Su Lum: The fickle finger of fate
September 17, 2003
There is a part of us that waits for bad news. The worrywarts anticipate disaster constantly and consciously, while the rest of us muddle along through life as cheerfully as we can, determined not to live in fear, but when we find the lump we think, “Well, there it is.”
When my daughter Hillery got the call from the emergency room of the Leadville hospital, telling her that her husband Bruce had had an accident, she thought, “There’s that call.”
I’ll get right to the end of the story by saying that Bruce is OK, but he had a brush with the reaper.
Bruce and Hillery bought some wilderness land just outside of Leadville and Bruce has been clearing a road to their proposed house site, an operation that involves chain saws, a backhoe and the clearing of trees.
There were family concerns about the dangers involved, but there was also a consensus that Bruce took proper care and precautions and knew exactly what he was doing. He had felled hundreds of trees in his lifetime, for instance, and could calculate precisely where they would land.
Last Saturday afternoon, just as Hillery was preparing to leave for an overnight in Aspen, he gave a freshly severed tree a push and the fickle finger of fate stepped in.
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As the tree went down, a dead limb snapped off it, flew through the air and whacked the side of Bruce’s hard hat, driving the brim of it into his face, slicing a 5-inch flap of flesh from his skull. A little irony: injured by his protective device, but you never know, it might have been worse if he hadn’t been wearing it.
The little miracle was that he wasn’t knocked out, and was able to get to his vehicle and head for the hospital, holding the side of his face with blood gushing between his fingers (“Holding my brains in,” as he described it), noting the dropped jaws of people who saw him as he drove through town to the hospital.
The blow had severed a small artery, hence the gushing. “You’ve got a pumper there,” they told him at the hospital. He missed losing his eye by a hair.
He told the ER people to tell Hillery he just needed a few stitches and to bring a clean shirt, but when Hillery saw him she started to faint and had to be put on her own gurney. Bruce is the fainter in the family, but held up through the trip to Vail, a CAT scan, X-rays and two hours of stitching up his eyelid, his artery, and reattaching the flap to his face, only to almost pass out when he got a tetanus shot.
The scans and X-rays showed no deeper damage, and they were sent home with antibiotics and pain killers that evening, jiggity jog. A week of rest, then return to get the stitches taken out. Disaster averted.
But it was, as they say, a wake-up call. Of course we thought of Aron Ralston having to basically chew off his arm to get out of a trap caused by a freak of nature. That’s why we call them accidents: Accidents are things that cannot be anticipated.
If Bruce had been knocked out by that branch, if the accident had happened after she had already left for Aspen, when would anyone have gone looking for him? What if, what if.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who just heard that Nick DeWolf almost got eaten alive by the woolly mammoth float he created for the Burning Man Festival. Even our artwork can kill us! This column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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