The Accident – Service Driven is On Hold

I’m writing from a Starbucks near our hotel in Las Vegas, which is unfortunate, because in order to write this post I have to flash back to Wednesday night, which I can not do without crying.  Just hours after I wrote the last post we arrived in Death Valley National Park, planning to camp for several nights.  We were surprised to find out that most of the campgrounds were full.  The friendly ranger at the Visitors Center recommended a magnificent camping spot in the nearby backcountry, 4 miles down a rough dirt road.  We had 6 gallons of water, a full tank of gas, lots of food, and fully charged devices.  We decided to go for it.

Road to Hole in the Wall

The drive into the Hole in the Wall campsite

Jay drove of course since I have no experience driving on 4 wheel drive roads.  In fact, I’m such a nervous passenger that I read the park newspaper and didn’t even look at the road.   After  about 45 minutes of incredibly slow travel, we came to the Hole in the Wall.  Surprisingly enough there was already another group there, but we were able to set up camp just out of sight of them.

Hole in the Wall Death Valley National Park

Hole in the Wall at Death Valley National Park

I snapped pictures while Jay parked the car and chose a site for the tent.  We picked a spot between some big rock features so that we could have some natural wind protection.  Even at 6 pm, it was pretty hot and windy in the valley.  We set up the propane stove and cooking stuff next to the car for further wind protection and decided to cook some Indian food and rice so that all we would need was two pots of boiling water.

Picture of Light on Car

Flashlight with magnetic feet stuck to the car

As we were setting up, another truck came down the road and set up camp within sight of us.  We couldn’t believe we had come that far only to have neighbors.

We were feeling very pleased with ourselves.  Toasting the evening with fresh beer from Boulder City and snacking on appetizers of triscuits covered in cream cheese and roasted raspberry chipotle sauce.  The sun was just starting to set and we could see amazing colors in every direction bouncing off the canyon walls.

Hole in the Wall campsite -- scene of the accident

Hole in the Wall campsite -- scene of the accident

Suddenly a bigger than normal gust of wind came right through the campsite.  I reached to grab some of the food packaging that went flying.  Next thing I knew, Jay was screaming.  He was on the ground writhing and screaming.  I didn’t know what had happened, but I saw that the stove and the pots were on the ground.  I thought he may be on fire and yelled for him to roll.  His shorts were all wet and he was yelling at me something I couldn’t understand.  I helped him get his shorts and underwear off and finally could figure out that he had been hit by the 4 quarts of boiling water that had been on the stove.  The wind gust had knocked the entire stove and both pots of water over right at Jay.  Luckily he had been faced away from it and was scalded along the backside.

Once we got the shorts off he was able to speak and I got a Nalgene of fresh cool water to pour on his backside where his skin had been burned.  I could see red skin all along where his waist band was and in a T down his rear.  He had lost a layer of skin and I could tell this was going to be bad.

We got him laying down on his stomach on the sleeping pad and I got the second skin treatment out of the medical bin.  We had three full sheets but it only covered about half of the burned area.

The next 30 minutes or so were a frenetic blur of trying to decide what action to take.  Our tent and supplies were blowing away.  Jay was starting to shiver and I was very worried about shock.  There was no cell signal so the only options for help were our tenting neighbors and self evacuation.  Since the burns were on Jay’s rear, I wasn’t sure how to put him in the car to drive out.  Not to mention I didn’t know if I could succeed at driving four miles without giving us one or more flat tires that would put us into a deeper disaster.

After covering Jay with a sleeping bag and giving him ibuprofen, I went to see if the other campers had medical supplies or could help somehow.  Luckily our closest neighbors were there and jumped up to give us aid.  They recommended cutting potatoes and putting that on the burned areas.  I ran back to try the potato trick while they searched for medical supplies.

By this time I had realized we would need to evacuate, but I was overwhelmed with how to do so safely and quickly.  Jay was speaking normally and did not seem to be experiencing a lot of pain.  He couldn’t see the damage and the adrenalin or shock was dulling his pain sensors.  We decided that he could kneel on the passenger’s seat facing backwards.  Luckily the neighboring campers had come and were able to take down the tent and throw everything in the car so that we could get out of there.  We were so grateful for their help and the comfort that their presence provided.

At around 8 pm, with Jay kneeling in the passenger’s seat, the Rav 4 stuffed to the roof with our disorganized load, and daylight completely gone, I started the 4 mile, 45 minute drive to the park road.  Taking my time and trying to make jokes to keep our spirits up, we crept towards help and cell signal.

Finally we reached the main park road and I drove straight to the nearest building, which happened to be a 5 Star Hotel, the Furnace Creek Inn.  The Inn had cell signal so we stayed in the parking lot and I called 911, which immediately dispatched an ambulance.  The wait for the ambulance was a bit awkward since Jay was wearing only a shirt and couldn’t really cover up.  He ended up laying on a sleeping pad between our car and another parked car.  Amazingly enough the hotel guests that walked right by us did not seem to even notice him.

The ambulance showed up remarkably quickly and starting assessing the damage and taking Jay’s vitals.  We still had a bit of a wait ahead of us though, since they had more experienced medics on the way.  The medic called from the ambulance to the local hospitals (in both California and Nevada since the park is near the state line) to find out where Jay could be treated.  They made the call to go all the way to Las Vegas since UMC has a burn care center.  I followed the ambulance in the Rav 4.  It was about 10 pm when we left the park.  I still had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of me, back where we came from that morning.  The park ambulance actually passed Jay over to a new ambulance after crossing the state line.

Driving behind the ambulance by myself was actually the hardest part for me.  I had kept my cool up until I pulled out behind the ambulance and saw the sirens and flashing lights rushing Jay to the hospital.  At that point Jay’s care was out of my hands and I was hit by all of the “what ifs” and “could have been worse” thoughts.  I plugged in the IPOD and blasted my favorite mix, singing “Build Me Up Buttercup” at the top of my lungs to keep from hyperventilating.

I finally arrived at the University Medical Center at 12:30 am on St. Patrick’s Day.  Jay received good treatment there, including some heavy pain meds and a thorough cleaning and dressing of the burn.  I managed to stay with him the whole time (which is amazing for those who know my propensity for fainting).  During the worst of it I held Jay’s hand and read Walden on the IPAD to distract both of us.

Jay was discharged at 2 am and by that time we were both exhausted and he was loopy from the pain meds.  We had been given phone numbers for hotels and managed to get a room at a nearby Hotel & Casino.

That is where we are now.  We have already been back to the burn center for follow up and now have all the medical supplies with us to change the dressings ourselves.  Jay continues on paid meds and is trying to rest as much as possible.  They warned us that the skin cells will continue to die off for up to 72 hours, so we are still in the critical stage.  We will be remaining in Las Vegas for the week so that Jay can heal and see the burn specialist again on Wednesday.  Next week Jay’s parents will be coming in from Phoenix to help us get him back there as safely and pain free as possible.  Obviously our trip is on hold for the indefinite future as Jay heals and we figure out how to pay for thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.  I hope to update the blog with posts about our visits to Flagstaff and Lake Mead in the next few days and will also keep you posted on Jay’s condition.  Thank you for all your support.

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44 responses to “The Accident – Service Driven is On Hold

  1. Scary, scary, scary. I must remind everyone, though, that you did some very important things right: a full tank of gas, fully charged electronics and health insurance (granted, with a high deductible). Also, calling 911. Better to call and have it turn out to be nothing that not to call. You made all the right moves. We’re proud of you. All our love, Mom.

  2. Jay, our thoughts are with you. Hang in there man. Thanks for the updates.

    • People are really supportive and Sharon is taking good care of me. I’m taking a lot of drugs. Although it might be as much as two months before I can get back on a bike, I’m very thankful it wasn’t the front side that got burned. It could have been worse. Thanks for the support.

  3. Thanks Mom, but I should point out one thing we did a poor job of. We did not tell anyone where we were camping for the night. We had texted Jay’s mom that we would be staying in Emigrant or Wild Rose campgrounds, but when they ended up being full, we never texted again to tell her the change of plans. It’s important to let someone know where you’re going and when they can expect to hear from you again.

  4. Oh my – each time I talk to either of you I learn more horrific details and even more in this account. I know emergencies don’t make appointments but should I have one, you guys are who I want to handle it for me. Like every mom, I wish I could make it better right now.

    We’ll do our very best to make the weeks ahead as comfortable for you as we can. I think soliciting for suggestions of goofy movies to watch while on pain meds might be a good diversion in a few days after you get here. Tuesday can’t come soon enough.

  5. What an awful story. You two are both so brave and kept it together. Really impressive. I’m thinking of you.

  6. So sorry to hear about this!!! I am glad that it wasn’t worse. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Jay.

  7. Your moms have it right – you handled the situation just right. I don’t see how having others know your location would have helped – sometimes you gotta camp out of cell service, and then you make do in case of emergency. But really, all that drama, and you read Walden?!? In the midst of all that scariness, you made me laugh out loud. Walden. You are such nerds and I love you! Hang on, you two!

  8. We are so thankful you both are doing so well under the circumstances thrust upon you! Our hearts are with you for a speedy recovery and return to your plans. We are so thankful for your visit and computer help. The book we ordered arrived and is as beautiful as I remembered. We are looking forward to seeing you in Phoenix soon. Love Always, Millie and Ken

    • I am glad to hear that the book arrived. I look forward to seeing you too. Glad to see you comment here and know that you are reading the blog. Love you too, Jay.

  9. Kris Gogolin Fotorny

    You never know what you can do until you get in a situation like you did. And you did a Super Great job. Not really wanting people camping close to you turned out to be a real blessing – what would you have done if all alone! God Bless you both as you recover from this horrific experience. Now that it is behind you (no pun intended), you can carry on when able. Grandpa Elmer would be so proud of you. love, Kris

    • Thank you Kris. I particularly appreciate the comment about PopPop. It was part of his generous legacy to his descendants that made it possible for us to take this trip, so I do hope that he would be proud of how we are managing.

  10. Sharon and Jay ~ whoa ~ due to my Mom’s passing and the upheaval following, I just this morning read your jaw-dropping, amazing post. Jay, you’re in the best hands possible; my love and prayers for a complete and speedy recovery go out to you. Sharon, what a trooper and partner you are! I fly home Wednesday; let me know if I can be of service. blessings, love, and way to navigate a life-threatening emergency! LM

  11. I wish there were something I could do to help. You don’t need an extra body in the way! Bacon??? THAT might help! ;-D I’m glad you will have family around for your birthday, Jay, and I hope you have enough pain meds that you’re comfortable and giggly. That will be good for Sharon and your family, too! Much love to you both. You are very much in our thoughts. Oh! And if you DO think of something I can do, please let me know!

  12. Sharon – my heart goes out to you and Jay. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes, but I am so proud of both of you for the way you handled the accident.

    Jay – I pray for you to have a quick recovery and to be back on the bike soon.

  13. Thank you all for your comments and support. I am sharing them with Jay and I know he appreciates it as well. Soon we will move out of the hotel to a friends house. I’m not sure about the internet connection there but hopefully I will be able to update at least once a day.

  14. Wish you a speedy recovery Jay.

  15. When I first heard that Jay had gotten burned, I thought for sure it was pan full of Bacon Fat. You guys both did a great job dealing with the situation and finding ways to move. Brilliant having jay face the seat backwards. I look forward to being there Tuesday, and getting you home will be good thing. Your bandage skills are impressive Sharon, keep up the good work.
    See you soon, MO

  16. Wow Sharon – that must have been so scary, but it sounds like you both kept your heads cool! I’m sending lots of love and thoughts your direction. A big hug!

  17. Sharon! Wow. Congrats on keeping your cool and I’m glad to read that Jay is healing. I’m sending white light and prayers his way to help with the recovery. What a story you’ll have to tell for years to come! (and congrats on the iPad too) Hang in there!

  18. I heard about Jay’s accident last week from Cindi. I’m SO sorry to read all the details about it today. It sounds completely scary and very painful. Sharon – Good job being so brave and calm in such a situation!
    Jay – I hope you’re feeling better really soon. If you’re up for visitors when you’re back in town I would love to bring you some awful movies to watch.
    Lots of love, Sarah

    • Thanks Sarah, I’ll be back in Phoenix later this week. Sharon’s been picking out my movie selection so far and she could use some help. Thanks for being in touch.

  19. Yikes, sorry to hear this guys. At least it sounds like you avoided the worst case scenario though.

    Sucks you’ll be off the bike for awhile. Take it easy, rest up, and get back out there soon.

  20. My prayers are with you. Don’t tell me you set off without medical insurance?

  21. Brendan O'Connor

    Hey guys, that sounds terrible, really sorry to hear about all of that–what a crazy accident. I’ll hope the best for a quick recovery Jay–take care!

  22. I’m getting nauseous just reading this. I can’t imagine actually going through it! Adrenalin is a good thing. If only it would last until Jay is completely healed.

    Let me know if you need titles of goofy movies. I know a bunch!
    Take care, loveauntjanet

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  24. Thank you again to everyone for your support. We have made it safely to Jay’s parents house in Phoenix where Jay can continue to recuperate. Today was a very good day and I hope they continue to get better.

  25. hey jay, sorry to hear about your disagreement with the wind. glad sharon was able to get you out of there. i’ll drink a couple beers to cheers to a speedy recovery and healthy return to beer, bikes, and bacon…and service.

    • Thanks for the kind words. With any luck we will be back on the road in April. I guess now that we have had a serious mishap its an an adventure now. I hope its finally starting to look like spring in the mid-Atlantic.

  26. Hey! Sorry to hear about Jay’s accident. Thinking about you. b

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  28. Wow, I’ve been really out of touch, and I’m just reading this now. Sharon, it really does seem to me that you did an incredible job keeping your wits about you. Jay, I’m so glad you’re healing!

    I just voted for you to go to Alaska – I’d love to tag along virtually.

    • Thanks Alex. It’s good to hear from you. Saturday will be exactly one month from the accident and I think Jay will be 95% back to normal. We should be back on the road in a week or so.

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