Monday, February 7, 2011
An unknown telephone number flashed repeatedly on my cell phone last Friday night as my husband and I were just winding down our dinner date and planning to pick up our teenage daughter at her swing dance class.
Not recognizing the number, my husband hesitated in calling back while I was driving. But thinking it could be important, he phoned back, just in case.
It was a call that could have marked the beginning of a completely different life for our family.
I urgently pulled over as I heard my husband's voice shudder, then stammer for the caller to say whether he was kidding or not.
Something was very, very wrong.
I heard my husband ask for the caller to repeat what they just said. Then, the terrifying words - unconscious, seizure and injury - fell like stones from my husband's mouth.
Our daughter, it turned out, had suffered a serious head trauma that night, having hit her head with high force on the floor while being looped over her partner's arm during the dance lesson at a local church.
Her boyfriend was calling to tell us that she had been knocked unconscious and had some momentary paralysis and loss of speech - an ambulance had been called.
We made it there in five minutes to find her laid out on the hard wood floor, surrounded by attentive Hood River paramedics, firemen and the rest of the distraught teens in the dance class and their teacher. (It was these fast-thinking teens who used their cell phones to call the ambulance just seconds after her accident.)
Our daughter was immobilized on a c-spine board with a neck brace, her head taped into position to prevent any further potential spinal damage.
The ambulance crew rushed us to the hospital for her evaluation - while we prepared ourselves to hear if there might be permanent repercussions. The excellent staff of doctors, nurses and EMS people kept us calm and focused during the longest few hours of our family's life.
We were very lucky. Our daughter returned to virtually normal functioning within a short time.
It was determined that she had a concussion and some bumps and bruises but appeared to be under no threat of long-term impacts.
As with any concussion, we have been maintaining close monitoring of her mental and physical well-being throughout the hours and days following the accident; so far with continued positive signs.
As this incident moves further into our past, and our fresh and intense fears have begun to subside, our family has shared many profound reflections on the fragility of life; those things we take for granted and what is really important and shared between us.
We have also, like all those lucky people spared long-term consequences, begun to return to the more mundane concerns of our everyday lives.
Last night, following a brief cell phone interruption at the dinner table (a rule breaker in our house) it suddenly occurred to me that I had undergone an unexpected change as a result of that terrifying evening.
I realized that a small smile crossed my face when my daughter's cell phone rang - reminding me that I will, from now on, greet those annoying teen cell phone obsessions and disrupting ringtone jingles with a feeling of gratefulness for the very real and critical help they gave to my daughter and our family on a cool January night in 2011.
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge