Warning: It gets a little graphic. Sorry!
On Saturday, August 6th, we packed up our car and headed up to Strawberry (near Payson) with a few of our close friends. Ben's aunt and uncle own a cabin that we would be staying at for the weekend. We arrived at the cabin in the afternoon, unloaded our crap, and headed down to the springs. When we got to the top of the canyon to head down, the road was closed. Forest Rangers told us that too many people were down there and had illegally parked, so they can't let anyone else down unless people start to leave. We probably should have taken this as a sign not to go down... oh well. We gathered together to form another plan, and a few minutes later a few cars left and the Forest Rangers let us go down. YESSS!
We headed down the freakin' SCARY canyon, which consists of a tiny dirt road with about a million switchbacks, and no guardrails. Everyone was loaded in Ben's parent's Tahoe... 10 people to be exact. The drive down was so HOT, and the boys in the trunk weren't getting enough air so it started to get a little stinky. =/ Anyway, once we finally got to the the bottom everyone jumped out as fast as they could and headed down the trail. It's about a 30 minute hike down, and once we got to the springs it was MAGICAL!
It was a little crowded, but totally worth it. The water was so nice!
Here is a picture of what the Falls look like. This will also help put in perspective where Ben was standing when the accident happened. Also, it's a lot bigger than this picture looks... just sayin.
See where those people are standing on the left side, right next to the water fall? Well, about 15 feet above that and a smidge to the left, is a rope swing hanging off a tree. Ben was standing right where those people on the left are. Some kids above were trying to run down the hill with the rope swing, to jump further out into the pool. (Keep in mind this is from MY perspective) I was standing over on the right side holding onto Nigel, because he kept trying to bug this other dog. Anyway, I heard some yelling and looked over and saw a few rocks falling off the cliff, and I saw Ben standing there. I have no idea what made me do it, but putting those two together just didn't register, and for whatever reason, I looked away. Good thing, because a 65 pound boulder, the size of a couch pillow, fell on his head.
The very next second I heard SCREAMING, looked over and Ben was gone. I couldn't breathe, all I could do is say "where is my husband?". I saw a figure float up, recognized it was Ben, and dove into the water. I was beyond scared. A million thoughts were racing through my head, "is he conscious?", "is he okay?", "is he ALIVE?". About 4 guys were pulling him through the water and that's when I saw his face. He was wide awake, saying, "I'm okay, I'm okay." I was beyond relieved, until I looked at his head. (I'm still floating about 9 feet away in the water at this point) All I saw was white (his skull), skin flaps (I told you it would be graphic), and blood... e v e r y w h e r e. I quickly realized that I wouldn't be able to help, so I turned around and almost puked on the edge of the water.
As they pulled Ben up, they were already wrapping his head in a towel. I ran up to him, trying not to cry, to make sure he was okay. He kept saying "I'm fine, I'm fine. What happened? Is there blood on my face? My back hurts. Are you okay? What happened? Is there blood on my face?....". He just kept repeating everything over and over. Nobody down there had any medical experience, so we had no idea what the extent of his injuries were. He kept saying his back hurt, but we were more concerned about the damage to his head. There was no telling if is skull had been broken or fractured, or if there was any damage or bleeding in his brain.
Three people (including 2 of our friends) raced up the trail to get cell service and call the paramedics. About 5 or 6 guys, that we didn't even know, formed a plan, picked him up, and ran him up the hill. I was right behind them the whole time, and those guys were amazing. We are so blessed that they were down there. They moved him so fast, and kept talking to him the whole time to keep him awake. All I could hear Ben say was, "What happened? Where's Breann? Do I have insurance? What happened? Is Breann okay?". I couldn't believe that he was asking about ME. He's just the best husband I could ask for.
Once we got to the top of the trail, the ambulance wasn't there. A guy named Landon, who we didn't even know, told us to get in his truck and he'll take us up. We jumped in and he raced up the road, not even stopping for people in the way. He just held his hand down on the horn and kept going. It was AWESOME. When we were in the truck, Landon and I asked Ben questions to make sure he hadn't lost a ton of his memory. I asked him if he remembered who I was, and he said, "Yeah, you're Breann, you're my wife." Phew!! Then back to the same questions, "What happened? Is there blood on my face?". Then he started to ask me how many times he's asked that. I didn't know what to say because I didn't want him to freak out. I would say, "just a few babe, no big deal."
When we got to the first switchback, the ambulance was pulling around the corner, so we stopped and they loaded him in. I watched them secure him to the stretcher, but I had to step away when they pulled the towel off his head and properly wrap his head. There's no way I could have looked at that. I hopped back in the ambulance when they were finished and began to take his vitals. Here are a few of the questions they asked him... even at the time some of his responses were hysterical.
"Alright buddy, do you know what year it is?"
"Yep, do you know what month it is?"
"May?" Looks at me "Crap. That's wrong isn't it?"
"Do you know who the President is?"
"Oh man I know this!.... Uh... uh... crap. Uh... the black guy?"
Paramedics cracking up
"Hahah! Yeah, it's the black guy."
We raced up the canyon and into Pine. There was a helicopter already waiting for him at the church building parking lot. Before they unloaded him, Ben's dad asked the paramedics if they could give him a quick blessing. They told him to make it quick. He jumped into the ambulance with our friend Nick Klein, and one of the paramedics asked if they needed a High Priest. They obviously said yes, and gave him a fast Priesthood blessing. Amidst all the craziness, that was the one time I felt at peace.
They wheeled him over to the helicopter, and Ben got SO excited! He was all "I'm gonna ride in a CHOPPER?! This is sooo cool! I've never been in one before! Oh wow...". The paramedics advised me that I would not be able to stay with him, which pissed me off, but what can ya do? Our group quickly headed back to the cabin, where I changed, grabbed all my crap, and jumped in the car with Jeff, Mandi, and Keith. They were transporting him to Scottsdale Osborn, so I had about a 2.5 hour drive back to the valley, and had no idea if Ben was going to be okay.
Once we finally got to the hospital, I had to fill out a couple of papers. After waiting about 20 minutes they let me see him. He was in the prep OR, and completely conscious. THANK THE HEAVENS! I went to see him, and I could see his face become so relieved when he saw me. I can't imagine how scared and confused he must have been. Here is a conversation, I'm pretty sure we had about 5 times in that room.
"A boulder fell on your head, Ben."
"Are you serious?! Is there blood on my face?"
"Yeah, but the nurses are going to clean it off."
"Holy crap. Are YOU okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine and so is Nigel."
"Nigel was with us?!!"
"Where am I?"
"You at a hospital in Scottsdale."
"Why? What happened?"
I've never felt so helpless in my entire life. All I wanted was to take my husband's pain away and I couldn't. The most I could do was hold his hand and answer his questions over and over. Results from the head and neck scan told us that the brain and skull didn't appear to have suffered any damage and his neck was fine. He obviously had a concussion, but it wouldn't have any long term effects. However, they didn't check his back, which was what he had complained about originally. Idiots.
We met with the plastic surgeon, who explained to me what they would be doing in the OR. Ben had suffered from serious head lacerations, and the doctor was concerned that some of the tissue might be too badly damaged to be repaired. (Luckily, everything healed remarkably well in that department.) The anesthesiologist gave him drugs, I kissed him goodbye, and had to wait about 2.5 hours until he was out of surgery and placed in his own room. The doctor put 14 staples in his head and a handful of sutures.
This is what he looked like when I saw him again. It was so sad.
As you can see, they didn't even clean up all the blood off his face! I was so ticked... especially because I ended up being the one to do it. Dumb hospital.
The issue of his back hurting wasn't even addressed until the next afternoon, which to this day we are still livid about. They took him in for x-rays at 1PM, and I found out LATER THAT NIGHT from a night nurse, that 4 of his thoracic vertebrae (T2, T3, T4 and T5) were fractured. His T4 was 50% compressed. The freakin' neurosurgeon didn't come in until almost 11 the next morning to give me the exact same news. He had to go in for a CT and MRI that day, and by the time he was done with that, the physical therapists were already gone for the day, so he couldn't get his brace on. They didn't come around until Tuesday morning, and they slapped the brace on him. Basically, Sunday and Monday were a complete waste of time at the hospital, and if they had just addressed the issues when they were supposed to, we could have avoided an extra 2 days in the hospital. Can you tell I hate hospitals? I'm not even sure if I'll be able to watch Grey's Anatomy anymore. I'll get mad at McDreamy and Merideth for messing around and not taking care of their patients.
We were able to go home Tuesday afternoon, and I was beyond excited! I had slept on a crappy hospital recliner for 3 nights with paper blankets. We stayed at Ben's parents for almost 2 weeks because they don't have very many stairs, or a Nigel dog to trip over. It was really rough the first couple weeks. Ben was in a lot of pain, and the brace made him so uncomfortable. Over time, he's gotten used to it.
After being home for a couple days, Ben's hair was driving him crazy. It kept pulling in his brace, and it had a crap load of dried up blood and neosporin in it. I tried to cut with beard trimmers and they totally gave out. Then I tried to trim the thick pieces off with my shears, but I had to stop because it wasn't working very well, and I was afraid it would dull the blades. I finally gave in and used my peanut (expensive, heavy duty, neck trimmers) and Ben looked like a cancer patient when I was done. It took FOREVER to cut it all off... it was so nasty!
Everyone kept saying he looked like Darth Vader with his mask off.. it was kinda true. Tee hee!
Despite this horrible accident, we have truly been able to see the Lord's hand in our lives. It's a miracle that the boulder didn't damage his skull or brain, let alone kill him. I couldn't believe how many loving messages, phone calls and notes we received. Thank you to everyone who offered a prayer in our behalf, and put Ben's name in the Temple. It's obvious those things worked. This experience has definitely made me more thankful for the little things in my life. More so, it has made me thankful that Heavenly Father gave me my wonderful husband, and let me keep him. Ben is the light of my life. Nothing makes me happier than to know he is my eternal partner, and we will always be together. I now FULLY understand the term of tender mercies. I am grateful for the blessings Heavenly Father has given us through this experience. It has definitely brought us closer together, and closer to Christ.
Again, thank you to everyone for your kind thoughts, prayers and support. Ben is healing remarkably well! He had the staples and sutures taken out of his scalp the beginning of this month, and little hairs are starting to sprout up on his bald patch! YAY! He has to be in his brace 24/7, except when he showers, which kinda sucks, but it's totally helping his posture. His doctor says that any time you break a bone it takes at least 3 months to heal. He told us that Ben's fractures are healing very well, and he will most likely be able to lose the brace by November 6th. I can't wait for the day! I'm so sick of driving him everywhere.
I will try to keep our family blog updated as Ben continues to make progress. All I can say is after this ordeal is over, we are gonna plan an awesome snowboarding trip and leave all these shenanigans in the past where they belong. =)
This is the most recent picture I have with the two of us. It was on my birthday (Aug. 24).. Ben looks so lost haha!