Battered and Bruised

Yesterday was an eventful day. 

I spent a few hours in the morning with my friend Twila making soup for a fundraising meal for her daughter, who will be spending 11 months in Ukraine with Mennonite Central Committee. Afterward, I ran to town to do some errands. The husband and I planned to meet at 2 p.m. at the Glacier Presbyterian Camp on Flathead Lake for the memorial service for our friend, Bill, who died unepectedly in April. After the service, I planned to go back to the church to help with the dinner. 

The memorial service was lovely. There were probably close to 200 people in attendance. I have been to weddings at this particular facility; it's on the west side of Flathead Lake and overlooks the lake with stunning views of the mountains to the east. A goodly number of our fire department members were there because Bill had been a member of our fire department for over 20 years. After the service, the family invited people out onto the deck to blow bubbles with his granddaughters in Bill's memory. I walked out there with my friends Matt and Christi. We all blew some bubbles, they moved on to talk to the some other people, and then the husband came out and joined me. He and I were standing there talking to another friend of ours, who was telling us about the birthday present his kids had gotten him, when all of a sudden I heard a huge CRACK! and looked down to see the deck beneath our feet breaking in two.

That was the longest three seconds of my life and yes, it does happen in slow motion. I remember realizing that we were going to fall—about 12 feet—and thinking to myself, "I hope we don't get hurt too badly."  The husband, being closer to the edge, was able to jump off as the decking went down. I came down hard on my right leg, lost my balance, and fell backwards onto my butt onto the decking which was slanted behind me. The husband reached in and grabbed my hand and pulled me out. I yelled at him to get me to the grass because I was worried about more stuff coming down.

He deposited me on the grass about 10 feet away and went into full EMT mode, rushing back over to help the injured. It's what he is trained to do. I am a big girl and perfectly capable of assessing my own injuries and there were people hurt far worse than I was.

I started with my feet. My right shoe was missing. My right leg was all scraped up, presumably from the decking, and my right leg and hip hurt like hell. By then, other people who could were starting to extricate themselves. My friend Joyce ended up on the grass next to me with a big goose egg on her forehead. Several of our firemen friends came over to check on us. There was a lot of screaming and yelling. 

This is the aftermath. The husband I had been standing right next to that tall log pole in the left side of the picture when the deck collapsed. I landed right where that table is. 

I sat on the grass for about ten minutes until the ambulances started coming in. They needed to clear the scene, so I hobbled over to the fence where a bunch of chairs were set up and sat down. It was a partly sunny day, but only in the high 60s with a breeze coming off the lake. My friend Luann—our fire chief's wife—found me and sat down next to me. She put her jacket on me and hugged me close to keep me warm. I was shivering, but I am sure some of that was a bit of shock at what had just happened. Eventually, the camp staff started coming around with glasses of water and blankets and they got me all swaddled up. For some reason, I was really annoyed that I had lost my shoe. 

Luann and I, and eventually our other friends Marilyn and Gloria, sat there and watched what was happening. I was so grateful that so many of our Creston fire responders were on the scene. The news reports keep overlooking that fact and trying to give credit to the fire department whose district we were in, but it was our guys who were first on scene and doing triage. Our chief, as usual, stepped up and calmed people down and got things moving in the direction they needed to be going. I found out later that the call had gone out for a mass casualty incident. Within half an hour, five or six ambulances and two helicopters were on scene. 

About six or seven years ago, Flathead County Office of Emergency Services held a county-wide mass casualty training at the airport. My friend Louise was in charge of making up volunteer "patients" to look like they had been injured and she invited me to come and help her. We gave people different fake injuries ranging in severity from green to red, which is the triage system that we use. I got to be one of the last patients, a red patient with old coffee grounds smeared all over my face to simulate third-degree burns. I then had to go out and lay down in the field and wait for the paramedics to come and triage me, strap me onto a backboard, load me into an ambulance, and take me to the hospital. The whole thing was as real as we could make it. Our chief often says "You perform as you practice" and if you don't practice, those skills won't kick in instinctively when the chips are down. 

It's one thing to be part of a mock mass casualty event. It's quite another to be involved in one unfolding before your eyes. I had my eyes on the husband the whole time; he had on an orange sweatshirt so he was easy to track. We started to get reports about who was hurt. The wife of the guy we had been talking to when the deck collapsed had a compound fracture of her lower leg. His mother, who had been with her, had a fractured ankle and possibly some other injuries. By far the worst one hurt, though, was my friend Christi. They took her to the hospital but then airlifted her to Seattle last night. Her husband's younger brother is our renter and we are waiting for updates this morning on her condition. My friend Susan—my kids' other mother—was on the deck at the end closest to the lake, but she says that she was not injured very badly when she fell. The people who landed with the decking underneath them seem to have had fewer injuries that the people who landed on the concrete pad. 

I called Twila to let her know what had happened and that I wasn't coming back to the church for the dinner. I called DD#1—who is in Spokane this weekend visiting her boyfriend—and asked her to let DD#2 know what had happened and that their father and I were okay. 

Marilyn brought me some pretzels—I hadn't had any lunch because I was anticipating having lots of good homemade food to eat after the service. Gloria found my shoe. I got checked out—repeatedly—by several EMTs and also my friend Laurie. She is a neighbor and goes to our church and is a retired nurse. She examined my neck and spine to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. By that time, they had gotten the most severely injured of the patients loaded and the husband came over to stand with us. Eventually, everything was cleared and we came home. Louise, who hadn't been at the memorial service because she and her husband are teaching EMT classes in Washington state, called us after Gloria called her to make sure we were okay. 

I am sore this morning, but I knew I would be. It does not feel skeletal to me. It's mostly in my right leg and feels all muscular—I moved in ways my body wasn't used to moving—and I think a good long soak in a hot tub with some Epsom salts and repeated doses of ibuprofen will go a long way toward making me feel better. I've got bruises up and down my leg. The scrapes on my leg were superficial; I cleaned them off with soap and water and painted them with Betadine swabs from my apocalypse kit. (Apocalypses come in lots of different flavors and this certainly qualified as one in my book.) 

I had the thought yesterday morning, as I was heading to the church to help Twila with the meal, how very important this community where we have lived for the past two decades is to me. We are all interconnected—neighborhood, church, school, fire department—and without this group of people that upholds and sustains each other through all of our life events, we would be so much poorer. Things are bad. I am very worried about Christi. But things are also very, very good. People stepped up when they were needed. Almost every single responder who showed up yesterday is a volunteer. I know that my friends will be checking in with me as I will be checking in with them. We do what we need to to take care of each other and for that, I am so very grateful. I would not want to live anywhere else. 

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Reader Comments (5)

Just reading about this is terrifying. I am so grateful you and Thomas are okay. Prayers going to Christi and all the other injured.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHusband's mom

What a blessing that many more weren't seriously injured. Prayers for all the injured. Glad you are doing okay today. Volunteer firefighters are such a blessing to a community! (I'm married to a retired volunteer firefighter.)

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJudy Prescott

So glad everything is as OK as it can be. Prayers go out to all involved.

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDeb in PA

Oh my - - prayers and healing to all of you. What a fright-filled event for you to have to go through. Thank goodness for quick thinking EMT husband and his band of professional "volunteers".

June 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarietta

So glad that you only have minor injuries, what a scary thing to experience! I'll keep Christi and the others with injuries in my prayers. Feel better!

June 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie

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