Monday, June 19, 2017 at 07:24AM
Janet Szabo

Physical injuries are usually obvious. It's important to remember, though, that there is a component of emotional trauma that comes after an event like the one we experienced over the weekend, and it is important to acknowledge and work through that, too. 

There was a lot of checking in with our friends yesterday morning—through Facebook, phone calls, at church, visits to our neighbors, etc. Our fire chief and his wife were making the rounds yesterday afternoon and stopped in to see how the husband and I were doing. I said we were "moving slowly," which is true. The mood was very subdued around here. We rested a lot. I've been replaying the whole thing in my head over and over, trying to remember additional details. 

This is like a big puzzle and we are all collectively trying to put the pieces together. Each of us has a different perspective based on where we were on the deck when it fell. The husband, with 30 years of construction experience, looked at what was left of the deck after everything was over and he is pretty sure he knows where and how it failed (right below where we were standing, as it happens). He doesn't remember jumping. I remember seeing him land on his feet. Based on the location of my injuries and how I was standing—my right leg is turning some lovely shades of green and purple—I think I actually fell sideways when the deck went out from under me. I took the brunt of the fall on my right leg and then slid down the decking. Had I fallen straight down, I likely would have a couple of broken ankles. Lots of people have cracked ribs and vertebral compression fractures.  

Christi has a shattered lumbar vertebra. We thought they were going to do surgery yesterday, but it is now scheduled for 8:30 a.m. this morning. She is on a pain pump and yesterday was asking for a milkshake. Her husband, Matt, is with her. My friend Louise and her husband, Bill, who are in Washington teaching EMT classes, drove two hours to Seattle yesterday to see them. (Bill and Louise are both on the fire department with the husband.) It's going to be one day at a time. Some friends of theirs have set up a GoFundMe page for them. If you are so inclined, please donate. Christi is a teacher and has health insurance, but Matt won't be able to work for a few weeks and there are always expenses that aren't covered, especially because they are in Seattle and not Kalispell. 

I am monitoring the husband and me pretty closely. We did not go to the hospital after the collapse. That was a calculated decision on our part, made with the understanding that we both had a lot of adrenaline coursing through us, which tends to blunt the pain after a physical trauma like that. We also knew that the hospital would be overwhelmed (which it was). Neither of us had acute injuries that needed immediate attention, and there really is nothing that can be done for any hairline fractures except rest and time. We check in with each other every couple of hours, and we're taking ibuprofen regularly. The goal now will be to take the time we need to let our bodies heal without risking further injury. That is going to be a lot harder for him than it is for me, because he does very labor-intensive work. Our three employees are just going to have to pick up the slack for a few weeks. 

I think our fire department is going to have a debriefing session in the next couple of days. We tend to do that, anyway, after major incidents like structure fires and motor vehicle accidents, but the chief said he thought it was especially important because this was a mass casualty incident and so many of us were directly involved. And it's just part of the training. There will be lessons; there are always lessons. I am still so proud of our group of responders who jumped right in and let their training take over. They operate as a well-oiled machine. Our department is a bit unique in that we have a core of responders who have been with the department for decades. Our chief has been chief forever. (He would be the first to tell you it has been a long time.) Not many other departments in the valley are as bonded as we are. We have worked together, played together, watched our kids grow up, and we are a family as well as a fire department. It's the reason so many of us were at the memorial service to begin with, to honor one of our own. We need to process this together. 

As for me, I have already decided that I will never go out onto a deck like that again as long as I live. Ever. I don't ever want to hear the cracking sound of a beam failing underneath me. 

Article originally appeared on Suck It Up, Buttercup (
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