Friday, September 26, 2008

Forget Disneyland

The Cornia Ranch is the funnest place on earth.

A couple weekends ago we all went out to a ranch just north of town to visit with the Cornia family. Lily had been begging to go jump hay bales with her friend Kaylee so we thought we'd all go for a visit. Dan has known the parents for a few years and he took his gory pictures and recounted his injury story. I visited for a few minutes, but as soon as the kids headed outside, I followed with my camera.

I haven't had that much fun taking pictures in a long time. It made me think of my Dad and how much fun he must have had following us around and taking pictures when we were kids. His slides are such a treasure now.

There was a fresh batch of kittens at the ranch and the girls were in hog heaven. As I was taking these pictures it totally reminded me of when I was a kid. We camped at the KOA a lot and it seemed like there were always kitties around to entertain Becky and I.

Where did those kitties go?

There they are. Ooh, and they look hungry, too.

Can I keep this one, Mama?

I showed Amelia how to make a kitty toy out of a tall piece of grass.

It was fun for the kitty until Amelia started whacking him!

Is she gone yet?

Lily, Kaylee, her neighbor Brayden, and Amelia had fun exploring all over the barn.

There was a grain chute that the kids climbed down and plopped in the grain pile.

Amelia was fascinated by the shaft of light coming through a small window. When I saw how cool this light was, I almost started hyperventilating, thinking, "don't stop, don't stop, just let me get the right camera setting."

This one of Amelia and the one of Lily holding the kitty were my favorite shots from the day.


Lily couldn't believe Kaylee had her very own little motorcycle. How cool to be a ranch kid!

Headin' for the hay bales.

The bales were taller than me.

Which leaves the question, how did the ranch dog get up there?

Good times!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Energy Suck

I don't know if it's the stress of the last three weeks, the unfortunate truth that I'm no longer a spring chicken, or the fact that this baby seems way bigger than his sisters, but I am exhausted.

It used to be that naps were a guilty pleasure of mine. I loved to curl up for a nice 3 hour nap when I had the free time. But when I was busy, I would stay up and get stuff done during Amelia's nap. Now the naps are no longer a luxury, they're a physical necessity. It seems like forever since I've had a good night's sleep and I wake up dragging every morning. Amelia hasn't been sleeping well, Dan has needed help with meds and such (up until last week, anyway) and I swear I have to pee 5 or 6 times a night. I guess it's good practice for when Mystery Boy gets here, but I'd much rather just get some sleep while I still have the chance.

My body isn't handling the stress of pregnancy with as much spunk as it used to. I had it pretty easy when I was pregnant with Amelia because Lily was 4 years old and could fend for herself in a lot of ways. She was also old enough to understand when I couldn't carry her around and why she wasn't allowed to jump all over Mama's belly. I've been having more cramping and overall fatigue this time, surely due to lugging around a two-year-old and doing more physical work than I might otherwise do if Dan weren't injured.

I had a little breakdown today at naptime. Amelia has a nasty cold and was up most of the night last night. So when naptime came around today I was in desperate need to crash. Amelia fussed in her bed, so I took her into my bed, which usually soothes her right to sleep. But she was antsy and kept getting up. She wouldn't lay down, but she was rubbing her eyes and crying and looking pitiful. I tried to just ignore her, thinking she'd eventually fall asleep. But she didn't. She started writhing around on the bed, whacking me in the belly multiple times and I finally yelled, "Amelia, stop it!" and started bawling. Dan, who I didn't even know was in the house, came running in to see what was wrong. I said, "I'm just so tired." So Dan took Amelia away so I could sleep. He ended up driving her around for an hour and a half. He can walk around without his knee immobilizer now, but it's very difficult for him to carry anything while walking. Though I was relieved that he was taking Amelia, I felt guilty that he was struggling to carry Amelia with his hurt leg, and I felt so lame for not being strong enough to handle her by myself. I bawled a little more and finally drifted off to sleep. Freakin' pregnancy hormones, they have been doing overtime on me lately.

After we moved to Cokeville, I was feeling pretty happy here and feeling like maybe it would be possible for us to have a 4th child in the future. Life is easier to manage here, I was feeling refreshed, and I thought we could give another kid a really good life. But then I look at myself, tired and emotionally spent on a daily basis, and I think, "maybe I owe it to the kids I already have to just stop now and try to be the best I can for them." I have really been neglecting Lily lately. She's in school until 3:00, usually plays with Kamille or someone else after school, and by the time dinner rolls around I'm just done for the day. I need to be investing more time and energy in my children instead of selfishly fantasizing about going away and being by myself. All those years while I worked, I dreamed of being the fun stay-at-home mom that did crafts and went for walks and taught my kids stuff. But I just don't seem to have the energy for it. I was talking to my sister Becky today and she reminded me that pregnancy is a total energy suck because your body is working overtime, growing another human, and that things will be better once the baby is born. I'll be sleep deprived, but at least I'll get some of my physical energy back.

The good news is that Mystery Boy is healthy and active. I went for my OB appointment this week and had an ultrasound. He weighs 1 1/2 pounds and looks really healthy. I was totally bummed, though, because we requested a DVD recording of the ultrasound but when we got home it was blank. He was doing really cute stuff like hiccuping and sticking his tongue in and out. And confirming that he is still definitely a boy.

Have you ever seen the movie Two Weeks Notice with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant? When Dan and I were driving back from our doctors appointments on Monday, we hit Highway 30, just 20 miles or so from Cokeville, and I found myself wishing for an RV to drive by. Remember that scene in the movie when Lucy and George leave the tennis club and Lucy is suddenly attacked by the two chili dogs she ate? That was totally me. Sitting in the car, fidgeting, taking deep breaths, rolling down the window to ease the hot flashes, fanning my face, leaning sideways in the seat, moaning... If only an RV would appear and I could go duke it out with John. But alas, there is nowhere to stop between Randolph and Cokeville. I was so desperate by the time we hit town that I seriously considered stopping at the Flying J instead of driving the 6 or 8 blocks to our house.

See, a little potty humor always cheers me up.

24 weeks and counting

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Man just cannot stay away from power equipment

The only thing worse than a patient in a lot of pain is a patient who's suffering from excessive boredom. They begin to think irrationally about their injury. They're so tired of just laying around that they're willing to take chances just so they can squash the boredom.

Only 10 days after trying to cut off his leg, Dan was back in the wood pile, splitting logs. He'd been eyeing Brian & Becca's new machinery for a couple of days and finally succumbed to its wicked allure. The first day he'd gone to look at the log splitter, almost simultaneously Brian and I hollered at him. "Step away from the power equipment!" Dan pshawed and argued that the log splitter was infinitely safer than a running chainsaw.


On Sunday evening Dan decided he'd had enough of being couped up and he went to give the log splitter a test drive.

Brian's dad Keith heard the machine running and came out to see what the crazy kid was doing. It's actually a pretty impressive machine. You just lay the log on the cutting area, pull the lever, and a giant blade slowly slices into the wood.

In terms of mobility, Dan can walk around pretty easily with his crutches and knee immobilizer and now he's walking mostly just with a cane. If he's standing still he has enough strength to lift a small log (nothing too heavy) and put it on the splitter, but he can't carry anything and walk at the same time. He still has to concentrate all of his strength and coordination when he's walking.

He goes in for his first follow-up visit with the surgeon this Monday, the 22nd. The doc from Kemmerer called this afternoon to see how he was doing. Dan was out at the woodpile and (thankfully) the doc told him that he still needed to take it really easy because the wound was still at risk of rupturing, even two weeks out from the date of the injury. Dan's been trying to get as mobile as possible because he's worried about adhesions (scars) forming on the wound, thereby decreasing his muscles' ability to return to full strength. But the doc told him that because of how developed his quad muscles were (gotta love those sexy biker legs) and the way that the skin naturally tapers above the knee, the wound is under a lot of tension, so you just have to take it super easy and let it heal. You just plan on getting some adhesions and then working them out in physical therapy.

We'll know more after the visit on Monday, but for today, Dan at least walked away from the wood pile after getting off the phone with Dr. Hinshaw. Reason prevailed, if only for a brief moment.

Hopefully that will save me another night of "I told you so" when Dan comes to bed in agony, saying he overdid it again.

You gotta admit, though, it's nice to see him up, looking sexy in his Carhartts.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I'm in love...

...with Cokeville. I may never leave.

This morning Amelia and I were just headed out to walk to the Post Office. (US Mail doesn't get delivered to your house here; everything goes to your P.O. Box. Amelia and I walk the two blocks into town to check the mail most days since she is begging to go for a walk the minute she gets out of bed every morning.) I saw a truck pull up to the house and I knew Dan was sleeping and it would be hard for him to get up to answer the door. So we hurried back to talk to our visitor.

The man introduced himself and I recognized his name as someone who had been recommended as a handyman that might be able to help us get our wood stove installed and help with other chores around the house since Dan was hurt. I assumed that Dan had called him and he was there to look at the wood stove.

I was completely flabbergasted when he handed me a check for several hundred dollars and said, "I figured you guys would be needing some money right about now." At first I was confused, thinking it was a check I was supposed to hand on to our landlord for something and then it dawned on me that the money was for us. This complete stranger who didn't know us from Adam, who had just heard about Dan's accident around town, was giving us money just because it felt like the right thing to do. He said, "I've just been thinking about you guys for the last couple of days and I felt real strongly that I should help."

There are no words for the feeling that came over me, this feeling of "this town, these people are amazing." You would never get this in the city.

You hear stories about stuff like this, but nothing like this has ever happened to me. I was stunned and said something stupid about us being fine financially because Dan could work from home still and we had some savings. I asked him if Dan had called him about the wood stove and he said no. I said, "well, we could sure use some help with that. But we're OK financially and I'd rather you saved this money for someone who really needs it." I asked him some questions about the stove and awkwardly gave him the check back.

For the first couple of hours after he left I was on this euphoric high, totally jazzed by the genuine kindness and charity for a complete stranger. Then the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that I might have hurt his feelings or come across as ungrateful by not accepting the money. I don't think it was necessarily pride that kept me from accepting. Two years ago we were in a financial situation where we would have desperately needed that money and I remember that feeling. I was thinking that the money would be better given to someone who needed it more than we did. But the more I thought about it and talked to Dan about it, the more I thought, "Yes, we could use his help in the form of time, but maybe right now he has more money than time to give, and I totally spurned him." I felt horrible.

So this evening I went to his house and apologized for my reaction. I explained that no one had ever done anything like that for me before and that I was just dumbfounded by the whole thing. I was a little teary-eyed as I explained that I didn't want to come across as ungrateful. I said, "If you have time to help us at the house, that would be great, but if the money is what you'd like to do for us, we'd be very grateful to have it." He went and got the check and gave it back to me. He and his wife explained that after they'd been to Stake Conference this past Sunday, he felt strongly impressed to offer us some help. He talked about living in a small town and how everyone helps each other out and supports one another.

I am overwhelmed and grateful. I told Lily about it tonight as I was putting the girls to bed and I said, "That is exactly the kind of thing Jesus would do."

All of you who are praying for us, God is answering. Thanks and we love you!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

This one's not nearly as gross

Dan took the dressing off his wound today and here's what we found.

Dan's comment was, "Geez, it looks like Lily sewed this thing up." I said, "Well, they weren't exactly working with a clean-cut laceration." I thought it actually looked pretty good.

Unfortunately, Dan is hurting worse now than he was a couple of days ago. He overdid it a couple days ago, trying to get out and walk a bunch. You know how he is, can't stand to sit still. But he's really taken it easy the last two days. He's trying to wean down off the Lortab and Valium because it gives him bad headaches, but his leg is hurting something fierce. He hates being doped up and is worried about the Lortab running out before his check-up, but I'm like, "Just take the damn things! You nearly cut your leg off. It's gonna hurt like hell for more than just a couple of days. We'll just get a refill."

This morning we were putting a new bandage on Dan's leg and taping it up. We'd run out of medical tape, so we used painter's tape. Awhile later when I went to change Amelia's diaper, I discovered that she had taken a piece and taped up her "owie" just like Daddy. Love that kid!

Now, let us discuss something of great importance.

Behold, the Mighty Urinal.

While I am happy for the ease and comfort it provides for Dan in his hour of need, I think this contraption represents one of the great injustices in human anatomy. Seriously girls, how much would you pay to be able to use one of these bad boys right after having a C-Section? Our only options are catheters (eww) or getting our sore aching birth-traumatized bodies out of the bed and squatting on the toilet. It's so unfair.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

That's gonna leave a mark

I guess it’s good to get the worst out of the way right up front, then things can only get better, right? My biggest apprehension about moving to Cokeville has always been the lack of medical facilities. (What? You didn't know we moved? Click here and get in the know.) There is a little clinic in town with a nurse practitioner that is open only on Mondays and Thursdays. It's fine for minor things, like a sinus infection, but certainly no trauma care. There’s 3 small hospitals within an hour’s drive, but they’re all pretty mediocre and everyone has a horror story to tell you from any one of those hospitals. To get decent medical care, you have to drive to Logan (1 ½ hours) or Salt Lake (2 ½ hours). For everyone in Cokeville, this is a part of life and something you just live with, but for a city girl like me, who’s never really lived far from a hospital, this is terrifying. My biggest fear was that someone in our family would have an accident or a medical emergency and the good hospitals are too far away.

Turns out Dan is the one who got to put my concerns to the test.

Winter is approaching and our little house is set up with propane heat. 5 years ago it was a pretty economical fuel source, but this winter they’re predicting that it will top $4.00/gallon. The propane tank holds 500 gallons and needs to be filled about every 6-8 weeks. I’ll let you do the math, but it falls squarely into the "holy crap" category. So we decided to buy a wood burning stove since the house is already outfitted with a chimney and pipe; that’s how they heated the house in the old days.

Everyone in town has been up the canyon cutting down trees for their wood burning stoves. It’s truly "Little House on the Prairie"ish, except with chainsaws instead of axes. It’s generally a good community effort with plenty of sweat and male bonding. Dan missed the first trip of cutting wood, as he was driving home from working in Salt Lake. He arrived in the late morning on Thursday (Sept. 4th) and helped Brian and his brother Kevin unload wood.

Brian is such a show-off! That's Becca next to Dan.

Amelia's favorite outfit is a princess nightgown handed down from her cousin Faith. I've stopped dressing her in it at night because it's too cold, but whenever she finds it in her drawer she insists on wearing her "Rella Dress." It's quite the little get-up.

She was not pleased that we wouldn't let her climb on the wood pile.

Later in the afternoon, the crew headed up the canyon to cut more wood. I was organizing and mopping the kitchen and I get a call from Becca at 4:55pm. She says they’ve "hit a little snag". THE understatement of the year! She tells me that Dan has cut his leg with the chainsaw and all I could say was "Oh, shit." (‘Scuse my french, but I’m pretty sure I’ll get a pass on that one.)

Here’s what happened, as best as Dan can recollect. He and Brian had cut down a tree and they were working at opposite ends, with Brian cutting the trunk into smaller sections and Dan trimming off all the limbs. The tree trunk was about waist high and Dan was cutting the limbs horizontally. Some of the limbs were kind of snarled so he had to cut into them at an angle from each side instead of just slicing it straight across. As he was cutting into a limb, the chainsaw caught on the trunk and ricocheted straight back towards his leg. It went straight into his left quadricep, about 3 or 4 inches above his knee.

He had no idea how deep it was, if he’d hit an artery or bone. Dan got Brian’s attention and as soon as Brian looked at the wound, he went running for the truck. Dan had the presence of mind to whip his belt right off and use it as a tourniquet. He pulled it as hard as he could for about a minute straight, until he could feel his pulse stopping, then he loosened it a tiny bit at a time. When blood didn’t spurt out at him, he knew he was going to live, and he said that made all the difference in the world.

Becca was at the truck and she and Brian loaded Dan in and sped down the canyon. They stopped at the first ranch house they came to and called ahead to the ambulance (Cokeville has about 30 volunteer EMT’s) so that by the time they got to the mouth of the canyon 30 minutes later, the ambulance was there to meet them. They took Dan to Kemmerer, about 50 minutes away. Of course, they were replacing all the bridges between here and there, so the road was super bumpy and for some reason, the EMT’s had only given Dan a small sniff of morphine for the pain, just 10 minutes shy of the hospital. Get that man some drugs!!!

Fortunately, as soon as the doc in Kemmerer got a good look at the wound, he knew it was way out of his league. He had actually called ahead to alert the life flight team in Salt Lake, so they were ready to take off when he called after looking at Dan. I was a little tickled when I got to the hospital in Kemmerer and this fellow in a flannel shirt, oilskin vest, John Deere cap, and scruffy hair started giving me the medical report. (I think he had been out hunting when he got the call.) You know you’re in Wyoming when your doctor looks like this:

Dan was already bandaged up, but, bless their hearts, the EMT’s had taken pictures and one of the medical staff had a little digital printer. I got to see how deep the wound really was. I’ll save the gory pictures until the end of this post and give you plenty of warning when they’re coming, as I know some of you got squirrely even with Lily’s pulled tooth pictures. The medical staff, both from Cokeville and Kemmerer, rarely get to see serious injuries like that, so several asked to take pictures and Dan said it seemed like everyone in the hospital came by to take a look. They asked his permission to take pictures and he told them, "as long as you promise to give my wife a copy for her blog." Good man, good man.

Dan severed about 3/4 of his left quadriceps muscle, across the front and partially around the outside. Fortunately, most of the blood supply in your thigh is on the back side, so he really didn’t bleed too bad, and the wound stopped just barely shy of his femur. A miracle. I am just amazed that something as powerful as a chainsaw could go into Dan’s leg and somehow he had the strength and the reaction time to pull the sucker out before it cut his whole leg off. Adreneline is an amazing thing.

After I arrived in the Kemmerer ER, the AirMed flight crew from Salt Lake showed up within about 30 minutes.

They loaded Dan into an ambulance and transported him to the small airport where a fixed wing plane awaited.

Fortunately, I was able to go with Dan on the flight. I was relieved to be with him, but in my sick twisted way, I was also glad I could go along and get lots of pictures. (When my brother David fell into a lake in Maryland and fractured his tibia and fibula, was I trying to help him out of the water? No, I was snapping pictures while we waited for the trained professionals to arrive. I think that type of behavior may require some sort of psychological evaluation.)

And even more twisted, I was pleased to see a beautiful sunset on the horizon. Hey, if you’ve got to life flight your husband because he almost cut his leg off, at least you can get some pretty pictures.

Dan was pretty doped up on morphine and several other things they gave him in Kemmerer. He slept most of the flight while I snapped lots of pictures. When we landed, one of the AirMed guys commented that I was really documenting this event well. I explained that I was a professional photographer and obnoxious in addition, and he nodded and smiled at me with an "Oh, I see" look on his face.

When we walked into the University of Utah ER, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief. I knew there were excellent physicians there and that Dan was at the best possible place for his care. There were all kinds of doctors and medical personnel milling around and I said to myself, "that is a beautiful sight." After a couple more hours of poking and prodding and evaluation from several doctors, they took Dan up for surgery (7 hours after the injury occurred). The trouble with a chainsaw injury is that it not only cuts you, but it removes tissue in the process. So there was not a nice clean-cut wound to just stitch up nice and neat. They had to flush out the wound, remove debris and some tissue, and stretch the muscle to reattach it. Going into the surgery, the surgeon told me that typically these types of wounds don’t hold sutures well and they tend to form a lot of scar tissue which shortens the muscle and decreases its function in the future. With Dan being an avid bicyclist, this was a big concern for him. So when the surgeon reported to me after the surgery and told me that they had been able to get three layers of stitches in, that was great news.

Dan got out of surgery at about 1:30am and they admitted him upstairs to recover. After seeing the orthopedic surgical resident on call and the physical therapist in the morning, they released him at 2:30pm. It’s freakin’ amazing that you can cut yourself with a chainsaw at 4:30 in the afternoon and be headed home less than 24 hours later. My Mom drove us to Evanston where Brian met us and drove us the rest of the way home to Cokeville.

Dan’s recovery is going OK. As you can imagine, it’s pretty painful. His wound is bandaged at the surgical site and he has an ace bandage wrapped around his whole leg with a knee immobilizer on the outside. At discharge he was instructed (not by his surgeon, but some resident) not to remove any of the bandages or the knee immobilizer until we go for his two week follow-up visit. Because the wound was so dirty and tricky to sew up, it’s more prone to infection and it’s more likely that the sutures will come loose with movement. But Dan called the surgeon this morning and she said he could take off the ace bandage, keep the knee immobilizer on during the day and remove it during the night. He shouldn't soak the wound but it's OK if it gets a little wet, so I think we'll try wrapping it up in plastic so he can have a shower. (Reminds me of all those times my mom wrapped a trash bag around my brother Don's arm or leg so he could take a shower. How many casts did you have growing up, Don?)

While Dan is in a lot of pain and starting to get weary of how stoned he feels all the time, his spirits are amazingly high. We were talking last night and he said maybe in a couple of weeks he’ll get all depressed about how the injury will affect his ability to cycle or that he might have a little hitch in his get-a-long for the rest of his life, but for now, he was feeling pretty relieved and thankful for how things turned out. He said it’s amazing how much your perspective changes when you have faced the reality of dying. For the first 3 minutes after he got hurt, he sat there thinking, "I may die, right here in this forest" and when he realized that the worst that could happen was that he’d be permanently disabled, he was pretty happy to take that alternative. He said the reality of dying was so much more potent than the reality of being disabled, that it wasn’t even a comparison. So for now, his attitude is "hey, it’s just pain" and he’s looking forward to a good recovery. And he said that for all the crazy and dangerous things he's done in his life, it's amazing that he made it this long without paying the price.

Dan went for a few short walks yesterday (he can bear weight as tolerated) and is weaning down on the pain meds because they give him bad headaches and he's tired of being zoned out.

Dan was talking to his friend Elden yesterday and he asked how I was doing. Dan said, "well, about 7:30 at night she starts crying and by 10:30 at night she's completely hysterical." I laughed because it was about accurate, at least for the first 2 nights at home. I remained pretty calm through the whole ordeal until the night we got home and it all just hit me. I bawled like a baby. Not only did the gravity of the situation finally sink in, I was tired, and anyone who knows me well knows that I turn into a basket case when I’m tired. I was worried about the wound getting infected, worried about all the pain Dan was in, trying to balance meeting the girls' needs and taking care of Dan, exhausted from being pregnant and getting up several times a night, and feeling selfish for even bawling. I mean, I wasn't the one who'd almost cut my leg off! Dan and I had a good talk about it and he came to the rescue by calling the Relief Society and asking if a few of the women in the ward could watch the girls in the afternoon for a couple of days. That has made a big difference because I can get a nap and still get things done around the house. There's still lots of unpacking to do.

On Saturday morning Dan said, "Guess what I was supposed to do this morning? Today is the charity wood cutting day." One Saturday every fall all the menfolk (and some womenfolk) head up the canyon to cut wood for those in the community who can't get their own. I told Dan, "I guess we'll be on the receiving end of that this year." You gotta love Cokeville!

OK, are you ready to see the gruesome pictures?

Cami, stop looking and keep scrolling.

For all the interested nursey types or other weirdos that like to look at stuff like this, here it comes:

Pretty gnarly, huh? The pictures don't really do it justice because most of what you see is congealed blood and you can't really see how deep the wound is. Later, at the U of U ER after the bleeding had stopped, you could really see how mangled things were. I can't believe I didn't get a picture. What a slacker.
I will now insert some cute pictures of Amelia to act as a buffer between the gross pictures and the link for the comments section. She loves to go out to the corral and say hi to the horses and yesterday there was a special treat: 3 new colts that had just come from a horse sale.

As a last word, I think Mom said it best. "A cord of wood is pretty cheap in Cokeville - unless you add the hospital bill."