22 September 2008 119 Comments

Tragedy, family, friends and neighbors

It wasn’t but 8 days ago when I posted a photo of Max playing soccer on a warm summer day in Bend. Today I find myself looking after him with Laurie at the Oregon Burn Center in Portland. The amount of support we have received has been overwhelming and Laurie and I thank everyone so much for their thoughts and prayers. Everything has been happening so fast – it’s been hard for us to keep up with letting everybody know how Max is doing so I think it’s best to just post his status here as he is being treated.

On my way out the door to Portland on Friday I made my best attempt to let family and friends know what had happened, but in my haste (and using Laurie’s computer) I didn’t get an email out to everybody so I will recap what happened and end with where we are today.

Friday evening Max was standing outside by the bbq grill when our friend Eric was making an attempt to re-light the fire w/ some sort of fuel. Max tells me now that he was standing about six feet away from the grill when the fuel my friend was using exploded. I was sitting inside talking to Laurie  when all of a sudden we saw this massive explosion right outside the side patio – I had never seen such a thing before in person. The 1st thing I thought of was Max. I immediately ran outside and saw both Max and friend partially on fire – I ran towards Max and tackled him to the ground rolling him and smothering him as best I could. With the the fire off his body I ran with him to the car to take him to the hospital – but then someone called the ambulance so we waited. We grabbed as many towels as we could and soaked them in cold water to put on Max and my friend – skin was just peeling off of his face, arms and chest – Max still didn’t realize what just happened – and didn’t know at 1st why his sister and mother were screaming and why I was acting so crazy. The ambulance came, Laurie left with Max and I took Ana to her Grandparents house as fast as I could.

After dropping of Ana and explaining to mom and dad what had just happened I took off to the hospital – and waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Max started to realize what had happened and was looking at us staring at his face and was getting a little concerned – he had very serious burns on his left arm, face and chest – so the doctors decided he needed to be flown to The Burn Center immediately – my friend was to go as well, but he took the helicopter not the jet.

Once the decision was made that Max was going to Portland, I left for home to get whatever I thought I would need for our stay.

I got home – threw some clothes, toothbrushes in a bag, stopped, typed up a quick email and sent it off to whoever I could think of at the time – I let the dogs out got in the Pathfinder and raced to my dads house picked him up plugged the hospital in the GPS, got fuel made hotel reservations and headed for Portland.

The drive up there was torture – my father did his best by talking about anything but what had just happened to Max – I as a father I kept thinking how could I let something like this happen to my son. What could I have done to prevent this – why did this happen?… I had no idea how bad the burns were, if Max was going to be OK – his beautiful 10 yer old skin had been chard from his body, his eyebrows were gone, eyelashes burnt, I kept on seeing him as I did when I ran out there after the explosion – blank stare on his face while his hair was on fire, then his skin peeling off as I was trying to keep the wet towel on him – then my phone rang as we were entering Sandy – it was Laurie.

‘Hey honey, the Dr looked at Max and he thinks he’s going to be ok. his arm is kind of bad, but his face may be ok – he can see, and still feel – but we’re going to be here for about 2 weeks’ My state of mind went from uncertainty to relief – my stomach stopped churning and I felt my foot get a bit lighter – my dad immediately called my mom and left a message.

Laurie was there about an hour and a half before we arrived – We 1st went to the emergency center, but they directed us across the street to the Burn Center (which is where I am now). We buzzed the door told them who we were and they let us in (it was after hours). Once inside there were a series of doors we had to go through to get to where Max was – but it was quick.

I remember walking into the room with my dad – it was very quiet, somewhat brightly lit and there were two nurses working on Max. They had already mostly finished wrapping him up. His head was mostly covered with dressing less a few holes for his nose and eyes, they had already wrapped his arm and were just finishing his chest – ‘Have you washed your hands?’ one of the nurses asked. We were directed to the hand washing station before we could approach Max.

Immediately after washing my hands I quietly walked up to Max who was sedated and appeared to be unresponsive. I whispered in his ear ‘Max it’s dad, I’m hear’ – his head jerked toward me and his right hand moved up to reach for me. I squeezed it just hard enough to let him know I was right there. He let go of my hand and then gave me the thumbs up – and then put his hands back down and was out again.

Max had tubes and wires all over him – he had a tube in his nose to feed him, a tube in his mouth to make sure he could breath,  a catheter in him so he wouldn’t have to get up to go to the bathroom, IV in his arm for hydration and potassium, a blood pressure gauge on his ankle, a blood oxygen reader on his finger. These guys had him covered. I believe the people at St Charles actually put the breather tube in him before the flight.

Our 1st night here was rather bizarre – after spending a little bit of time with Laurie and making sure Max was OK I took dad to the hotel and drove right back here. Dad was looking tired and I knew he could have used some sleep – All of us had gone from 0 to 200 in seconds and we still had no idea what the final outcome would be. They set us up with cots in the waiting room so we took turns staying with Max and the whole time I was just starring at him, thinking is this really happening?

The next day (Saturday) was amazing – Max did not look good at all – but it was amazing to get calls, emails, and text messages of support from our family, friends, and neighbors. Laurie’s brothers and childhood friend flew in from the east coast, my brother just happened to be in Portland with his wife for a Wedding so he was here too. Max’s face was swelling up by morning, healing, but it looked bad – his spirits were up and he would give us the thumbs up on occasion and would gesture with his two arms up for hugs. They had been medicating him for the pain that he was no doubt in. Throughout the morning and afternoon he would have moments of lucidity, gesturing in the air like he wanted to write something – so we gave him a pen and paper. His eyes were swollen shut, and he couldn’t talk but he still wanted to communicate with us. The 1st thing he wrote was ‘The hospital is fun’. We laughed and tried to give him the best hug we could without crushing the tubes and wires and touching his dressings – we wanted to kiss him so bad, but his lips were just raw flesh. After a moment – he realized that it was just Laurie my dad and I and he gestured for the pen again and wrote ‘I love you guys’. I started to cry. How could this little dude who was just on fire less than 24 hours ago be so strong and spirited! He was keeping our spirits up because he felt we were upset.

The day progressed with dressing changes, family visits, phone calls, emails, texts, and just starring at Max. I made my best attempt to keep people in the loop, but realized after several hours I was loosing my ability to focus on anything else but Max. I may have returned some phone calls, but it’s a blur at this point.

It’s Sunday early morning and Max is actually doing really well! The swelling on his face has gone down considerably and the doctor says his face looks like it’s going to be OK, but he’s a little concerned about his arm which is bordering a 2nd degree burn – his face was mostly 2nd degree burns, which appear to be healing – but with burns I’ve learned it can go either way.

He has just one tube in him now for food, but that’s it. He hopped out of the bed today and we took him for a roll in to the beautiful garden here. He walked around for a bit to go to the bathroom (record pee time for him today) and his appetite has come back (he was nauseous yesterday and vomited pretty much everything that was pumped into him). I’ve been helping the nurses remove and replace his dressings – Laurie helps too and has been right next to Max this whole time. There was one sad moment today when Max looked in the mirror and saw his face for the 1st time – he gasped and was shocked – he didn’t recognize himself and was scared – we assured him he was getting better and this was just part of the process. I think seeing himself really put things in perspective for Max – he’s as strong as ever and now understands what happened. He’s such a strong kid and we are so proud of him. We’ve been with him this whole time, watching movies, reading, playing roshambo, talking, explaining, and mostly relaying messages of encouragement from our family and friends. I just want to say thank you to everyone for your awesome show of support and prayers – I believe it is really helping Max’s healing process with everyone thinking positively!

The doctor came in today and gave us a bit of encouragement. We may not have to be here for 2 whole weeks – Max seems to be healing well, so that’s good to hear. Eric is also here and is doing OK – he may need some surgery to his arm/side but we will know more later this week.

It’s getting late and I’m tired, but wanted to write about Max’s condition here and continue to post his progress for family, friends and neighbors to see. Thank you all for all your positive thoughts, support, and well wishes. We really really appreciate it and realize that without you guys this would have been way way harder!