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STORIES FROM THE ROAD


JUN 06, 1994

THE FALL

The weekend was not a good one because of what happened on Friday. I had arrived in Hannibol, Missouri last Tuesday to visit with some of my friends who own and operate the Becky Thatcher Bookstore across the street from the Mark Twain home. They asked me to stay on and help them out by painting the picket fence behind the store. I didn't see any problem and I was glad that they didn't want me to do a "Tom Sawyer" impression out in front.

Wednesday and Thursday, I spent scraping the fence to get rid of all of the paint chips. This was hard work because the fence was actually on a ledge that sloped from one foot to around six feet off the parking lot. The edge of the parking lot wasn't level so I couldn't use a ladder. There was enough room between the fence and the drop-off so that I could walk sideways working with one hand and holding on to the fence with another.

I had just gotten finished with painting a section of fence where the drop-off would have been at least twenty feet or more. I was just about a foot from the corner when the board that I was holding on to broke off. Being just about a block and a half from the Mississippi River, I should have expected some dry rot but I didn't. I grabbed onto another board but this board broke off two. There wasn't enough time to reach and grab for another board.

I fell backwards in a sitting position onto the asphalt parking lot just missing a park car. I didn't know how much damage I did to my body. There was nobody around and I don't think that anybody would have found me quickly since I was between cars. I somehow got myself up and struggled into the back park of the store. I was in a lot of pain but I managed to stagger about twenty feet and then a couple flights of steps into the back room of the store. I just thought that I had just knocked the wind out of me.

I'm not sure why my friends didn't take me to the ambulatory care center or the hospital right away but I just wanted to get some place so that I could lie down. I was taken back to the house and I collapsed into my bed in the basement and that is pretty well where I spent the weekend without moving much. We thought that I had just bruised my back so we tried to treat it with mild painkillers and heat pads.

By Monday morning, my situation hadn't changed much. I convinced my friend into taking me to the ambulatory care center. When we got there, it was about a twenty minute wait to be seen. They wanted x-rays to be taken to find out what was wrong. After the pictures were taken, the doctor came in and told me to stay lying down and don't move. This really scared me and my friend.

I was taken to the hospital in an ambulance on a back board and with a neck brace. What really happened was that I had actually damaged my L-2 vetabrae at the bottom of my spine. MRI's showed that the vertabrae had actually been compressed by about fifty percent before it burst. It was lucky for me that the fragments had burst outward and not inward and lodge in my spinal cord. If that had been the case, I could have lost the use of my legs.

The surgeon in charge of my case said that I was quite fortunate being in good shape as I was. Usually, with the damage to my vertabrae that I had sustained he would have recommended surgery to fuse the vertabrae but I didn't need it. What he recommended was that I should be placed in a body cast that would immobilize my back from my lap to my neck. I would have to be in it for six and a half weeks.

It was around six in the evening when the surgeon and a nurse came to my room to get me into the cast. They gave me something to knock me out so I have about a three hour memory gap. What get's me is that I found out that I had a conversation with a visiting pastor at the time and from what I was told it was sort of hilarious but I don't remember any of it.

I was released in the morning. What was another thing good about this incident was that my friend's company insurance would pay all of my expenses since I was a quasi-employee of theirs. I was glad that I wouldn't lose any function in my legs. I thanked ADONAI that I wasn't seriously hurt. Somebody said that the person who actually suffered a real broken back was my guardian angel.




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