A Day to Remember
It seemed as if it was going to be just another normal day, but October 14, 1999 was not normal at all. I was working a third shift job and I left home around 11:20 pm. I arrived in time for my team meeting and started my workday at exactly 12:00 am. The first two hours went smoothly but a problem with a cobble, an accident on the job, and the birth of my second child changed everything.
My first dilemma of the evening began with a cobbled piece of nickel. A cobble is simply when metal does not follow a desired set path. When this happens, metal comes out of the mill, stands on the floor like pieces of spaghetti and some of the metal remains in the mill stands. It was our job to cut the metal out of the stands and off the floor using oxygen/acetylene torches or magnesium stick oxygen torches. As you can imagine, this is a time consuming task and is never much fun.
I went to the site of the cobble, located a magnesium stick torch and started to light it. I was then told by a co-worker that the torch I was about to use needed some repairs, and I was handed an oxygen/acetylene torch and began work. A few minutes later, I was stopped again and handed the magnesium torch back and was told it had been repaired. I used the torch for a short while and was turning the valve to the off position when my ordinary day changed.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash and heard an unusual noise. It only took a second for me to realize that the light and sound had come from the object I was holding, and I immediately dropped it and walked away from the area. I did not want to look at my hand because I knew something bad had happened. When I finally got the nerve to look, I realized I had been badly injured. I had been wearing a thick cotton glove, which had been burned off and I saw that I had severe burns to my right hand as well. I did not feel any pain at this point but I knew it would be coming shortly. Several of my co-workers came to check on me and there was a moment of silence as everyone looked at my hand. One of my friends asked me if I was all right and I told him that I did not think so. Some of my previous training came back to me and I realized I needed to get treatment for the burn as soon as I could.
I went straight to the bathroom and tried to clean the burn with running water and then the pain began. I have to admit that it was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt. I believe that at that moment, if someone had hit me with a baseball bat, I would not have noticed. I was able to locate burn ointment in a first aid cabinet and applied a large amount, but quickly realized that it was not working. I washed the ointment off and was waiting for the safety coordinator to respond when I was told I had a phone call.
I was able to take the phone call in my team leader??™s office and was shocked when I heard my wife on the other end of the line telling me that her water had broken and it was time to go to the hospital. It occurred to me that my bad night was getting more complicated. What were the chances of me getting seriously injured at work the same time my wife was going into labor I explained to my wife that I had been burned and had to wait on the safety coordinator. My wife obviously did not realize the extent of my injury and insisted that I leave work and meet her at a local restaurant so we could drive to the hospital together. I went to my team leader, explained my situation and he told me the safety coordinator would not be available until 8:00 am. I told him I would have to leave but promised to seek medical attention for my burn at the emergency room where I was taking my wife.
As my luck would have it, I burned my right hand and I am right handed. Driving was much more difficult, and a trip that should have taken me 15 minutes took 25. When I reached my wife and father-in-law, they were both pretty upset with me and thought I was not displaying enough urgency under the circumstances. The first words my wife said to me were ???What took you so long, do you not realize I am having a baby??? I explained that I had trouble driving with one hand and showed her my injury. Once she realized what was going on, she agreed to drive us to the hospital which was definitely an adventure. Every time she had a contraction our vehicle sped up to about 80 miles per hour and while I tried to give her support and be compassionate, I was in an enormous amount of pain myself. The 45-minute drive seemed to take hours and I was never so relieved to see a hospital in my life.
The hospital staff was expecting and prepared for my wife but they were not prepared for me. The head nurse on the labor and delivery floor informed me that I could not stay with my wife in my condition and called the emergency room and had them send a nurse to pick me up. I explained to the nurse that picked me up that my wife was about to have a baby and I really needed to be with her, so I asked how long it would take for me to see a doctor. The nurse simply took me to a room and asked me to wait and told me that she could not give me anything for pain until the doctor had seen me. The doctor finally arrived and tried to have some general conversation with me, which I was not in the mood for and then told me it appeared that I had some second and third degree burns. The doctor began talking about skin grafts and stuff that I really was not ready to hear at the time. I finally asked him to give me something for the pain and to allow me to be by my wife??™s side. The doctor gave me a shot of morphine, a prescription, and a referral to an orthopedic surgeon while a nurse wrapped my hand. While I was being released, an emergency room nurse went to tell my wife my condition, which upset her greatly. As a result, my wife??™s doctor got upset with the nurse, sent her away and had to give my wife something to settle her down.
When I arrived in the labor and delivery room, the hospital staff had set up a bed for me and told me to lie down until it was closer to time for the actual delivery. Due to the morphine, I began to doze and while the events of the next few hours were a little fuzzy, I remember the safety coordinator showed up and I remember the staff was very good to my wife and I.
It finally was time for my child to be born and the doctor asked me if I thought I would be able to participate in the delivery. I was actually feeling better and began the coaching process and realized it was more difficult that I thought. After an extended period of time, the doctor told us that the baby had turned and he would have to perform an emergency cesarean section. My wife was taken to the operating room while I was taken to another room to be suited up; gown, booties, cap, and face mask. I was able to join my wife in the operating room and sat at a chair right beside her head. We spoke briefly and what seemed like no time, we heard a baby crying and the doctor announced ???Congratulations!!! It is a boy!???
I am sure that the birth of a child is a memorable occasion for most families, but I am not sure that everyone experiences the added drama that we did on that particular day. My son is now five years old and I often think about the series of events that led up to his birth and know that October 14, 1999 is a day we will never forget.
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