Hannah’s Sandal Tells Her Side of the Story 

Three days ago, I posted a blog on the miraculous recovery of Hannah’s sandal from the side of the New York Thruway.  Click here for that blog.  Teacher/blogger/former UNE student of mine Molly Hogan suggested I write from the sandals point of view.  Challenge accepted.

sandals right one

Really!  You are just leaving me here.  It’s damp, gravelly, and my goodness the cars and trucks are roaring by.  I can hardly hear myself think.  As I was minding my own business on the floor beneath Hannah’s feet as she drove, their car slows, and all of sudden I’m dumped by the side of road.  And then she and her loser hubby (really that’s too harsh, just unobservant) drive off in their fancy, shmacy Prius.

And all the while, these two clueless ones have no idea that I am back by the side of the road.  Oh, she’ll find out soon enough and wonder how he could have been so careless.  There’ll be smoke coming out of her ears, I predict, when she learns of my predicament. 

I know their itinerary is traveling to Ithaca, Syracuse, and Old Forge, New York, and then returning home by this very thruway in two days.  Lying four feet off the shoulder in these nasty small stones, I’m starting to itch and damn if those aren’t storm clouds above.   

sandals hannah sans right one

You know, I had it pretty sweet, nestled on the top bookshelf in their bedroom.  It’s warm there, and she takes me out when she wants to kick back, be uber comfortable.  I am her go-to shoe.  She gently caresses me with her foot as she slides in.  She’s light, delicate and gives me just the right Reiki massage on a daily basis.

She found me at Marshall’s after months of looking for just my style.  She loves me.  She said so.  As dark approaches, car after truck ignores me, and for that I am thankful.  I am waiting for my deliverance back to Maine.        

Two days later – I am certain that she hasn’t slept well thinking of me lost and alone.  He has his doubts, but damn, he’ll support her come hell or high water.  She is the girl of his dreams going on 51 years.  She’s the faith; he’s the what-the-hell, let’s-give-it-a-shot guy.

By later afternoon Thursday, I still don’t see their Silver Prius with Maine plates.  And now it’s time for me to have faith in the Sandal God.  I close my straps and pray for the return of her loving foot embrace. 

Prius 2

A little before 5P, for the fifteenth time a car pulls over, the last time to change a tire, but this time it’s his yuppie Prius.  OMG.  She’s driving, he jumps out with the cars racing by, cradles me, and returns me to the most appreciative sandal wearer in the Known World.  Clearly, the Sandal God answers prayers. 

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Dan and Hannah and the Ways of Our Love

It’s the first week of August, Hannah and I have come to Sandy Springs, Georgia (Atlanta Metro Area) for Hannah’s second experimental stem cell injection; we’ve hopes that stem cells just might hold a key to improving her voice, which has been softened and limited for the past 15 years.

SH 1 Julie and Dr T with H

NP Julie and Dr. Tan prepping Hannah

Injected into her spine (to pass the blood/brain barrier), the stem cells will also be infused into her blood system for improved joint health as well.  We have been encouraged by the positive stem cell results by many pickleballers that we have met from the Yonah Mountain area (north Georgia).

SH 1B J to infuse H

Julie prepping to infuse Hannah with stem cells

Up by 2A in York, Maine for our 6A flight to Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, we arrive in the Peach Tree State before 9A; drive 25 miles north to Sandy Springs for Hannah’s treatments.  Dr. Tan administers the stem cell injection; later Nurse Practitioner Julie Thorne infuses the stem cells into her blood system.

SH 2 Anne Frank

Anne

Hannah comes out of the 90-minute procedure smiling, without any pain, but…

…we are both weary beyond belief from our just after midnight wake up call on this 90F afternoon.

Unsuccessful in our attempt to check in the early afternoon at our Comfort Suites motel, we take the opportunity to visit the Anne Frank in the World Center in Sandy Springs!  Who knew that the heart of Dixie would have such a treasure!  Click here for more information about this much-needed telling of her story, especially in light of the August events in Charlottesville and the dangerous equivocating of the President.

Finally checked into the Comfort Suites, we lunch on our Subway Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki subs, sort of nap, later walk to the local grocery store for our dinner, and then, toast the success of Hannah’s stem cell surgery with a fine Cabernet in our suite.

Fried, though Hannah’s feeling no pain, we are in bed by 8P.  That’s when our love kicks in.

Unbeknownst to me in my deep slumber of exhaustion, Hannah soon develops back pain pushing past 12 – on a scale of one to ten.  She can’t sleep.  I mean can’t sleep at all.  She showers; she walks the corridor of the motel’s second floor; she takes a bath; she lies in bed hoping to fall asleep.  Nothing works.  Her back hurts big time.

SH D and NR

Dan and Nancy Rose over brunch at the Summerland Cafe, south of Santa Barbara

And this is where Hannah calls on the wisdom of our Santa Barbara and Unity friend Nancy Rose.   Earlier in the evening, Nancy Rose had emailed Hannah

Dear Hannah,

Just getting around to reading my emails.  I love your friend’s saying- “what soap does for the body, tears do for the soul” -beautiful.  You are good for my soul too, Hannah.  Take good care down there in Georgia.  You are in the best hands, and you know whose they are. 

Later, Hannah emails Nancy Rose.

SH Four of us D H NR Duncan

Dan, Hannah, Nancy, and Duncan earlier this year in Summerland, California

dear Nancy  

            Your latest email helped more than I can say….in the middle of the night last night (after my stem cell injections yesterday) I couldn’t sleep, was feeling aches down to my bones (lower back and back of my thighs), tossed and turned – and thought of your words: “You are in the best hands and you know whose they are.” Because of that sharing from you, I woke Dan up and let him be “God’s hands” in the middle of the night.

      I am so blessed. And I am so grateful for you, dear Nancy. And, for my Danny Boy.  my love – to you and your Duncan.

Hannah

As often in our 50 years together, I am the regular recipient of Hannah’s love, and tonight was another such case.   Hannah wakes me and we cuddle as she tells me of her incessant back pain and inability to sleep.   For me, I am so damn pleased she woke me; I hold her snugly until she is ready to give sleeping another shot.

A few hours later, she wakes me again, still unable to sleep or get comfortable.   We walk the motel corridors together before dawn while everyone else, except us two, sleeps.

And that, my friends, Hannah waking me in the middle of the night is one way of our love…

PS Oh yeah, we’ll remember the Tylenol next time.

Dan Joins Hannah at Woo Girls Reunion III in Richmond, Virginia

I am soft.  Let me explain.

Woo girls outside

Woo Girls – Hannah, Wendy, Maxine, and Bambi

Two years ago, Wendy from Maryland, Maxine from New York, and Bambi from Virginia, all who graduated with Hannah in 1970 from the College of Wooster in Ohio, came to York for the first Woo Girls Reunion.  Last year we all went to Maxine’s place in western New York for the second get-together.  This year we head to Richmond in the Commonwealth of Virginia for Numero Tres.

Rather than manning up and driving the 600+ miles from York through the choking traffic of the Northeast, we decide to fly.  Flying first to Atlanta, we hike the waterfalls trails of Alabama as well as hike and play pickleball in north Georgia.  After five days loving the South, we are set to fly from Atlanta to Richmond for Woo Girls III.

Woo 1 D and H by Delta sign

Arriving two hours early at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport south of Atlanta on Friday morning, we are given the option at the check-in kiosk to volunteer to take a later flight.   If we do, we have the choice of five Delta dollar reimbursements – $100, $200, $300, $400, or $500.  Hannah selects $400, figuring we might get chosen over the “greedier” $500 selectors.

Arriving at the waiting area, soon we are called to the counter and asked if we are still willing to volunteer to take a later flight.  Agreeing to take the 222P flight rather than our 955A, we are now offered $800 in Delta dollars each.   We can’t say yes fast enough.

Having only six volunteers when they need seven as the flight is ready to leave, Delta ups their offer to $900 and nabs their last volunteer.   After the 955A flight departs, the young counter woman calls us up to get our $900 vouchers!  We feel like we won the lottery.

Woo 1A Delta scheduled departure

Waiting four more hours in the Atlanta Airport for $1800 is no sacrifice.  Sending emails and texts from our phones, Hannah writing postcards and me revising blog drafts, sharing a turkey Subway sub, and reading the USA Today, in no time, we are lining up to take our 222P flight to Richmond.

What do you know but Delta overbooks again!  It is NASCAR race weekend in Richmond.  This time they get to $1500 before they get enough volunteers.  We are not a part of the auction.  Earlier I had learned that the next flight is tomorrow.  Wanting no part of finding a place for the night in Atlanta in addition to missing the opening night of Woo Girls III, we board the plane with our hot little $900 bonanza in hand.

Woo 2 welcome to VA sign

After landing at Richmond International, we drive on I-64, then country roads to Quinton (Richmond Metro Area), where our hosts Bambi and Skip welcome us.  With Wendy, Maxine, and her husband Don already here, we catch up on each other’s lives over water, wine, and Coors Light; Bambi’s mouthwatering lasagna from the classic Moosewood Cookbook follows.

Woo 3 H at little library

Little Free Library

Come Saturday morning while the others sleep, Hannah and I drive a couple of miles down Quaker Road to the half mile oval at Quinton Park.  Before walking five laps, we find a Little Library, where one and all can take a book or place one in the outdoor cabinet for others to take.  Finding a family favorite from the Little Bear series, we add it to our own Owen and Max home library.

Our hosts for the weekend, Bambi and Skip have planned this Saturday in nearby CW.  Do you know what CW is?   I had no idea.  I am not talking the cable station, but a visit to Colonial Williamsburg.

Woo 4B King's Arm sign

On this unusually warm 90F summer Saturday in late April, we walk the car-free Main Street past period homes from the Revolutionary War era.  Lunching at the King’s Arms, we have an updated repast in a Revolutionary Years setting.  Later, in nearby Yorktown on the James River, we take in Surrender Field where General Cornwallis in defeat offered his sword to George Washington.

Back in Quinton after dinner, it’s game time.  Bringing a new Rothermel Family favorite, we introduce the Left Center Right dice game.  Played with three specialty dice, the game becomes even more “interesting” when we each bring a few dollar bills to the table.  Being an entirely random game with no skill needed, the first time player has the same chance of winning as the veteran player does.

Woo 5 LCR game

To explain, the six sides of the specialty dice have an R, an L, a C, and three single black dots.  Rolling three dice to begin, if the player rolls an R, she passes a dollar to the person to her right; an L, pass to the left and a C means she puts the dollar in the center (the pot).  A black dot means you keep your dollar.  Once done, the turn passes to the person on the left; when only one person has a dollar, that one wins the pot.

Woo Girls dice

With seven of us each starting with three dollars, we are playing for a $21 bonanza.  Hannah is especially adept at the pre-roll movements (e.g. holding the dice with one hand pointing to the ceiling, then extending the other arm, blowing on the dice, all the while smiling, and enjoying the attention).

Woo 5 Don and Hannah win

Don and Hannah, Big Winners at Left Center Right

It turns out Maxine’s husband Don wins the first game and the $21 bounty.  In the second game, Don and Hannah have the last two dollars.  A black dot roll for Don has him keeping his dollar, then a black dot roll for Hannah lets her keep her greenback.  Then Don rolls a C, putting his dollar in the pot and Hannah comes home the winner.

Board, card, or dice games bring groups together in laughter and celebration.  For Woo Girls IV next year in York, we have the classic Mormon Bridge for the gang.

Dan and Hannah’s Reflections on the Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding

Dan’s Reflection:

SY2 D with family

That Hannah might die never entered my mind. That said, people could die from such a fall if they, as she did, slide uncontrollably down a nearly vertical wall of sharp rock and dirt towards the waiting San Ysidro Creek 40’ below.  At that moment of her fall, I was comforted in four ways: first, that she looked safe on the perch below; second, it didn’t appear she had hit her head; third, that we had Molly and Tip for support; and fourth, I had no idea how bad her injuries were.

I guess one is never ready for sudden death.  I can’t imagine what it was like for our friend Amelia, when her husband and my college roommate, Big Steve, died in his sleep as a seemingly healthy man just turning 60.  The deaths of my parents in their 90s were not unexpected, indeed a blessing after rich lives.  I had no idea that I might be a widower when I woke up that morning in late February, 2017.

I know tomorrow is not promised to anyone, but the events on that Montecito mountainside gave new meaning to that cliche.  I am very glad that the curtain didn’t come down on Hannah’s life story that day.  But as I think about it, in time, I would have been very grateful for my many years with Hannah.  Hannah was always the one!

On a lighter note, Hannah’s sunny disposition has served her well for 69 years.  Despite deep wounds in her leg, she smiled and limp-walked steadily for a mile and a half out of the woods.  Her confidence and perseverance gave me confidence.

This is a great country for seniors like us with health insurance.  Hannah’s bill from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital was $4200.   The ER was $2755, IV Therapy $1010, Drugs $152, Pharmacy $140, Medical Surgical Supplies $103, and Clinical Lab costs $37.   Since we have Medicare coverage, we ended up paying a mere $75!!  It’s not a stretch to think all Americans deserve such coverage!

I’m stunned how quickly she is recovering.  Get this, the very next day after the accident, she was slow-walking a half mile, within two days she was hitting the pavement for a mile, three times per day.  Within three weeks, she was working out at our local gym on the treadmill, elliptical, and Wave (roller blading motion).  Within a month she was back playing pickleball as if she had never been gone.  Her recovery is a testament to her lifetime commitment to fitness.

I buy the wisdom of The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring by David Michie. I wish that all of my students could ‘nearly’ die.  There is no better wake-up call on how to live… Life is finite; every day is precious.  And simply to wake up in good health is truly a blessing, because sickness and death [and falls off the trail] can strike at a moment’s notice.   

Our daughter Molly married very well. Tip is the kind of husband, father, and son-in-law we are thrilled to have.  That said, Tip hit the jackpot with Molly.

Life is not an exam. Life is for learning and healing.  We are learning and she is healing.  Hannah and I will be hiking the waterfall trails of northern Georgia and playing pickleball with our Yonah Mountain family in late April.

With my one degree of separation, I got quite the reminder that every day is precious and there is no time to waste.

 

Hannah’s Reflection:

SY2 4A five on trail

It is when we are confronted with…poignant reminders of mortality that we become most aware of the strangeness and wonder of our brief life on Earth.  Kathleen Basford

 

Nearly a month after my fall on the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, California, I feel more tuned in to life than perhaps ever.  My perspective has once again been “re-set,” as challenging times have a way of doing.  I never did feel fear or pain – thanks, I believe, to my body going into “protective mode” to sustain me til medical attention was available.  Also thanks (especially) to Tip, our son-in-law, who provided his calm reassurance that We’ll get you back on the trail, Omi.  Mostly I feel grateful – that it wasn’t Max or Owen or Molly or Tip who fell.  And grateful that I didn’t fall any further, hit my head, or break any bones.

I believe I experienced what David Michie in The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring calls a “realization…”

A realization is when our understanding of something deepens to the point that it changes our behavior.      I wish that all of my students could ‘nearly’ die.  There is no better wake-up call on how to live.     A realization helps us to let go a little, to experience deep appreciation, even awe – just to be alive.      …time is precious and we must use it wisely.

I am grateful just to be alive and oh-so-grateful to those miracle workers and magic weavers (below) who, truly, brought me Home.

Tip

Molly, Owen, and Max

Danny

Zach and Dominique of AMR

Tony Anagnostou, MD

ER personnel at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Corky Thomson & Jane May of York Hospital

Elizabeth Helmer, MD & Alicia, RN  – both of York Hospital

sy-2d-o-and-o-on-rock

 

Eleven things my San Ysidro Falls fall taught me…

It’s all about the people.

Life just gets better.

We do not know what is in store tomorrow – or whether there is a tomorrow or even a tonight! But still, we have the golden present.

Our physical bodies are beyond magnificent.

I have so much to be grateful for.

How much I adore our grand boys.

How equally much I adore our children – and their father.

That I would give my life –in a heart beat – for any one of them.

What a rich, full life I’ve already had.

That I agree with Albert Schweitzer once again:  If there is anything I have learned about men and women, it is that there is a deeper spirit of altruism than is ever evident.  Just as the rivers we see are minor compared to the underground streams, so, too, the idealism that is visible is minor compared to what people carry in their hearts unreleased or scarcely released.

How proud I am to be our son in-law’s mother-in-law.

April 2017     Hannah B. Rothermel (aka Omi)

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 6 of 6

Part 5 ended with the successful surgery to repair Hannah’s gashed upper and lower left leg.

While Hannah is in a hazy fog from the medication, Tony, our surgeon, returns to the operating room.  He mentions that he will implant a drain that will siphon off excess fluid from deep within her thigh while it is healing.  Then looking to me, he says, Would you like to empty it?

SY2 drain

Under his guidance, I invert the plastic bulb and pour it into a plastic cup.  Then, he says to us, before you drain the plastic bulb, squeeze down the tube from near the leg to force the excess red liquid down to the bulbThis will help prevent the bloody fluid in the tube from clotting.  Would you like to try it, he says to me?  Experiential learning at its finest.

I squeeze the red discharge down the tube, knowing that I will remember little back at the cottage if all he does is show me how to do it.  He wants Hannah to take it easy this Thursday, gentle walking Friday, and by Sunday she can do anything she feels up for.  Whoa.

There are no limits to what she can eat or drink.  We should change the bandages after 48 hours and empty the drain 2 to 3 times per day, measure the discharge, and note the color.  In time, the color should turn from red to yellow.

While Molly has arrived to take us back to the cottage, first Kasey, an Ed Tech, wants to give Hannah a lesson in using crutches.  Taking us to a quiet place in the hallway, he demonstrates lifting the injured leg back, stepping forward with the stronger leg, and moving the crutches one step forward.

After adjusting the crutches for Hannah’s height (they are ours to keep and she never uses them; we later donate them to the Montecito Fire Department), Hannah tries, wobbles and flops back into the wheelchair behind her.  She mentions that she sees two Kasey’s; at this point he gets that she needs to be wheeled out in a wheelchair to our waiting car.

SY2 Han on couch

At the cottage the evening after the trail gave way

Once back at the cottage with Owen and Max in bed, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I talk about our day on the trail.  Famished, Hannah eats two big bowls of Trader Joe’s salads and the big half of a Los Arroyos chicken burrito.  She toasts her day with a glass of white wine.  Oh, that we all could celebrate so after such a day.

We all know how fortunate we are that Hannah is sitting with us six hours after the ground gave way beneath her feet.  That her leg is sutured and stapled, and not…  We just don’t go there.  To what end?  The subjunctive can be positive when it brings up good possibilities but not when it goes down Alice’s rabbit hole.

Aftermath

Within a day, Hannah and I are slow walking a half mile.  Two days after, we slow walk over a mile, three times a day.  Two weeks after we walk a mile at a normal pre-fall pace.

SY2 Han in park 3 days after

Three days after our hike to San Ysidro Falls

Three ibuprofen before bed for the first five nights are all the pain meds she takes.

Repeatedly we hear from the health care professionals, You are healing so well because you are in such good shape.

Tony our surgeon gives us his cell number and calls us at the cottage the day after Hannah’s surgery.

The drain comes out seven days later, the 25 staples are removed 13 days after.

After a month, she’s back on the pickleball courts at home in Maine!

 

So, we thank these angels in our lives:

Tip, for his rescue of Hannah off the cliffside.

Molly, for getting the EMTs in position once Hannah came off the mountain.

Zach and Dominique, American Medical Response EMTs, for diagnosing her wounds and safely delivering her to the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

The Ed Techs and Karen our RN at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital who prepped and cared for her pre- and post-surgery.

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Tony, our surgeon

Dr. Tony Anagnostou for his surgical skill, comforting bedside manner, follow-up calls, and accessibility.

Corky Thomson and Jane May of York Hospital who made Hannah’s appointment happen the very next morning back in York, after we landed in Boston from Los Angeles.

York Hospital’s Dr. Elizabeth Helmer and nurse Alicia for picking up the ball once we returned to Maine.

To conclude Hannah’s saga, Hannah and I reflect on the entire adventure.

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 5 of 6

Part 4 ended with Hannah prepped for surgery in the ER at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.  Three hours before on the San Ysidro Trail in nearby Montecito, she fell 15’ into a 40’ ravine of jagged rocks when the trail gave way beneath her feet.  The two significant, deep left leg wounds are on the very same leg that she busted while water skiing five years ago.  Click here for the first of the three part series on Hannah fracturing her tibia while water skiing in 2012.

SY2 ER 3 Tony surgeon

Tony our surgeon, another angel

In walks another angel on Hannah’s journey.  Dr. Anthony Anagnostou introduces himself as Tony, her surgeon.  As he looks around the wound, he is calm, professional, and encouraging.  After getting the details from Hannah of the accident, he says, This is a deep cut.  It must be thoroughly irrigated to reduce the risk of infection.  I will place needles of medication around the wound in your thigh.  The anesthesia will take about ten minutes to kick in.  This is a serious cut, but it is something I have seen before and it is routine.

With those words (it is routine), I feel elation and relief knowing that this isn’t his first rodeo and Hannah is going to be okay.

SY2 ER 3B Tony irrigating

Tony irrigating the wound

Explaining that he will first repair the deepest tissues near her thigh bone, then sew the middle layer of tissue and finally the outer layer.  There will be staples to keep it all altogether until they are removed in 10 to 14 days.  Amazingly, no muscles have been ripped, no tendons torn nor bones broken.

Three two-quart bottles of saline cleanse the wounds.  Hannah and I both feel she has been most fortunate that her capri pants weren’t torn away by the slide over the sharp rocks when she fell.   In fact, the upper part of her capris never ripped.  How could they not tear at all when she had such a deep wound?  They kept more dirt and grit from infecting the wound.

One Ed Tech squirts the solution from the first bottle while another siphons out the bloody liquid, like dental hygienists do as they clean your teeth.

SY2 ER 3C Tony with five watching

At this point, Tony comes in to irrigate the wound with the final two bottles.  Always looking to his expression for signs of good news, I see a dedicated professional going about his business.  Later, he is referred to as an Ivy Leaguer who wants to save the world; he’s going to Africa.  That is music to my ears that we have such a man.

Now that the medication has kicked in, Tony goes to work.  Karen and the Ed Techs all watch the deep tissue work, something I cannot see, or even want to see, sitting opposite where Tony is operating.

When he needs assistance, he is professionally polite, and appreciative of their support.  As he works calmly and intently, Tony pulls out his smart phone to take pictures of the wound and the stages of his care.  Later, he mentions that the wound on her thigh was so deep that he could put his hand in up to his wrist.  He says he will send the pictures of Hannah’s wound for us to see, if she wants.  (Two weeks later, Hannah sees them, but I am still not ready to look at them.)  Though Hannah will have scars from the surgery, Tony wants Hannah to know how fortunate she is with just scars.  Hannah knows!

SY2 ER 3D Tony

Hannah, eyes closed, face turned my way, feels nothing.  She is on major painkillers that will keep her in a fog till she gets to bed tonight.  Only later do we count the 8 staples in her lower leg wound and the 17 staples to close the thigh wound.

Soon an orderly comes in and says that there is a need for examination room 4.  Tony turns matter of factly and responds that he’ll be done in five minutes.  That works for everyone and pleases me no end that he is almost done 40 minutes after he began.

SY2 ER 4 wrapping leg

Tony our surgeon and RN Karen wrap first her lower leg, then upper leg in gauze; they then put a compression bandage over each section.  She is good to go.  That said, when she looks at me, she says, You have three noses.

 

sy2 cleveland clinic

Cleveland Clinic’s attention to the patient

This six-minute video from the Cleveland Clinic captures the importance of encouraging words when doctors are dealing with patients.  Tony our surgeon could have starred in this video.

 

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 4 of 6

(Part 3 ended with Hannah strapped onto the ambulance gurney on her way to the ER of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.)

sy2 AMR 2

With eight miles to go to the county’s trauma hospital, I sit up front with Dominique, an EMT for six months, while Hannah is in the back with Zach, the more experienced EMT.  And Zach does what good EMTs do, he lifts Hannah’s spirits by keeping up the conversation by providing information and asking her questions – all to keep her mind off the subjunctive – the what ifs, the might have beens.

While Dominque drives through Montecito and then on The 101 for the hospital, I notice there are no lights and sirens.  Wondering to her if that is a good sign, I see Dominique smile and nod that it is.

Once within ten minutes, Zach calls in our ETA to the hospital ER; it is not lost on me that it is a call I couldn’t have made if I were driving Hannah to the hospital myself.

SY2 SB cottage hospital

ER entrance on the right

Arriving at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in the downtown of this city of 90,000, we have still another advantage since I didn’t drive Hannah to the ER – we bypass the waiting room as they whisk us through the dedicated ambulance entrance, directly into an operating room of the ER.  I hear that room 4 is ready, and within 60 seconds the Ed Techs are lifting Hannah off the gurney and onto the operating table.

SY2 ER 2 h in er with nurse

RN Karen (far right) prepping Hannah for surgery as the Ed Techs look on

Karen, an RN, takes charge with assurance and warmth.  Soon, she puts a clip on Hannah’s finger to measure her oxygen level.  An IV is inserted for the pain medication.  A nasal cannula breathing tube is put in her nose to deliver supplemental oxygen.  Throughout this time as I sit next to the operating table, Hannah is alert and turns my way to remind me how fortunate she feels.

Throughout the 1.5 mile hike out of the woods after the trail gave way beneath her feet, Hannah has mentioned how lucky it was that it was she and not our grandsons or their mom and dad.  She tears up with that realization.  The subjunctive, when it goes down to the dark place of what ifs, what might have beens, can cloud judgment and focus on regrets rather than the beautiful present.  Karen and the Ed Techs can’t believe she is not in any pain since they now have all seen the wound that goes to the bone in her upper thigh.   This is the same leg that she fractured her tibia five years ago when water skiing.

SY2 ER 3A preparing for irrigation

Karen asks about medications, allergies, blood thinners or diabetes.  Hannah’s answers are none, none, no, and no.  Coincidentally, they describe Hannah as the patient-of-the-year, just as the EMTs had, because, despite the large wounds, her disposition remains sunny.

SY2 ER 2B Dr Richmond

Dr. Richmond, head of the ER, examines Hannah’s wounds

Dr. Richmond, the head doc of the ER, comes in upbeat and talks to Hannah as he examines both the deep calf and the deeper thigh wounds.  Turns out he had been hiking on the very same San Ysidro Trail that we were this morning.  Looking for clues, I see no distress in his voice or worry lines on his face.  It seems Hannah’s upcoming surgery is not crisis surgery; and for that I am again grateful.

We don’t know who, but another angel is about to come upon the scene.

SY2 dark side of subjunctive

Phuc Tran on the TED stage

With my use of the term subjunctive, you would be correct if you had guessed that I had recently listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast on the subject.  Here is the thought- provoking Dark Side of the Subjunctive by Phuc Tran, a resident of Portland, Maine (15 minutes).

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 3 of 6

(Part 2 ended with our son-in-law Tip bringing Hannah off the ledge to my waiting arms.)

After Tip brings Hannah up from the cliffside, she and I hug and hug some more.  I put aside the subjunctive – the what ifs, the what could have happened.   Startled and so grateful, as is her outlook on life anyway, Hannah lets the tears flow, knowing how fortunate she is to be on terra firma.  Looking down at her left leg, I see some scrapes above her ankle below her capris but am oblivious to the sizable gash that Tip and Hannah have both seen.  With no time to lose, we begin the mile and a half trek to get Hannah and her left leg out of the woods and to the trailhead.

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The side creek that we just passed before the trail gave way beneath Hannah’s feet

With an hour on the rocky trail ahead, I clutch her left elbow as she takes her first tentatively step and leans forward.  On a trail of sharply angled rocks, I brace her left side as she puts her weight on her solid right foot.  Fortunately, we have already crossed the widest side creek, but there are still others to navigate with Hannah on one good leg.

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The San Ysidro Trail that Hannah descends

I have no clue to the gaping gash on Hannah’s calf, which is a good thing, as I focus on supporting her as she gingerly steps down the trail from rock to rock.  When the trail levels out, she says to me, we can go faster; knowing that the sooner we get to the bottom, the sooner she will get the medical care she needs.  Remember, while I think she has just a few scraps, she has seen the deep gouge in her lower left leg.

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Picture Tip took as he followed us down the trail with Hannah and her three tourniquets

On our slow walk down the trail on this Thursday in the last week of February, I think how Hannah and I usually never hike with others; but again good fortune smiles on us as today we have Molly and Tip.  That said, if it had been just us two on this trail just above suburban Montecito in metropolitan Santa Barbara, we would have had many other hikers here to support us.

Stepping carefully and rarely looking up, we take no breaks and beeline it for the trailhead.  The three tourniquets Tip tied on her leg are working as Hannah never complains, in fact, smiles her way down the mountain.

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The San Ysidro Trail that we came down; earlier in the hike Hannah and I had hiked up it with Molly, Tip, Owen, and Max

Both Hannah’s sunny disposition and our steady pace off the mountain has fooled me into thinking that she is okay and that the medical attention she will need may be minor.

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Hand in hand, hiking to the trailhead

At the junction with the McMenemy Trail to Saddlerock Mountain, we have a mile down, with just a half a mile to go.  Our daughter Molly has gone ahead with our four-year-old grandson, Owen, to get our car in position for me to take Hannah for medical attention.

Fifteen minutes later, we see Molly waving from behind a chain link fence with their rented Toyota in the foreground.  Behind them, we are surprised to see three bright red vehicles: a full-length fire truck, an American Medical Response ambulance, and a fire department SUV.

Hannah turns to me as says, I don’t want to go in an ambulance.  I want you to take me to the hospital.  How bad can her leg be if she doesn’t think she needs an ambulance?

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Zach explaining the reality of her injuries to Hannah

Arriving at the staging area, we see Zach, an EMT, who says, you must be Hannah?  Hannah smiles and nods, as he leads her to the back end of the ambulance to sit and be examined.  Still convinced I can take her to the hospital ER, Hannah is smiling, in no pain, as Zach checks out her lower leg; he quickly assesses that this is no simple gash that just a few stitches will heal.

Saying to Hannah, It is your choice to go with your husband or go with us in the ambulance, but our service is free.  Hannah remains unconvinced that she needs an ambulance.

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American Medical Response ambulance

As the four EMTs gather around, they are stunned that she is feeling no pain.   To a person, they call her the patient of the year.   Maybe they say that all the time, but I doubt it.  Hannah is a rock star who has walked out a mile and a half with a gaping wound – never complaining.

As they are about to wrap up, Hannah mentions a spot of blood on her capris on her left thigh.   Asking if it is okay that he cut away her capris, Zach soon sees a much larger and longer gash, twice the size of the lower one, that goes all the way to the bone.

Zach looks at Hannah and says, You can do what you want, but you are coming with me.  Hannah readily agrees.

 

I asked Molly to write a reflection of what she was thinking when she went ahead for help.  In Molly’s words:

Owen and I walked/ran ahead. Owen seemed to be leading the pace.  We sang some songs together as we ran, as a way to pass time and keep our focus on getting down back to the car.  We talked about how far he has hiked that day.  I told Owen that   “Omi is one tough cookie,” to which he asked, “what does tough cookie mean?”   I explained that even though she was hurt, she was walking to get down the mountain.  I told Owen that we were going to get the car to go back up part of the side road to pick her up when she got back down to the access road.  And then she would get help. 

As we got to the bottom of the trail, we ran 200 feet on the road to my car. As we got to the white rental car parked behind Omi and Poppa’s car, a man in a white Audi wagon pulled up right behind our car. Not sure whether to call 911 or not, I asked him if I could get through the locked gates on the access road to get closer to my injured mom.  I explained that my mom fell and hurt her leg near the top of the hike – and was coming behind us with my husband and dad and another son.  The man said that I could call 911 to get support – he was very encouraging and reminded me that “this is what they do — and they are close by.” 

After realizing that I had no idea if mom was getting worse or if she was even able to walk at this point, I decided to call. It crossed my mind that my mom probably would not want an ambulance, I figured I’d rather be on the safe side and get medical attention if she needed it.  I called 911 as I sat in my car.  Owen was sitting in the back seat eating mixed nuts.  

In general I felt pretty calm until I started talking to the dispatcher because I had somewhat incomplete responses to her questions – where exactly I was, how my mom was doing…  I tried to describe where I was and where my mom might be.  I knew they were walking down, but not sure at what pace. I told her that I wasn’t sure if she’d need medical attention but she had a bad fall 1.8 miles up the trail… the dispatcher said they were sending an ambulance to meet me at the trail head.

Owen and I drove up the access road to get closer to where Omi would be coming down and wait for the ambulance.  We saw the man (from earlier) again who was hiking up the trail as I was talking to Tip (who had just come back into cell reception area).

Tip wanted me to look up a hospital in the area – and the man was walking by and heard the conversation – and told me about Cottage Hospital. He said it’s close and it’s the best in the vicinity!  The man continued hiking – and I told him that he’d see my mom soon and asked if he could relay about how far they had to go when they crossed paths. Within 3 minutes, I could see Omi, Poppa, and Tip at the top of a hill — and simultaneously the ambulance pulled up the access road.  Since the road was locked at the gate, the EMTs encouraged Omi to keep coming down the trail – and they met her there. 

 

Here’s Tip’s take on the hike out after the accident in his own words.

So, after Hannah and I had climbed back up on the trail we were going to take a look at the “gash” on her thigh that was hidden under her capris, but then I thought better of opening up the wound to the elements even more, so we grabbed another long sleeve T-shirt and wrapped around her thigh to slow the bleeding.  Once we all started moving down the trail toward the car and help, I had Max on my back and just watched Hannah slowly make her way down the narrow path. 

I knew the cuts I saw were deep, but they didn’t seem to be gushing blood and Hannah just kept on going–there was no stopping her. 

I was trying to think of a way to support her to get down, but other than carrying her on my back, which I offered, there didn’t seem to be much I could do. 

When we’d pass hikers going the other direction many that noticed her injury would offer help and Hannah would say something like “I have these two guys to watch over me, I’m good.”  Some would then look at me with questions on their face and I would just shrug my shoulders and then give a nod of thanks. 

I’m not sure if we should have taken them up on their offer, and if so, what they could have done. 

Once the trail was wide enough for two to walk down Dan was there to support Hannah. 

Once we had cell service I got in contact with Molly, about a half a mile away from her, I knew she called someone for help. I wasn’t sure who was coming whether it was just a police officer to open a gate Molly’s car was stuck at or the ambulance. I didn’t mention that to Hannah and Dan. I thought that Hannah was a little embarrassed by the whole thing. 

When we got close enough to see Molly and the car we also saw multiple rescue vehicles pull up. After we saw them Hannah told Dan that “she wasn’t going anywhere unless it was in his car.”  I wasn’t sure that was the case and was glad there was someone professional who could look at her leg. 

As we went down the trail, I felt like I wanted to do something but there wasn’t much I could do. I am grateful she is okay.  

 

 

 

 

Dan and Hannah Hike with the Family Rawding on the San Ysidro Trail and Then… Part 2 of 6

(Part 1 ended with the cliffside San Ysidro Trail giving way under Hannah’s feet)

Hannah immediately slides down the rocky cliffside, 15’ or more, into the ravine; and I know because I am standing directly behind her.  The vertical drop between Hannah and me now is jagged with rocks and unstable dirt due to the recent heavy rains in the Santa Barbara area.  As a human mudslide, she later told us she grabbed for saplings on her descent down this nearly vertical rocky cliff.

And then suddenly, she is perched on a small promontory, some 25’ above the San Ysidro Creek, rich with boulders and trouble.  On the good news/bad news continuum, the good news is that it appears she has not hit her head on the way down.  I don’t know if there is any bad news… It turns out she and Tip do.

Rescuing her down the hillside of rocks and mud where she slid is not an option.  Any effort to save her that way will just push more rocks and mud onto Hannah and may propel her further down the steep chasm.

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Tip on the cliffside preparing to take Hannah back to the main trail.  See the sheer cliff, the occasional sapling, and the creek far below

At this point, Tip passes their son Owen off to Molly, who is hugging their son Max, and sprints fifteen feet down the trail to a point parallel to where Hannah is.  Shaken, Hannah knows the enormity of the danger that she is in.  Tip uses the saplings sprouting from the hillside for support and steps carefully along the side hill to reach her.

Her left leg has taken the brunt of the rocky slide.  Though there are abrasions by her ankle, a major gash has been ripped open on her lower leg.  Hannah and Tip see it all; he quickly takes off his long sleeve tee shirt to make the first of three tourniquets on her left leg.  At the time, I am half way down the same path Tip has taken but see nothing that they have seen.

Later Hannah told me, Tip said to her, Omi, Omi, (her grandmother name) with a tone that “this is serious, but with the reassurance that we’ll get you through this.”  Comforted, Hannah knows she is in good hands.

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Earlier in the hike on the way to the falls, Hannah in her capris.  The trail gives you an idea of the jagged rocks of the trail.

Wearing capris down to her mid-calf, Hannah feels a strong pain in her upper thigh, but neither she nor Tip can see if there is a wound there.  Surprisingly, there is no tear to the capris above her knee.  But Tip has seen enough of the gaping gash in her lower leg to know that she could use more tourniquets, one below her knee and another around her upper thigh.  It appears nothing is broken, but adrenaline might mask a break anyway.

With all the skill of a veteran EMT, Tip slowly moves Hannah along the side of the cliff, towards the main trail.  All the while Molly, above on the trail, is distracting Owen and Max.  She is especially thankful when Max notices a bug on the side of the hillside that grabs both boys’ attention.

With Tip leading Hannah to the trail, I reach for her, and see a smiling and thankful Hannah.  Her sunny disposition belies the wounds to her left leg; I have no idea what lurks beneath her capris on her upper thigh, nor does she or Tip.

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Hannah and I rarely hike with others.  Fortunate this day that Molly holding Owen and Tip with Max in his backpack joined Hannah and me for the hike.

Later Hannah remembers four things about the fall: (1) the loud pop as she hit the first sharp rock (perhaps the puncture of her leg that didn’t rip her capris! Whoa!), (2) looking down at her lower leg and seeing a gaping gash that she quickly decides she doesn’t need to look at anymore, (3) when her fall stopped on the small promontory, she could see the drop to the boulders and rocks in the creek below, and (4) her good fortune that our son-in-law Tip was the reassuring rescuer that she and we all needed.

By the way, when Tip chooses his next career after being the Tom Brady of stay-at-home dads, the world will be a better place if he considers being an EMT or a firefighter.  Hannah remembers how cool and encouraging he was under “saving her life” pressure!

Holding Hannah tightly, I now hug her with all the gratitude that she is safe.  Having seen none of what Tip has seen and buoyed by Hannah’s belief that she is doing well and can walk the mile and a half to the trailhead, she and I step carefully down the trail.

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Earlier in the hike, Molly with Owen and Tip with Max.  Molly’s quick thinking had her and Owen hike ahead to get transportation at the trailhead.

Thinking quickly to save time at the other end of the trail, Molly goes ahead with Owen to get our car as close to the trailhead as possible.  Molly is doing what we need on this sunny day in the 60s, though ironically she herself is in the dark, uncertain if her  mother will even make it out without additional support.

 

 

Dan and Hannah Hike to the San Ysidro Falls with the Family Rawding and Then…  Part 1 of 6

sy2-2-family-at-start-of-trailEarlier this past February, Hannah and I had hiked the San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, just south of Santa Barbara, California.  With the relentless rains of the winter of 2017, the waterfalls at the end of the trail had grown from a trickle to a thunderous applause of water.  That waterfall trail jumped it to the top of our list of favorite hikes in Santa Barbara.  Click here for that blog.

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Raging stream for stick throwing, not for crossing

Five days ago, our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandsons, Owen (4.5) and Max (nearly 3) flew from Massachusetts to spend their school vacation week with us at our rented cottage in nearby Summerland.  On Molly and Tip’s first full day in California, they hiked this very trail while we took Owen and Max to Carpinteria Beach.   Molly and Tip got sidetracked onto other trails and never ended up at the San Ysidro Falls.

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Max by San Ysidro Creek

So, with sunny weather this last Thursday in February, we all decide to hit the San Ysidro Trail for the ideal “family” hike.  “Ideal” if you have two athletic, vigilant, and relentlessly encouraging parents like Molly and Tip to deal with the challenges of hiking with preschoolers; who begin the hike moving and grooving, then get tired, and finally want to be carried.

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Tip with thier sons, Owen (left) and Max (right)

Driving in two rental cars, we six arrive at the trailhead on East Mountain Drive and park beside the hedges of five to ten million dollar houses of Montecito, home to Oprah, Kenny Loggins, and Ellen.   Thankfully, long ago the Montecito Trail Foundation established trails up the mountain so the public can enjoy the same scenery as do the landed gentry.

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Athletic Omi with her grandson Owen

When you hike with preschoolers, you are in for a “stop and smell the roses” kind of hike.  Not wanting to control the boys’ enthusiasm, Molly and Tip watch Owen and Max explore, run, sometimes fall, and then they are there to help Owen and Max throw away their “ouchies.”  At the end of the hike, Max will need three band-aids on his knees.

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The boys race, we follow while Molly and Tip remain alert.  Trees with hollowed trunks are favorite stopping points for the boys as is the storm-fueled river where they watch their thrown sticks follow the current past stones and boulders in the stream.

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A six to eight-inch rain storm fell just six days ago, so the trail has puddles and mud that Molly and Tip swing their boys over.  The trail is rocky with side creeks that require careful stone-stepping to cross.  Having Tip’s strength and agility makes all the difference.

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After a mile of the two to the falls, Max finally turns around, raises his arms up, the signal that he is ready for the backpack.  Interestingly twenty minutes later he wants to get down; but Tip has seen this show before on other hikes.  First down, then literally 30 seconds later Max wants to go back up in the backpack.

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Last week’s rock slide impeding our hike

Along the way, we see boulders from mudslides that block the trail that we step around and over; not impenetrable, but testament to the power of the recent storm.

Within two hundred yards of the waterfall, we come upon the widest side creek, where seven days ago, Hannah and I easily stone-stepped across.  Today, Tip climbs atop the larger boulder (see below) mid-creek and extends his arm to each of us, all the time having 40-pound Max on his back.

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San Ysidro Falls

And then, just around the bend is the San Ysidro Falls in all its storm-fueled glory.  Hannah and I see that the trail in front of the falls has narrowed to 18”, due to the erosion caused by the storm.  The force of the water over the headwaters is double what it was just ten days ago.

It’s been two hours for two miles; about par when hiking with preschoolers on a trail into the mountains.  Older brother Owen has impressively walked the entire two rocky miles with 1150’ of elevation gain – a chip off his mom and dad’s block.

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The rock Tip perched on to get us all across the side creek, within 200 yards of the falls

A little after 1230P, we head back for the trailhead on East Mountain Drive, which requires Tip’s strength and balance to support us again over the side creek torrent that we just negotiated twenty minutes before.

And then…

… with Molly in front with Max, Owen on Tip’s shoulders, Hannah following them, and me just behind her on the trail, the trail above the forty-foot ravine suddenly gives way beneath Hannah’s feet.  One minute Hannah is there, the next she is feet-first, rock surfing down the vertical cliff side towards the ravine 40′ below.