Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Yep, I hurt myself. On Monday, 12 May 08, at about 1330, I rolled a fully-loaded concrete truck.

Some details: I was told that morning to be in Fairbury by 0900, because they had a big job lined up and needed an extra truck or two. The job was down in Kansas, about fifty miles away from the Fairbury plant. They told me the last nine miles or so were all gravel, shading down to dirt and the last couple of miles were exceptionally bad.

Boy, they weren't kidding! The last couple of miles were nothing but dirt, with soft spots all over. The job site was at the top of a steep hill, and right at the bottom of the hill the road was badly rutted. I hit it going a little too fast, and if I hadn't been wearing my seatbelt it would have thrown me out of the seat. When I got back to the plant and was loaded for a return trip, I decided that I was going to cross that spot slooowly, even if it meant I would have to climb the hill in granny low. No way in hell was I going to go for a ride like that again!

So much for plans. I made my way back down south, trying to avoid as many of the soft spots in the road as I could. At what I think is about a half-mile or so from the job site, I believed that I was at the last hill but one from the job site. Remembering how badly the road had thrown me around the last time, I started slowing. I was down to about 30 m/h when I hit another soft spot. It yanked the truck hard to the left, so I countersteered to the right. The truck started to fishtail, right, left then right again. I was trying to countersteer my way through the skid, when on the second swerve to the right, it felt like the tires caught on something, instead of steering, and the truck started to tip to the left.

The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and finding the truck laying on the driver's side, and my legs pinched between the steering wheel and the seat. My first thought was, "I have got to be dreaming," but no, I was wide awake. A glance at the dash clock told me it was 1330. I also saw that the cab of the truck was smashed down over the driver's seat, and that there was blood splattered all over that side of the cab.

My legs were hurting from being pinched, so I tried to free them. The right leg came loose easily enough, but the left was caught between the steering wheel, the seat and the door handle. I spent the next hour or so trying to get the seat to move down, alternating with trying to raise someone, anyone, on the radio.

I wasn't too worried, because they were loading trucks at 20 minute intervals, and the next truck should be along pretty soon. Then I found my clipboard with the job ticket on it, and saw that I was the last truck to the job. Still, I figured I'd be found, if nothing else, the customer would get tired of waiting for me, call the plant and complain, and people would start wondering where I was. If they ordered another truck, the driver of that truck would find me when they got there.

Finally, shortly after 1400 (though it felt much, much longer) I got ahold of Brent, the driver of 211, the truck ahead of me. He had just left the job site and was about 4 miles east. He told me he didn't have a cell phone, and didn't seem to be able to raise the plant. I had him turn around and go back to the job site. Hopefully someone there would have a cell phone, and be able to call the plant and let them know what had happened. I also asked him to try and get some tools from the people at the job site and see if we could get the steering wheel off and release my left leg. Brent asked if I wanted him to call 911 and I said it sounded like a good idea.

At about 1430 a group of farmers came by and talked to me, but didn't have any tools, so weren't really any help. A few minutes later, though, a truck full of people from the job site showed up, but the only tools they'd managed to find was a small pair of vise grips (and I mean small, the five-inch size) and a small pipe wrench.

We got the nut off holding the steering wheel, but couldn't get the steering wheel off the column. I was able, however, to get one of them to reach in under the seat from behind, through where the rear window was supposed to be, and get at the seat controls and hit the control to lower the seat. I grabbed the steering wheel and tried to pull myself and the seat down, and one of the other guys put his foot on the seat and pushed against the cab. We were able to push the seat down by almost a foot, releasing my leg from the pressure it'd been under for at least an hour. Damn, that felt good.

About that time, a sheriff came on the scene and checked to see if I was alright. I told him that under the circumstances, I was doing fine, and he agreed. We talked a bit, and he told me I was the second truck accident in a week, the other being a semi that'd run off the road and burned to the ground the previous Friday. That driver hadn't made it out, and he was glad to see I was okay. He asked for my driver's license, and I gave it to him.

Now all I had to do was get out from under steering wheel, probably by laying on my back and moving my legs from straight forward to straight back, and I should be able to get out. I gave the steering wheel one last yank, and it came off. I handed it out to someone outside the truck and prepared to stand up and get out. At that point, an ambulance arrived, and the ambulance crew helped me stand up and exit the cab through the smashed back window.

I had wanted to walk around the truck ans see how bad it was, but as soon as I was out of the truck, they strapped me onto a backboard while I was still standing, put a neck brace on me, then put me on a gurney, slid it into the ambulance and hauled ass for the Washington County Hospital.

According to the copy of the ER report they gave me, I arrived there at 1511. It must have been a slow day for them, because there were at least five or six nurses there. They cut my tee-shirt off, which was no great loss. It was pretty well blood soaked, and I knew Lisa, my wife, would just throw it away anyway. They did the usual poke, prod and twist "does it hurt here? How about here? When I move this?" and a couple of x-rays of the neck, then wheeled me out of the building to a mobile cat scan they'd just got a few months ago.

After the cat scan, they wheeled me back into the building and back into ER. Apparently the x-rays and cat scan looked good, no damage, so they took the neck brace off and unstrapped me from the back board. I called my wife then, telling her where I was and that they were going to release me. That would have been about 1630. Next I called the Beatrice Plant and told them where I was and how I was doing. I talked to Ray Wagner, the plant supervisor, and he passed my call onto Catherine Renshaw, the company's HR and safety person. She called back down to the hospital and told me (and them) that she was glad I was doing okay and that company policy required a drug test.

No problem, I had to piss anyway, so I went into the tiny bathroom attached to the ER and filled the cup. Then they gave me a set of scrubs and put me in a room for a while. They were going to release me, but they wanted to watch me for a bit longer and, for some reason, wanted me to eat something before I left. Anyway, I wasn't going anywhere until Lisa showed up to take me home.

She got there with Amee and Jamee, my step-daughters at about 1715 - 1720. A few minutes after they got there, a drug tester from the company's insurance company showed up. Apparently the urine sample I'd give earlier in the ER was no good, due to wrong or insufficient paperwork. She also needed to take a breath test for alcohol. No problem, I blew into the little black box and pissed into another cup.

They brought me supper a little before six. I ate what I could, but didn't have a whole lot of appetite. I changed out of the scrubs and into a pair of sweat pants, tee-shirt and tennis shoes Lisa had brought down with her, and they signed me out of the hospital at 1800.

We played "find the driver's license" for a while. It was at the cop shack, it was on its way to the hospital, they were going to mail it to me and so on."

I asked Lisa to drive out to the scene of the accident, because I hadn't had a chance to see it. When we got there, there was a semi-tow truck, a large crane, the sheriff and a half-dozen or so people from the Fairbury plant and the Beatrice shop. Apparently they were trying to pull the truck back on its wheels and tow it away. I talked to the sheriff a few minutes, and it turned out that Larry Leners, one of the shop guys, had my license. He came over and gave it to me and told me I was damn lucky to be alive.

I was running out of steam at that point, so I gimped back to the car and waited while the girls took pictures of the truck. They'd given me some darvocet for pain and flexeril, a muscle relaxant, and on our way back through Washington, we stopped & got something to drink. I popped one of each, and when we got home at 2000 I went straight to bed and didn't get up for about 12 hours.

Fast forward:

I went to see my doctor on Thursday, 15 May 08 for a follow up. He did the poke, prod and twist, then ordered some x-rays and a venal doppler scan for clots. The x-rays came back okay, and he prescribed an antibiotic, since he was worried that the scrape on my shoulder might be getting infected. Scheduled another follow up on Wednesday, 21 May 08.

We stopped by the office to talk with Catherine, then by the shop to look at the truck. It's in the back lot, behind the shop, and according to the insurance adjuster, it's totaled, because the frame is bent. I got some pictures of it, and plan to take some more. (Pictures here)

The next day, Friday, 16 May 08, I went in to the Gage County Hospital for the venous doppler scan, which came back clear, no clots.

Friday, I got a call from the worker's comp adjuster, who wanted to know who was at fault. I had to tell her I didn't think anyone was really at fault. I should get my first worker's comp payment this Friday, if I'm still unable work then.

Bottom line: I came out of this wreck a hell of a lot better than I could have. The only damage I took was scrapes on the left side: head, elbow, ribs and knee. Oh, and a dandy set of bruises on the inside of the right elbow, where they tried and failed to put in an IV. There's also two very sore patches, one on the upper left arm and most of the left thigh. The leg is where it was pinched between the seat, door and steering wheel, but I don't know what happened to the arm.

The first few day I really had trouble walking. Every few steps, my left knee would give out. After that, though, it's pretty much okay, aside from still wanting to fold up under every so often. The scrapes on my head, ribs and knee are almost all gone, but there's still some bruising. I still have a bruise on my left elbow, which is actually growing, and the bruise from the IV attempt on the right elbow. The sore arm and leg haven't bruised, but they still hurt, but not as bad as they did. The scrape on my elbow isn't getting better very fast, but then again, I managed to rip it wide open by jamming the corner of a shelf right into, letting it bleed freely.

Still, whenever something hurts, I just remind myself, "It could have been worse."

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