1 year ago today, I left for work like almost every other Monday in my life for the past 18 year. I arrived at my construction job in Kirkwood around 7:00 and talked to my co-workers in the job van. That’s the last thing I remember clearly for the next month. I am told I was framing in a door on the third floor of the house we were building. The two people working with me on that floor heard my nail gun drop, turned around and had a brief glimpse of my body falling out the doorway. The two guys working in the driveway also heard the nail gun drop and saw me halfway through my 25 foot fall when I hit a 12” beam that was hanging out of the house. The previously Friday, the foreman and I moved this beam 3 feet to get it out of the way. That little thoughtless act had now saved my life by breaking my fall and slowing my body enough so I didn‘t fall 25‘ on my head. Unfortunately it also broke my clavicle, all my ribs, which then punctured my lungs, causing them to collapse, and it damaged the mitral valve in my heart. I slid of the beam and fell the other 13’ feet where I landed on my head & back. That fractured 11 vertebrae, compressed 2, bruised my already damaged lungs & caused my brain to bleed internally.
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The foreman called 911 and the head of the construction company and told him to get a Care Flight helicopter there as soon as possible. I’ve always wanted to go for a helicopter ride thru the Sierra’s, and hopefully the next time it will be for a different reason & I also hope that I will remember that one. The boss left to go to the hospital and on the way there he called my girlfriend at the school where she works. When they arrived at the hospital, they warned her I was in very grave shape, and told her because my body had suffered so much damage they had to put me in a drug induced coma. She walked in my room-she tells me I was all puffed up, I didn’t even look like myself and had tubes all over my body and was hooked up to a machine to help me breath. It took 2 weeks before my lungs were healed enough to breath, but even then I needed oxygen for 3 ½ weeks. The doctors were honest with her and told her I had a 50/50 chance of living, but that if I made it past the first 36 hours my chances would improve greatly. One of the nurses told her I looked strong and she could tell I had a lot to live for and she thought I would make it. My girlfriend had to call my family and friends on the east coast and tell them what happened. My older brother and his wife flew in from Florida, my Mom & little brother from Pa. After a week, they slowly took me off the life support system and brought me out of the coma. I have a foggy memory here-in it I was trapped in a low ceiling desert at twilight-forgotten and alone-I screamed and tried to punch my way out of this hell. I was thrashing so often and violently in my hospital bed they had to tie my arms and legs to the side rails. My girlfriend tells me fortunately my older brother stayed an extra week and when they would visit, he would untie my arms, and hold me down as they would try to talk me out of whatever I was going thru. My next memory is what some would call an out of body experience, but I realize it was more of a brain damaged drug induced haze. In this memory, I was floating above my bed, seeing my friends gathered around my body. I knew something bad had happened, but I didn’t know what, and I wanted to tell everyone not to worry, that I was going to be o.k. but I couldn‘t.
After 2 weeks they took me off the ventilator and I could talk and react with people, making no sense at all most of the times, but of this I remember nothing. My mother, who had to fly back east to get back to her job, called my girlfriends cell phone while a football game was on the TV in my hospital room. As I talked to her I started calling my doctor Coach and said "Mom I have to go because the coach is getting ready to put me in the game." She cried and worried that I would never recover mentally. A week later I was moved to the rehab hospital. The first real memory I have was on Thanksgiving day. One month earlier, I was a strapping carpenters apprentice, swinging a hammer, climbing ladders & carrying heavy beams while walking across rafters, now my 120 lb girlfriend was wheeling me down the hospital hallway for dinner. The day after thanksgiving my rehab therapist Joe started to teach me to walk again. In high school I had been a district champion hurdler, now, after a week of twice daily lessons, I could walk ten feet while looking sideways without falling over, Joe encouraging me and telling me what a good job I was doing the whole way. I told my therapist, yeah, if you didn’t know any better you would think I had been walking for 35 years. One day, my girlfriend brought my dog Kaya to the hospital to see me and she was as happy to see me as I was her. I finally got to go home December 6.
A year ago today I almost died. So many people to thank-
Eric, Karen & Brooke-friends I last talked 2 years before my accident while I worked with them, but still they came to the hospital to see me & cheer up my girlfriend.
Nate- my good friend who drove from Monterey as soon as he heard about the accident.
Harvey, Ben. Juan, Tim & Graham- who I worked with & for, sorry to put you guys thru so much-thanks for your support
My neighbors Bill & Renee- who watched over our house & let our dogs out
Amanda- my girlfriends best friend, who faithful came to visit me in the hospital & brought me chocolate
Amanda Keith , the teachers & staff at Scarselli Elementary School- for the gift collection
All the teachers, parents & staff at Minden Elementary - for the gift collection, support, understanding, care
My doctors & nurses at Washoe Medical, especially Gina I don’t remember you, but my family says that whenever you would enter my room, I would smile & light up like a Christmas tree- thanks for your help
All my rehabilitation & physical therapists,especially Joe at Washoe Rehabilitation Center & Kyle at Tahoe Carson Rehab in Gardnerville - may no one who reads this need rehab or physical therapists, but if they do may they be as kind, caring, patient & all around good people like mine.
And a special thanks to my girlfriends mother, Donna who is in heaven, and I’m convinced said to god “Could you please not take him away from little girl. You took me away too soon, I don’t want her to get hurt anymore than she already has”- thanks, even though we never met, I owe you my life.
This accident taught me a lot of lessons, none more important then no matter how tuff and invincible we think we are, we are all mortal. Also, all friends are great, but when you need them, friends who will be there are priceless. Sometimes before my accident, I would wonder, selfishly, if I died, who would be at my funeral. Now I realize it’s not important who would come, what’s more important is what the loss would do to the people I love. So take care of yourself, not only for you, but for everyone around you.
Two months after my accident, I was talking to my girlfriends father on the phone and he told me something that other friends & family memberss would later tell me had happened to them too. He said, the day after my accident, my girlfriend called him and said “ Dad, I don’t care if Steve doesn’t remember me or anything we’ve ever done together, and I don’t care if he ever walks again, as long as he lives, if I have to take care of him for the rest of his life, I will because I love him.” What more can a man ask from a woman? Needless to say, this woman is now my wife.