hospital had no B-negative blood so the 70-year old elevator operator donated a pint on the spot. The two best orthopedic surgeons in town had just scrubbed and were ready to begin their first elective surgery of the day. I was wheeled in instead. No one asked about my health insurance, which was minimal. They just started patching me up.
Over the course of the next six hours they were able to stop the bleeding from my arm, leg and head. They stitched my scalp back on and thankfully invited a plastic surgeon to work on my face, which had a gash on the right temple and a large hole through my chin (180 stitches). The plastic surgeon then invited an oral surgeon to look at the damage to my front teeth, most of which were smashed. By the time the neurosurgeon arrived to review the x-rays of my head, they had already determined the bleeding from my right ear was only a punctured eardrum. Unfortunately the x-rays did show 7 major skull fractures, one of which severed the nerve that controls the outer muscle of my right eye. Even with five surgeries over the years, the double vision has never gone away.
Twelve hours after the accident, when I woke up in the hospital’s intensive care unit, my wife leaned over and quietly said “You’re not getting out of painting the house this easy.” We were only married 3-1/2 years at the time and everyone was sure she was going to take our two infants and leave me for a more able-bodied person. The kids did leave but not for another 15 or 20 years. My wife stuck around but I figure she's going to leave in a few months, as soon as she gets the 50th anniversary presents appraised.
What was left of my arm required a secondary amputation so I could wear a prosthesis. I wore the arm for ten years but when we moved from New York to Florida in '75 the weather makes it too hot to wear every day. I still use the mechanical arm when I'm digging ditches or pulling cylinder heads. A couple of years ago I got myself fitted with a bionic arm. I had done some research and thought it might be useful. They didn't give me the manual first -- big mistake. The manual says I can't get it wet, it has to be kept out of dusty environments and I have to shut it off when I drive -- cell phones may trigger unwanted movement. When I asked about air tools, gasoline, lacquer thinner and epoxy primer it was obvious this was not a solution -- just another problem.
Been working on my cars and houses with one arm for my entire adult life -- the accident happened 9 days before my 21st birthday. Wasted a year or two after the accident feeling pretty sorry for myself. Lawyers gave up on the lawsuit when they found out my brother had committed suicide 18 months earlier (another part of the FUBAR years). Health insurance covered half the bills and my parents helped with the rest.
Decided to get a degree at night school. In the blink of a decade I had a degree in English to match my job as a technical writer. When folks got bored watching me touch-type one handed faster than my colleagues did with two, they forced me into a series of management jobs. I prefer dealing with steel and wood so I retired at 50.
I've been here to see my son and daughter grow up and even see my 9 grandchildren grow up. It hasn't been perfect and we've had stretched or broken ties with our son and daughter a few times. OK, it was probably our fault -- we moved to Australia for two years and didn't bring our kids with us.
It hasn't always been smooth and some days are worse than others but I sure will miss the ride when I go.
A few decades back I was enjoying a drink at a Club Med with my wife and some close friends. Didn't have a shirt on and this young woman came up and asked me "What happened to your arm?" I looked down and screamed "Oh S**t!" Had to run after her to apologize.
Last edited by Bob Heine; 12-28-2011 at 12:56 PM.