Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Painfully Tight Squeeze

Last Sunday morning, a freak accident at work nearly crushed my leg and left me swollen, sleepless, and crippled for the time being. For those of you keeping score, a few months ago I moved back down to the Delta bagroom after working the passenger lobby and the airport gates for the first part of 2010. The current setup in the bagroom hosts an unusually high percentage of Delta's on the job injuries at PDX, and this incident is one of the most painful in recent memory. Sounds fun? Well, here's how it went down:

I had been working for over six hours straight (typical for my 10-hour bagroom shift, which starts at 4 a.m.) without as much as a sit down or short coffee break. When my lunch relief arrived to cover my 30 minute lunch break, a wrong number that rang at Pier 1 (the cramped baggage carousel where I currently work) prompted me to walk over to Pier 2 to deliver a phone message.

IMAG0027.jpg Following safety procedures, I approached the agent by walking around the end of a stationary string of heavy dollies (flatbed trailers that we call "transporters", much like the one pictured above [Photo added 6/16]) which were carrying baggage containers. Apparently, the string of transporters which I was standing next to were either originally pulled in from around a corner (placing me at the inside of a left turn) or about to be pulled closer to the concrete curb that I was near.

Either way, when the driver suddenly pulled the string forward, the transporters that I was standing next to didn't go past me. They came toward me.

A container knocked me forward, and the metal transporter underneath it quickly pinned both of my feet and ankles against the curb. I yelled for the driver to stop, but he must not have heard me (the driver is a very nice guy and a good worker, by the way). The string of transporters slowed to a crawl (maybe a brief stop?), but then they started moving forward again.

As the pressure increased on my ankles, I realized that my lower legs above my ankles were also being crushed. I screamed again at the top of my lungs to stop, and the string of transporters finally came to a halt. "Back up!" I screamed, with both of my legs pinned between the transporter and the curb. Several seconds passed, and I screamed louder, "Back up SLOWLY!" Someone (the driver?) yelled, "Backing up!" and the wheels finally started turning in reverse.

When my legs were freed, I collapsed onto the high point of the curb, swung my limp legs around the side, and sat up. My left leg was just a little scraped up, but my right leg had a slight indent along the outside, complete with a small puncture wound (miraculously, there was no loss of blood) from where the top of my steel-toe boots gave way to flesh.

I ignored the feeling of intense pressure in my lower legs as people rushed onto the scene and looked on in horror. Presumably in shock, I continued delivering my phone message to the agent, picking up right where I had left off…


As pictured [Photo added 6/15, although there were more graphic Flickr photos that could I have made "public" and posted here], an ambulance drove me from Delta Operations at Gate D-7 to St. Vincent's emergency room. A paramedic took this picture of me, I.V. dangling from my left arm, as the ambulance pulled into St Vincent's E.R. The smile on my face lasted about as long as the I.V.-delivered painkillers did.

The head usher at Aloha Church of God pulled Kathy out of the Sunday service to meet me in the emergency room. Pastor Tim and Janelle also graciously came to visit me (this turned out to be quite a scare for our church, even interrupting our service for a time of urgent prayer for me). Over 2.5 hours was spent in the E.R. while waiting, being treated, and getting X-Rayed. No bones were broken (though they couldn't be sure because of the swelling), but I had a small but nasty puncture wound, a great deal of swelling and discoloration, and a noticeable indent on the side of my right leg. I was eventually discharged via wheelchair, and Kathy drove me home.

I've barely slept since the accident. Even with heavy medication, the pain usually keeps me awake for most (and sometimes all) of the night. The pain kept increasing daily until Wednesday, when it finally leveled off. Whether awake or asleep, I often have memories or nightmares replaying the moment that my foot, ankle, and legs were being crushed. It's terrifying to experience that feeling of helplessness.

I am thankful that my leg was not destroyed. I am also thankful for the prayers that are being offered on account of me. Even though God has not delivered me from this pain yet, I trust that He is working through this situation. Most of us experience suffering from time to time, and I am still waiting to hear what He wants me to learn from all of this. I'm not going anywhere soon. I've got nothing but time.

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