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Cheryl Hughes: A Step in the Wrong Direction

You know that place on the very top of the ladder that says, THIS IS NOT A STEP.  It isn’t.  I’m not sure if that’s what the step said that Garey stepped on when the ladder slipped, and he fell 12 feet, but that’s what it should have said.  That or TURN BACK or DON’T DO IT!  

As in all accidents, there is a series of seemingly innocent events and good intentions leading up to the actual event.  It all started in Garey’s mom’s basement.  The basement where up to 500 quart jars of expired vegetables were emptied, as well as countless bags of useless things thrown into the trash.  It continued on the way back to our house, as we discussed how we were not going to leave useless things for our children to have to go through after we pass.  It culminated on a metal shelf, high above a concrete floor, in Garey’s shop at the bottom of the hill, behind our house.  He had already thrown down the two boxes of twenty-something year old files, when he stepped on the ladder to come back down to take the files to the trash.  The ladder slipped.  The files never made it to the trash.  Instead, Garey was airlifted to Skyline Trauma Center in Nashville.

I don’t know how Garey was able to get to the shop towels to stem the bleeding from the large gash in his head, climb over all the things that fell with the stuff that fell from the shelf with a broken right kneecap, then drive himself to the top of the hill, where he walked into the kitchen, looking like he’d been beaten with a baseball bat.  I’m just thankful that he was able to do it.

I watched blood run down the front of his heavy vest and pool onto the kitchen floor as I called for an ambulance.  I added large washcloths to the shop towels and prayed Garey would not bleed out before the EMTs got there.  Thankfully, they arrived 7 minutes after I placed the call.  It’s true what they say about when you’re in a traumatic situation, you often feel like you are outside of your body, watching yourself go through the motions you need to go through to get you through the situation.  I watched myself watch Garey in the ambulance through the window in the back door, as he mouthed the words, “I’m okay.”  I watched myself return to the house, then hold on to the living room doorknob, because I felt as if I had been broken in half.  I heard myself cry out to God to please spare my husband, because I still need him, and our granddaughter still needs him.  

My phone rang.  It was our friend, Greg Hampton.  “What do you need?” were the first words out of his mouth.  “I need you to take me to the hospital,” I said.  He was at my house before I changed out of my gown and sweatpants and into my jeans and tee shirt.  I had called my neighbors Vicky and Timmy Jones to come over and clean the blood off my kitchen floor, so the cats didn’t track it all over the house.  They were still working on it when Greg and I left.  (You can’t buy friends like that.)  Greg got me to Skyline just as the helicopter carrying Garey landed.  (If you need to get somewhere fast, Greg’s your guy.  It says a lot about his wife, Renee’s ability to keep her head, while grabbing me a warm blanket and a bag of snacks, while Greg was telling her, “I gotta go!  I gotta go!”)

Garey was there 6 days.  He had about twelve stitches in his head and surgery on his kneecap—4 screws.  What he didn’t have was a skull fracture, a brain bleed or brain swelling.  The doctor’s assistant looked at me after going over all the scans and said, “This is almost unheard of.”  I was so grateful to God for sparing Garey from those things.  It was so good to get home.

I know Nikki and Natalie and Natalie’s husband, Scott, are our children, but they were truly unbelievable in the way they sprang into action and made things happen.  They drove my car to the hospital, got the trash out for pickup, carried in wood, picked up groceries and medicine, shopped for hospital socks, made sure we had a fire in the fireplace and a gazillion other things that gave me the freedom to stay by Garey’s side.

Our friends also rallied.  They brought us food and had food delivered.  They found Garey a lift chair and replaced a leaky water filter on the fridge.  They called, they prayed, they dropped by to check on us.  We didn’t know what good friends we had.  We do now.  It’s one thing to have an appreciation of family and friends, it’s another to have the realization that you probably have the best family and friends in the universe.  It was a wake up call for me.  It will make me a better parent, a better wife, a better sister, a better friend.  I’m sorry that Garey took that step in the wrong direction, but I truly believe it is one of those things that God will work out for good in our lives.  Here’s to a new year and a step in the right direction. 


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