- Disabilities & the Disabled
5th February 1995, A Note To Diary, This Was A Bad Day.
Note To Diary, Part 1
Nothing unusual today. Glenn left for work at the normal time, only leaving me with the car and taking his motor bike. He was working in the forest alongside Harvey's Point Hotel in Donegal. The morning was bright but with a real chill in the air, and a hard frost on the ground. Stepping into the back yard I could see my breath in front of me. I could hear the crunch of my boots on the concrete, and as I looked over to the stable block the horses where anxiously awaiting their breakfast. Blue was of course, the first to whinny the dawn chorus, followed shortly by the mares and young stock. Approaching the stables all I could see was steam rising from the muck heap, a sign that it had been even colder earlier on, and that the sun was gallantly trying to peep through the clouds to warm the land up. The scraping of hooves on the concrete, accompanied now by the barking of the dog, soon let me know that appetites where ready.
Just as the normal morning routine continued, of putting horses out to pasture for the day and cleaning out stables began, I had no idea what was to happen. You see today is the day my husband died.
Going about my business I didn't even hear the car pull into the yard, until a familiar face walked towards me. I was filling water buckets from the hose pipe at the side of the barn. Kieran's persona was different, and as I studied him I could also see John sat in his van at the gateway.
I stood and watched. Keiran continued very quietly to explain that my husband had been involved in an accident. Stopping Keiran in his tracks, I laughed," Oh don't tell me he's come off that motor bike again, what is it this time, a broken collar bone." Keiran was as white as a sheet. "No", he said calmly, "Glenn has been hit by a tree, he has had to be air lifted to the Mater hospital in Dublin." Keiran continued to explain that the harvester had just moved away from the area in which Glenn had been working. He was a tree surgeon, and had been clearing the thinning out of the path of the harvester when it happened. A freak wind had got up and the foreman had called the foresters out to take a break until the wind had settled. Glenn had decided to ignore the command and continued to work on.
After taking a break, Keiran explained that he suddenly realised Glenn had not come down out of the forest to take a break and had gone looking for him. He explained that a very large tree from 3 rows behind Glenn had been lifted by the wind and thrown forward on top of where Glenn was working. At first they couldn't find him. Eventually, they came across his body directly underneath the tree, face down in the dirt and only just breathing. Keiran did not know how long he had been lying for.
The weather was so bad that day that the paramedics had found it difficult to attend to Glenn without the assistance of the air ambulance crew and a very large crane. Apparently it had taken the rescuers almost 4 hours to reach and help Glenn.
At that point I felt no alarm. Still convinced that Glenn would have broken his collar bone, I went into the house, put the kettle on and made a cup of tea. Keiran watched me silently. "Annette Iv'e come to take you to the hospital", he said. I just nodded my head "time enough Keiran, I have to find my friend to ask her to collect Craig from school and make dad his dinner" I replied. I will make my own way to the hospital.
I watched Keiran drive away, and I sat quietly sipping my cup of tea. Eventually I telephoned my friend and explained what had happened. Within minutes she arrived on the doorstep. Passing me the phone she said "call the hospital". I did. I asked admissions for information of my husbands whereabouts. I sat silently as she explained he was in intensive care. "Intensive care for a broken collar bone", I asked. "No dear", she replied, "Your husband has got a severe spinal injury and is being kept sedated until the surgeon arrives", she went on to say.
I felt numb, I couldn't understand what I had been told. I was in shock. My friends husband offered to drive me the 4 hours it would take to get to Dublin, and I don't remember speaking for the entire journey. I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know who to call or what to say.
Approaching the intensive care unit a ward sister walked towards me and ushered me to sit on the white wooden window sill just outside the ward. I remember her taking my hand and somewhere in the recess of my mind I recall her telling me that Glenn was gravely ill. They where still awaiting the arrival of the spinal injuries specialist. "You must go and ring your family members", she said," we can not be sure that your husband will survive the night." I just stared at the cream and white tiled wall opposite me. I couldn't comprehend what I had been told. "But he told me that he loved me this morning and asked for meat and potato pie to be baked for his tea", I managed to say. Only just aware of the sister taking my arm and gently showing me the public telephone.
I rang Glenn's mum and dad. I remember Pat saying, "our Glenn's tough, he will be fine, telephone me again in the morning if you need me". I tried to sound convincing that she must come now. Insisting that Glenn may not survive the night, and then click, Pat had put the phone down.
A familiar face came rushing down the corridor, my friend June. She threw her arms around me and burst into tears. The ward sister explained that the spinal specialist was with Glenn now. He had a fracture dislocation of T4 and T5, 3 broken ribs and 2 punctured lungs not to mention a broken nose and other head injuries. "You can see him now", she said.
I will never forget the sight that met me. Part of Glenn's clothes where still attached to his body, the whir of machinery was very disturbing and the life support system was just a mass of tubes.
The spinal specialist explained that if Glenn made it through the night, he would insert a hartshill triangle into the centre of Glenn's neck and down his spine to allow him to sit up at a later date, but he would never walk again. I remember thinking 'Glenn is strong he will be fine'
The operation took 11 hours in total, June and I sat outside the ward all that day waiting for Glenn to return. The specialist explained that the operation was a success, but he stressed again that Glenn was still very poorly and he would definitely never walk again, his spinal collum was completely severed. "He is very lucky to be alive" he said "is he I said "I don't think so."
Part two to follow: