Trapped, 911 Rescue & Recovery ~ 3 of 4

Resting in God’s Sovereignty

Trapped, 911 Rescue & Recovery by Mary Silverberg

As I approached the scene an EMT, backed up by a police officer, was quick to block my path. “You can’t go near him. We think his legs are crushed, and if his blood pressure drops, he might not make it.”

My mind quickly processed those horrific words. If his legs are crushed, it’s likely he’s going to lose them, and he might not even survive. Oh Lord, please save him!  I asked God for his life and pleaded for his salvation.

It was a beautiful, spring Saturday afternoon. All the kids were playing outside. I had just finished a sewing project and was relaxing with my husband in the living room when we heard one of the kids desperately trying to open the locked dining room door, followed by a frantic knocking. Immediately, we sensed something was wrong. My husband jumped to his feet and quickly opened the door. Zach (age 14) was very distraught. His voice choked as he explained that Jason (age 15) was trapped in a wood pile and he couldn’t get him out. Zach’s whole expression explained the gravity of the situation. Jeff grabbed his boots and said, “Zach, take me to him!” and they were gone.

I was alone in the quiet house, but I could hear the happy sounds of children playing outside, and off in the distance the foreboding sound of sirens. Think. What should I do? Lord help me, I prayed. First, get the kids inside. No, first call Mom, and get her on the way over here. Then go get the kids. From the front porch I could hear more sirens; they were approaching from all directions.  My four youngest were intertwined amongst a group of neighborhood kids in our front yard.  “Silverberg children, put everything away and come inside now. Jason is hurt bad. Those sirens are for him.”

Back inside I made a mental list of what I wanted to take with me:  Jason’s meter (for testing his blood sugar), glucagon (an emergency kit for insulin reactions), his doctor’s number, my cell phone, and a blanket. No, it’s a nice day. I don’t even need a jacket, and I’m cold before anyone. Don’t bother with a blanket.  (I later regretted that decision.) How on earth am I going to find him? Just follow the sirens. They were getting louder all the while. With the kids all inside, I told them to wait for Grandma, that she’d be there soon. And I was off.

Following the sirens, I cut through neighbors’ yards until I reached a piece of undeveloped land with a creek. A bystander told me I could cross on a wide pipe just downstream a ways. Once across, I could see the emergency vehicles parked farther on about two hundred yards. The ground was hard and uneven, which made running very difficult. I was out of breath as the MedEvac helicopter arrived about the same time I did. The wind and noise seemed tremendous.

Before me lay the biggest pile of fallen trees and brush I had ever seen.  A group of firemen and EMTs were gathered around the edge working to free Jason. He was on the bottom just inside the perimeter of the pile. It was like he was in his own private cave of brush. A very large tree lay just under him with another tree, root system and dirt still attached, directly across his hips.  From what I could see it did look like his legs were crushed. The rescue workers were mostly blocking Jason from my view, but as I caught glimpses of him I was relieved to see that he was still conscious.

I listened intently as the EMT informed me of Jason’s condition. All right, if I couldn’t be right next to him, at least I wanted to let him know that I was there. I got as close as I could, and between the shouting, I called out to my son, “I’m here Jason, it’s Mommy!” Then it occurred to me to make sure the rescue workers knew Jason was diabetic. I think I gave three different people his stats, along with his doctor’s name and instructions as to which hospital to take him to.

As I surveyed the scene there appeared to be no more danger of falling trees or brush, and my husband unabashedly expressed his thoughts aloud for all to hear. “This is stupid!  You’re telling me that my son might not live, and yet you are refusing to let his parents be with him before he dies!” Yes, you could say the tension was thick.

Meanwhile, medical technicians took Jason’s vital signs and worked to get an I.V. started. Firemen built a small wooden platform and then placed an inflatable balloon on the platform. The plan was for the balloon, as they inflated it, to lift the weight of the timber off of Jason.  Apparently, a slow lift is very important in the case of crush victims.  The trouble was, when the balloon inflated to full capacity, it didn’t even touch the tree!  Precious time was lost.  They had to deflate the balloon and build the platform higher, then inflate it all over again.

Then all of a sudden, the thought struck me that Jason’s blood sugar might be getting low.  The trauma of the accident could make it go high or low.  High would not pose an immediate danger and could be adjusted by giving extra insulin via his insulin pump, which remained undamaged throughout the whole ordeal.  But a low blood sugar was another story.  He could have a seizure, which would definitely make matters worse.  I asked my EMT (it seemed as though I had my own assigned to remain with me) if Jason’s blood sugar had been checked. He didn’t answer but looked around at the other rescue workers who were not engaged in any activity, but within earshot of my question. No one was able to answer. “It’s very important that his blood sugar be checked,” I explained. “If his blood sugar drops he could have an insulin reaction, and then he’ll be in even more trouble.” No one responded. “Do they have the ability to check his blood sugar?”  I asked. Again, no response. Then my husband stepped forward and said, “Give me that!” (referring to Jason’s meter that I had brought along).  “I’ll check it.”  No one interfered as he approached Jason and tested his blood sugar.  Thankfully, it was in the normal range.

While the firemen continued their efforts to free Jason I called home to let Mom and the kids know what was happening. “He’s still trapped. They think his legs are crushed, but he is conscious. They’ll be taking him to St. John’s Mercy on the MedEvac chopper, but they won’t let me go with him.  We’ll be home as soon as he is free, and then we’ll drive to the hospital.”  Mom assured me that she could stay as long as needed. The hospital was in St. Louis, about an hour’s drive away.

Little by little, I learned more of what had caused the accident.  Earlier in the day, Jason and Zach had been walking their dogs across a stretch of land that had been cleared for new housing. Construction workers had left an inviting pile of plowed trees and brush in the field. The boys had begun to climb the mound cautiously.  It had seemed stable enough until Jason’s dog, Prince, ventured a level higher and jumped onto a very large tree, his paws setting the log in motion. Prince fell, and the tree rolled over him as he barked and yelped like crazy.  Jason managed to make it down to the ground, but Prince’s leash was wrapped around his wrist with Prince still attached.  The leash was caught under the trunk of the tree as it rolled over Prince, leaving Jason with no room for escape.

Jason was pinned between two fallen trees, and in a lot of pain.  Amazingly, he thought of his dog’s safety.  He reached across the log and unhooked Prince at his collar.  Zach quickly surveyed the situation.  The tree was enormous, and there was no way he could budge it.  “Get this thing off of me!”  Jason had repeatedly yelled.

Zach had called out for help as loud as he could, again, and then again. No answer. “I’m gonna go get help!” he had said, and he left Jason in agonizing pain.

Zach first enlisted the help of a neighbor woman and her teenage son.  She grabbed her cell phone, and the three of them ran back to the scene. She called 911 for help and tried to comfort Jason while Zach ran to get Mom & Dad. While waiting for the EMTs to arrive, the neighbor prayed with Jason. I’ll always be thankful for the kindness of a stranger who was there to comfort my son, and beseech the Lord for his mercy.

My husband and son made it back to Jason shortly before any of the 911 responders.  Zach used a small tree as a lever applying pressure in such a manner as to keep the big tree from rolling any further in the wrong direction.  Jeff was then able to get somewhat underneath the tree, and apply upward pressure.  As strong as Jeff is, the tree would not budge. However, he was able to ease some of the weight, to which Jason responded, “That’s much better.”

A police officer arrived first, then EMTs who were quick to attend to Jason.  At first the female officer appeared to be willing to assist Jeff in his efforts, but suddenly she demanded that he back off.  She ordered him to release the tree and move away from Jason.  It was difficult for Jeff to comply, but he figured with the EMTs there, and the fire department on the way, Jason would soon be rescued. So, as ordered by the police, he released the weight of the tree and backed away. Later, he told me it was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do in his life.

Even though 911 was quick to respond, it turned out that Jason was trapped for about forty minutes before he was pulled from beneath the tree. Besides being in extreme pain, he was cold, and asking for a blanket. I quickly scanned the crowd. No one was wearing a jacket, and there weren’t any houses nearby. I asked someone in uniform to get Jason a blanket. They assured me he would get one once he was on the helicopter.  I simply said, “If you don’t get him one from the ambulance,” which was much closer, “I will.” They got him the blanket.

It took a few more minutes to make him secure on the stretcher, and to get his I.V. bags attached. Then we watched as they carried him to the chopper. It gave me a strange feeling watching that helicopter take off and disappear from sight.

Jeff and I arrived at the emergency room over an hour later. Then we had to wait for the news, but the Lord did not leave us comfortless. A kind woman who was a liaison for the hospital sat with us and answered our questions. Her sweet smile and calm disposition comforted to me, and it seemed as if she were an angel of mercy.

When the doctor appeared he told us simply that Jason did not have any broken bones or spinal injuries, but that he had nerve damage and could not move or feel his feet or legs. Believe it or not, that was actually good news. I was especially relieved to hear that there wasn’t any damage to his spinal cord, and it was hopeful that he would recover from the nerve damage. Time would tell. It could take a year for the nerves to repair themselves, but there was no guarantee, and Jason had diabetes, which did not help any.

Those last few words spoken by the doctor were an incentive. Jason’s diabetes was not going to interfere with his recovery, not if I could help it. I was on a mission, and I had received my orders. I knew there was a risk that Jason might not fully recover, but I knew one thing. I was going to do everything in my power to make sure his blood sugar stayed in good control. I was determined that diabetes would not keep my son from walking again, not on my watch!

I asked the doctor how often the hospital would be checking Jason’s blood sugar.  He replied, “Every six hours.” I’m sure that was standard, accepted procedure, and I also believe we had an exceptionally good doctor. I was informed by one of the nurses that he was the best to head the major medical trauma teams, but this was not standard procedure in my book.

You have to understand that even on ordinary sick days, I would check Jason’s blood sugar every one to two hours, and this was no ordinary sick day. My qualifications seemed minute in comparison to the doctor’s, but I did not hesitate to respond, “I want it checked every hour until we are sure that his blood sugar is stable, and then we can cut back to every two hours, and then three and four.” He was very kind, and wrote the order to check it every hour. Whether he saw the justification in it, or merely figured I was a mother on a mission, (and therefore wanted to stay out of my way) I don’t know, but I was thankful for his willingness to comply, and even if he hadn’t, nothing would have kept me from monitoring my son on my own.

For several days it was a struggle to get Jason’s blood sugar under control.  His sugars would have been sky high without hourly testing and spot insulin.  Extra testing throughout his recovery proved necessary.

Jason spent four days in intensive care and another week in the rehabilitation wing of the hospital. We came to an easy agreement with the hospital staff that Jason or either of his parents would test his blood sugar and determine his insulin dose, and keep a log for the staff to monitor. Jason’s glucometer was more advanced than the hospital’s, so it was faster and easier to use. Also, Jason and I were much more in touch with his insulin needs. It helps to have a guide to determine dosage, but it’s just that—a guide. Sometimes you just know that more or less is needed. Later, when Jason was moved to rehabilitation, he took total care of his diabetes.

Jason visits with his brothers & sisters in The Family Room at the hospital

Jason visits with his brothers & sisters in The Family Room at the hospital.

Jason’s accident paralyzed him from the hips down.  It was difficult to see the specialists come in with their long needles and poke and prick him with no response.  They explained to me that for a long time the nerves had been squeezed very tight, but not severed, so there was hope that they could repair themselves, but of course there was his diabetes… The foreboding reference to his diabetes was always attached to the end of the doctors’ prognoses. Some might have been discouraged by this, but in my case it acted as a challenge and inspiration for me.  I didn’t want to have any regrets about not doing enough to help my son recover.  I was determined to keep his diabetes under control.

Jason was a wonderful patient. He did everything he could do for himself and accepted help when it was needed. He was very enthusiastic about his physical therapy.  He would not have dreamed of missing a session just because he didn’t feel like it.  He did the extra exercises that his therapists gave him to do on his own time. One nurse in rehab commented to me that they had never had a patient before, let alone a teenager, who had taken total control of their own diabetes management while in the hospital.  Jason tested his own blood sugars and calculated and administered his own insulin!

Very slowly, starting with his toes, Jason’s feeling and movement came back.  I remember all of us rejoicing when we discovered that Jason could wiggle just one toe!  After ten days in the hospital his doctor agreed to let him come home.  His progress was slow and laborious.  One of the conditions of his release was that Jason needed to take one hundred and fifty steps a day in order to keep his blood from clotting.  Once a day, with the aid of his walker, Jason made the journey out of our house, down our driveway, along our sidewalk to our next-door neighbor’s driveway, and then back home. What normally would have taken ten seconds now took him twenty minutes! Jason would return out of breath with sweat dripping down his forehead.

Reflections of Childhood Diabetes Pictures 003Since we were an hour’s drive from physical therapy, his doctor suggested that we only go twice, instead of three times a week.  “No way!”  I responded, “Give him the full therapy, and we’ll deal with it.” We also found a local hotel, which was willing to let us use their pool for extra physical therapy that Jason could do on his own (with help from Mom).  He also did electrical stimulation therapy at home twice a day.

As you can see, Jason worked very hard at his recovery.  We had much love and support from our families, church, home-school group, and Tae Kwon Do school. It was an especially tender time for our family. Our lives were turned upside down for months, but everyone cheerfully pulled together. Through all the struggles, it was also a very sweet time for us.

There was one occasion when I thought I just wouldn’t be able to go on any longer.  It was about five months after Jason’s accident, and in addition to the physical and emotional stress, I had been getting up every night, two or three times, to check Jason’s blood sugar. I didn’t want to run the risk of his blood sugar creeping up and remaining high for several hours.

Just when I thought I could get by with one middle of the night check, Zachary broke his leg in three places! It was a serious injury that needed round-the-clock checks on his blood sugar. So, I was back to getting up every hour or two, and I was exhausted.

One night after getting up several times, Zach’s blood sugar was still high.  I gave him extra insulin via his pump and went back to bed and burst into tears. Lord, I just can’t take it anymore, I cried, But I know I must be able to take it, because in your Word you promise not to let me be tempted above that which I can bear. Lord, I know you must be sending help soon because I feel like I’m at the end of my rope. I’m spent, I’m exhausted. Lord, you know me better than I do, but I feel like I can’t bear this any longer, so I know you’re going to help me soon. Lord, please send help. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.

Soon, a sweet calm came over me, and I was able to sleep peacefully.  Help had come.  I felt much better in the morning, and soon Zachary’s blood sugars straightened out, and I was able to cut back to getting up just once a night.

Jason continued to improve, and eight months after the accident, he had regained feeling and almost full movement in both legs. However, it would take a while before he regained lost muscle tissue and strength. Still, his recovery was a tremendous victory in his battle with diabetes. His doctors were amazed at how well he had done.

Poor Zach. He had also suffered a severe injury, but without all the drama and sympathy. However, that didn’t get him down. Both boys made a remarkable recovery and proved to themselves and the medical profession that diabetes did not have to interfere with, or even slow down, recovery from a major medical trauma.


Things to bring to the scene of an accident:

Cell phone
Doctor’s number —his business card should list his numbers
Some form of sugar
Glucagon Emergency Kit

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