The Second Half: Tree makes three

May 26, 2010

"I did what Hubby, The Safety Manager, advised and RAN, but fell and tumbled head over heels like a rodeo star. When I came to a bumpy halt, I was out of tree range, but Hubby was knocked out cold and buried in a brand-new tree house."--Kathleen D. Tresemer

By Kathleen D. Tresemer
Columnist

My regular readers know I plan to live to be 120 years old. Specialists in longevity will tell you it is certainly possible to stay healthy and active, but you have to “look out for that bus” (meaning avoid accidents). Well, here’s a story you might enjoy.

Last week, Hubby and I were standing in our driveway visiting with friends. Now, living in the country, our driveway is more of a lane, stretching quite a distance from road to house and bordered on the north by a deeply-wooded area. As we stood visiting, we heard a loud “CRACK!” and looked up to see an old oak tree falling on us.

Son Joe said that Hubby had told him what to do under such circumstances: “He told me you have roughly 3 seconds once the tree cracks. He said I should take 1 second to look up, see where it’s going to fall, and for the remaining 2 seconds… run the other way!”

Seems Hubby didn’t—or couldn’t—take his own advice. See, 10 days prior, he had a little run-in with a chain saw. Cutting stumps, the chain saw bucked backward and caught him in the leg just above the ankle. Luckily, I was home and packed it with towels, tied it tight with gauze, pushed him into the back seat of the car with his foot elevated, and ran him 15 miles to the SwedishAmerican Health System Immediate Care facility in Roscoe. Of course, it was a Sunday afternoon.

Those efficient folks cleaned and re-packed the wound, sending us off to the ER. By that time, it was Sunday evening, and Swede’s ER looked like O’Hare Airport during Christmas break. They brought Hubby right in and surgically repaired his leg—I met some of the most skilled professionals in the biz that night (thanks to Tom Bozzay and his team!), and they all treated us like honored guests. Amazing!

Anyway, Hubby was still recuperating from that on the day the tree fell, moving slower than usual on his “chain saw leg” and still stiff from “the horse incident.”

“What horse incident?” you may wonder.

Well, a week or so before the “chain saw massacre,” Hubby was riding an inexperienced horse. When she spooked and he got thrown, he either cracked or bruised a rib, making it tough to move easily. He didn’t accept any medical intervention then: “Even if it is cracked, they can’t do anything about it!”

I don’t recall Hubby’s years of medical training that would allow for such a diagnosis, but he sounded so knowledgeable that I accepted his directive. The only problem was, his stiffness from that fall probably led to the “chain saw massacre,” which contributed to his inability to run away from the damn tree.

I did what Hubby, The Safety Manager, advised and RAN, but fell and tumbled head over heels like a rodeo star. When I came to a bumpy halt, I was out of tree range, but Hubby was knocked out cold and buried in a brand-new tree house.

“Call 911!” someone yelled.

Before I hung up from the dispatcher, the Shirland Volunteer Fire Department folks were arriving in their own vehicles, and the neighbors were sawing the branches away for easy access. This time, we followed the ambulance to Swede’s ER, where another fantastic team worked on him.

At the hospital, they all advised, “Stay away from trees, animals, sharp objects, and anything taller than you are!”

Sounds remarkably similar to my Second Half refrain, “Look out for that bus!”

By this time, you may be standing outside, gazing suspiciously at your closest trees. The Tree Care Industry Association says:

“Recent research conducted at Kent State University examines the hazard posed by trees to human health and life during severe weather. …fallen trees accounted for 407 deaths between 1995 and 2007.

“For hardwood trees, such as oak, maple, birch and ash, a 3-second gust of 74 mph will break large (greater than 1 inch) branches, 91 mph will uproot trees, and 110 mph will snap tree trunks. For softwood trees such as pine, spruce, fir and hemlock, a 3-second gust of 75 mph will break large branches, 87 mph will uproot trees, and 104 mph will snap tree trunks. … heavy accumulations of snow or ice may cause trees to fail even with lighter wind speeds.

“Additional indirect deaths and injuries occur when trees or limbs broken in a storm, known as ‘widow-makers,’ fall later…and cause deaths without the presence of severe weather…” (Check out this Tree Care Industry Association Web site article: http://www.tcia.org/articles/Safety/TCI1208_p8.htm)

“Widow-makers,” eh? In Hubby’s case, not quite; but the tree could have been fatal if not for the perfect placement of our Ford 1-ton diesel dually. See, Hubby got as far as the back wheels of his beloved vehicle when the tree landed on his head; the bed of that heavy-duty truck—positioned between Hubby and said tree—stopped the full weight of the mighty oak from crushing him.

Here’s Hubby’s stats: broken rib (from the tree, not the horse); wrenched back, hip, and knee; some lung complications; and a brand-new outlook on life. Oh, and don’t forget his enhanced adoration for that 1999 Ford F350! Not bad for a 60-something cowboy with a bum leg, a shy horse and a dented truck.

Me? I’m gonna stay alert, take vitamins, keep flexible, and buy a lottery ticket—odds are, my luck is changing!

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at kdt-insights@hotmail.com.

From the May 26-June 1, 2010 issue

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