22 March 2014


My grandpa turns 85 in two more weeks.  He is the true patriarch of our family and the last "old wise one" that we have around.  He's had a rough week and is going to have some pretty rough weeks to follow.  My sister already documented well what happened and so I am just going to copy it here (hopefully she's ok with that) and then continue with my own thoughts.

Annie wrote:
On Monday, at lunchtime at "the yard", my grandpa set out for his daily constitutional around my uncles t-shirt shop when he fell.  He fell forward and he fell hard.  He's too old to really brace himself and he smashed his face into the concrete floor.  My uncles got him up and his face was bloodied, but he was conscious and coherent and was able to get himself into the bathroom.  He agreed to get checked out by a doctor because he was in pain, and, headed to an emergency room.

While there, things were not good and though he was "okay" after some tests and scans and x-rays, it was realized that my grandpa's fall had caused him to break the top two vertebrae in his neck.  The vertebrae that hold his head up and are dangerously close to his spinal cord.  It was decided to transfer him by ambulance to another hospital where a surgeon could do more tests and figure out the best way to help him.

At that point, the prayers started pouring in.  Family and friends prayed.  My grandpa was given a priesthood blessing.  His name was put on the prayer rolls of several temples.  By Monday night, the surgeon felt the best option for my grandpa would be surgery to put him in a halo neck brace.  The kind that gets screwed into your skull.  This apparatus would probably be attached to him for at least three months and because of the nature of the device, he wouldn't be able to care for himself.

More prayers and blessings.

Surgery was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

More prayers.  More prayers.

Yesterday morning, after checking him out, the surgeon decided that a halo would not be necessary, that it would be better for him and his recovery, to fuse my grandpa's broken neck to his shoulders.  He'd completely lose the ability to turn his head for the rest of his life, and would have to relearn a lot, but it wasn't a halo.

More prayers and blessings.

Surgery for the fuse was scheduled and my grandpa was wheeled into the operating room.  My mom says that they had him on the table, on his stomach, to do the surgery and when they got his neck open, the bones were not broken like they had been on the x-rays the night before.  In fact, the neck to shoulder fuse wasn't going to be necessary.  A call was made from the operating room to the family to change my grandpa's surgery  - they needed permission to flip him to his back, and fix his neck through his throat (icky!) - and all he needed was a solitary pin and the vertebrae in question fused to one that wasn't broken. (If I have all my details correct).

Can you believe that?

I can.

Annie went  on to write about her testimony of this event.  The fact that the break wasn't as bad as they thought and that a halo was not necessary was nothing shy of miraculous.  Annie attributes it to the blessings of missionary work and that how we often hear about how the lives of missionaries and their families are blessed beyond measure during those years while they serve.  I agree with this and would never argue, but I also wanted to add my own thoughts.  

I also think that this event has been a testament to the legacy of my grandpa and that his time on earth is not finished yet.  There is still work to be done.  He is still needed here to be an example to us all and a leader in our family.  

When I went to see him late Tuesday night (the day of the surgery), he was still a little groggy from being operated on for the last several hours, but he was still witty and when the nurse and aid finally got him situated, he said, "is somebody going to tell me what's going on here."  I didn't get a chance to visit him again until Friday afternoon and he was sitting up and watching basketball.  He told a visitor who came that one of his fears during the surgery is that he would swear coming out of the anesthesia.  He doesn't swear.  Though pretty silly, that was very humbling to hear.  I can't imagine him not being here.

Today, five days after the fall, he is leaving the hospital and headed to a rehab center.  I don't think anyone, especially him, is excited about this prospect, but his current issues are beyond what anyone can take care of for him at home.  Because of the surgery, he can't swallow.  The muscles in his throat are so swollen, inflamed, and damaged, that his body can't control what goes down his esophagus and what goes down his wind pipe.  He can't eat anything and has to have a feeding tube.  He can't even suck on anything other than clean ice in a clean mouth for fear of aspirating or worse, catching pneumonia. 

He has to wear a huge plastic neck brace to support his head and neck.  It totally changes his posture and balance and will require him to re-figure out how to walk and do basic tasks.

He also has a catheter in place, mostly due to some errors made by an ER person on Monday night.  Until he can get rid of the feeding tube, walk on his own, and go to the bathroom, he'll be in the rehab facility.  Hopefully it will only be for a couple of weeks, but who knows.

Things are a bit bleak for my grandpa at the moment and I feel really sad for him.  However, if anyone is going to recover from something like this, he will.  He is so determined.  He follows rules to the utmost and will do exactly what every doctor tells him to do. There are lots of people praying for him.  His own faith and testimony are the strongest I know.  It's going to be rough, but I think it's going to be ok.  Hopefully we will all be strengthened and buoyed up by this experience and that he and all of us will be positively impacted in whatever way we are supposed to be by this happening.

Poor little boy - Part #2

Jack finally got better.  It took a while.  The hives continued to spread and get worse.  They went through a specific pattern:

  • small red dots
  • large raised bumps
  • clusters of bumps
  • bumps turn purple
  • bumps begin to fade
  • small red dots appear on new parts of the skin
  • process repeats and continues until every square inch of skin has been covered

This was amplified by a night of throwing up and several days of hysterical itching.  The hives even made it to his face and the back of his head, but luckily this was the only one part of his body that was spared from the whole purple ending.  All in all, we made it through.  It took about a full week and he finally cleared up.

Now the residue from the hives just seems to be extremely dry, sand paper skin.  I don't know if it is caused by the hives or all the topical stuff we put on him, but he is dry and soaks up lotion like a sponge.

That is all.  Thank you to all of those who kept asking me how he was doing!