Monday, February 22, 2010

Growing Or Fire?

I’m not sure what to title this story. It happened at a point in my life where it could go into the Growing up Ralph series. Yet, while it has nothing to do with the forest fires I can also see it fitting into the Ralph on Fire series, because – I was, or at least felt like it.

Working at the same forest service office, I quickly became friends with Alan. We still are to this day. Every day on my way to work, I would pass the apartment complex where Alan and his wife, Debbie, lived. I offered to pick him up once and it resulted in me stopping by the apartment and having morning coffee on a regular basis.

One morning I arrived at the apartment complex and noticed smoke coming from the rear passenger side of my car. Kneeling down I started looking under the car when I heard and felt an explosion. I was thrown backwards and everything went black. Opening my eyes all I saw was black. I literally could not see.

Going by feel, I made my way up the stairs and frantically started pounding on Alan’s door. My face was covered with hot, smoldering rubber fragments. Even my eyes were black. Alan has told me he didn’t recognize me until I spoke.

Debbie started washing out my eyes while Alan ran outside to keep the fire from spreading to other vehicles. Of course, I didn’t have a lug wrench and the one Alan had wasn’t the right size. So, with a socket set he managed to get the still burning tire off the car and put out the fire.

Alan then put me in his car and we sped off to a hospital. But, there was a problem, Alan didn’t know where a hospital was and I couldn’t see. We came across a highway patrolman, Alan explained what had happened and asked him to escort us to the nearest hospital. He said he would have to clear it with his boss. The patrolman returned and told Alan he couldn’t do that but he could call an ambulance. Alan got mad, really mad. He was mad then and thirty years later it still upsets him.

I was in a lot of pain but told Alan if he could tell me where we were, I thought I could guide him to a hospital. I’m sure it wasn’t the closest hospital but it was the only one I knew of. Between him telling me where we were and me telling him where to turn, we made it to the hospital.

Being wheeled into an emergency room, I knew there were many people in there. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them and could feel numerous hands touching my face. Some hands were removing embedded rubber. Other hands were washing my face and still others applying ointments.

I remember them talking. I cannot recall what they were saying because I was focusing on the intensity and the seriousness in their voices. I laid there not knowing what had happened but knowing most likely, it wasn’t good.

I’m not sure how long I was in the emergency room or for that matter the hospital but later they taped double thick pads of gauze over my eyes and released me. Alan says whenever we would walk by a window I would cringe. Light, any amount, any type caused excruciating pain.

For a few weeks, I sat in darkness. I went to the doctor, prayed, and listening, really listening to people. Many people said they would pray for me. Alan told me the wheel bearing on the car had frozen up and that is what caused the tire to catch fire. The doctor informed me I was considered legally blind for at least three days.

Back at the doctors’ office, the bandages were removed. Everything appeared blurry. My eyes were washed out and they applied some drops. Laying there for what seemed like eternity, I was scared to open my eyes. Light caused intense pain, but the pain was minor compared to the fear of what I would see, or better put, wouldn’t see when I opened my eyes.

Opening my eyes, everything was blurry. Then slowly, ever so slowly, things started coming into focus. For the next several months, my eyes were extremely sensitive to light. Over time, the sensitivity decreased but because of the scarring, I will never be able to wear contact lens.

It could have been worse, much worse. But that is one of the reasons our kids get flashlights, first aid kits, and yes, even fire extinguishers as gifts.


Blogger Cliff said...

And that my friends, when Alan was driving, was the last time Ralph ever rode with any one else.
I hadn't heard all of this R. I guess if I'd known it, I could have been nicer to you all this time.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Paul Nichols said...

Except for the darkness, I know what you mean. I spent six weeks as an outpatient at the Dallas County Hospital Burn Unit. Every day for two weeks; twice a week thereafter. This all started right after that skillet full of flaming grease exploded. By the way: burn unit nurses are the kindest, sweetest, most patient, most tender people in the hospital industry. Men and women. God bless 'em.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous DOR said...

Is this why your eyes change colors when you lie?

10:09 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

That's a scary tale Ralph, but it could have been so much worse.

4:51 PM  
Blogger LZ Blogger said...

Ralph ~ Oh my gosh! What a scary story. But at least it had a happy ending. Seems like the folks praying for you did one darn good job. ~ jb///

4:56 PM  
Blogger Peruby said...

Wow! I'll never look under my car again. Smoke or not! Well, not unless I'm ten feet away or more.

7:12 PM  
Blogger Granny Annie said...

What a scary story and very well told. When the gauze came off and the world began to come into focus for you, I wanted to yell Hallelujah!

6:36 AM  
Blogger Mountain Mama said...

Thank God your sight was saved.
I have never heard of a tire exploding like that. How terrifying!
I'm glad you told us about this. It may save someone else from going through what you did.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Janell said...

You had me on the edge of my seat. Good storytelling, R. I'm glad it had a happy ending.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Jerry in Indiana said...

Good grief, Ralph. What a bizarre incident.

Good storytelling though.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Lanny said...

Wow, what a horrifying experience. Amazing how the body can recover from injuries. Amazing how God puts the right people in our lives to help us and care for us.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Molly said...

How horrific an experience - I couldnt even start to imagine how you felt!

You're so lucky to have recovered - wow a really moving story.

5:43 AM  
Blogger Aravis said...

Terrifying! I'm so glad that you healed, but probably not nearly as much as you were!

10:00 AM  

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