A couple months ago I got on my Facebook page and asked for prayers.  My husband was in a major accident with a commercial grade lawnmower and we thought he was going to lose his foot permanently.  For today’s blog post (Day 14 of my 30 Days of Blogging Challenge) I thought I would give you guys some more insight on what happened, how his recovery has been going, and how everything has effected our family.  I will warn you that if pictures of cuts or blood make you queasy you should not continue reading this blog post.
Blogging ChallengeHere is a little bit of background to this story.  This past July we were supposed to move to Texas.  My husband was getting relocated with his company (he works in the finance department for a large oil company) and his effective start date in his new position was supposed to be July 1.  Our little family of four came down in May (when the baby was just 7 weeks old) on a house hunting trip and found a beautiful home that we just fell in love with.  We based all of our closing dates for the house off the July 1 start date.  Unfortunately, they ended up needing my husband for a few more weeks in the Virginia office.  This posed a problem, however, because the movers were already scheduled to deliver our furniture/boxes in early July.  It wasn’t that big of a deal, I just decided I would just fly down with the kids a few weeks before he did and be at the house with the kids until he could get there.

It was Sunday, the day before my husband was supposed to fly down and move to Texas.  He wanted to spend some time with his brother (who also lives in Virginia) before he moved 2,000 miles away.  My husband (Sheridan) called his brother and asked if he wanted to have a BBQ.  Sheridan’s brother said he had some yard work that needed caught up on, but that if Sheridan would come down and help him with the yard work they could finish around 2 and grill out afterwards.  Well, they never got to the BBQ part.

Sheridan owned a landscaping business for many years before going to graduate school.  He paid for his college by mowing lawns, and was very familiar with all the lawnmowing equipment.  Later he was thinking about it and realized he has probably mowed over 11,000 lawns and never had any safety issues before this accident.

So, Sheridan was on the back of a big commercial grade lawnmower.  He was on one that you stand on the back while mowing the grass.  It looks somewhat like this:

Photo courtesy of www.igin.com

Photo courtesy of www.igin.com

All of the sudden as he was mowing the lawn, he noticed that a swarm of bees was coming right towards his face.  Sheridan is allergic to bees and so he went to swat the bees away and at the same time the mower hit a big divot in the grass.  Because one of his hands was off the mower’s handle to swat the bees, when he hit the divot it flew him off the mower.  However, because he still had one hand on the steering column, when he flew off the mower, that hand on the steering column actually turned the mower so that it was heading straight for him as he was lying on the grass (keep in mind this all happened in about two seconds).

As he was lying on the grass he said he thought the mower was going to run right over his legs.  He tried to scramble out of the way, and he thought he was clear, when all of the sudden he heard a loud, POP!  He thought to himself, “oh good, the mower must have hit a rock or something to stop it”.  At this point he didn’t feel any pain, which is why he didn’t think the mower had hit him.  All of the sudden he looked down and realized that his boot had flown off and his foot was gushing out blood.  He said his body was in such shock that he still didn’t feel any pain (in fact it was about 20 minutes until he felt anything).  He knew that he was losing a lot of blood and needed to call for help and so he got up and ran 400 meters over grass and pavement while his heel was hanging off his foot to call for help and then called 911.  Sheridan knew he was losing a lot of blood so he took his shirt off and pressed against the wound as they were waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

It was about 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and I was in Texas when I heard my phone ring.  I saw it was Sheridan and thought I would talk to him about his flight down tomorrow.  Boy was I wrong.  He was calling me in a panic from the ambulance and told me that I needed to get the kids in the car, drive to the Houston airport (a two hour drive from our house) and get on the first plane I could back to Virginia.  He said he had been in a major accident and they didn’t know if he was going to be able to save his foot.  I remember just being so shocked, and almost thinking he was playing a joke with me.  What just happened?!  I had just done a load of laundry, so as soon as he hung up the phone I picked up a backpack that was on the floor (keep in mind our house was still in boxes and not unpacked), shoved everything that was in the dryer into that backpack, grabbed my laptop, and got the kids in the rental car.  I called the airline on the way to the airport and booked the earliest one way tickets I could get.

We ended up getting to Virginia and getting to the hospital right as he was getting out of surgery.  As I got there, the doctors told us that they were able to save his foot but that he had a long road of recovery ahead of him.  They told us that Sheridan was incredibly lucky.  They said that there is a major artery that runs in his foot and he was only 2mm away from slicing that artery in half.  If that would have happened, he likely could have bled to death waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  They also told us that he did lose one of his tendons going to his pinky toe, and that the bone got hit by the blade also.  They said at this point their major concern was infection, especially in the area where the bone was hit.  They told us that we wouldn’t get the clearance to travel for a while.

I am going to show you some pictures of what the wound looked like before the surgery.  If you get queasy looking at blood, then I would advice you to stop reading.  I really feel like these pictures don’t do justice to the severity of the wound.  You can sort of see in this picture how the blade cut the back end of his heel so that it was just hanging off, and then the blades went into his ankle area to make the star-shaped deep cuts near his ankle.  

photo 1
photo 3It is very rare to see a picture of my husband without a big smile on his face.  This was the day after his 30th birthday when the accident happened, and he was really concerned that he was going to lose his foot.

photo 2

Because we had already moved to Texas, we didn’t have anywhere to live while we were in Virginia.  So, we ended up moving into a hotel just down the street from the hospital and we weren’t sure how long we were going to need to stay there.  We ended up staying for almost an entire month in that small hotel room until we got clearance from our doctor to travel.  They were really concerned about an infection getting into the bone, and wouldn’t let us leave until they felt more comfortable with the situation.  It was a really tough few weeks with a 4-month old, a 3-year old, and a husband who couldn’t move his leg all living in one tiny room.  I think we actually did a really good job of still eating healthy while we were in the hotel (thanks to so many tips and suggestions by you guys!  The George Foreman was the best tip ever), and I will be doing a blog post soon talking about how we kept our diet healthy in the hotel.

Here is what my husband’s foot looked like about 5 days after surgery.  As you can see, his foot was incredibly swollen from the trauma.  The main area they were concerned about is that part of his skin that is a little bit of a grey-ish color.  That area by your ankle doesn’t get much blood flow (which is a good thing in his case because it meant no major arteries were cut).  But, it also means that there was a really good chance the skin would die (which it did).  In which case, they would need to wait and see if new, healthy skin would regenerate underneath or if they would need to do a skin graft.

photo 4
The underside of his foot.  They really did a great job of stitching his foot back together. Sheridan was really lucky that there was a podiatry surgeon on call that day.  She performed the surgery and it took nearly 4 hours to stitch everything back together. photo 5
The reason they wouldn’t let us leave Virginia is because his foot started to look like this.photo 6
photo 8
The skin in between the blade cuts had died, and it left a big, gross, black scab.  The doctors were just really concerned about infection, and basically it was a big waiting game just trying to see how his body would respond.  Finally, nearly a month after the accident, the doctor gave us clearance to drive back to Texas.  We loaded everything up in our truck and headed down.

It has now been two months since the accident and my husband still isn’t able to walk yet.  Here is a picture of what the area looked like at his last doctor appointment earlier this week.  As you can see, it is healing really well and we are on the tail end of things now.  We are hoping that Sheridan should be able to walk and be weight bearing by the end of October.  photo 9
Here is a picture of the scooter we ended up renting him after the first month on crutches.  It has made it a lot easier for him to get around and helped his wrists from hurting so bad.  This was a few weeks ago on Labor Day weekend when our family went to a nearby splash pad.  photo 10 photo 11
I would be lying if I said this challenge has been one that we have handled well.  The past two months has really been a struggle for our family and our marriage.  Not only did we just have a baby, and did we move halfway across the country to a new town with no friends or family, but then throw in this accident and sometimes it has felt so overwhelming.

Sometimes I feel like when we were in the hotel it was actually easier than it is now.  Don’t get me wrong, living in that tiny hotel room for a month was a big challenge (and very expensive!), but during that time we all sort of had a “let’s just get through this” mentality.  Now that we are home, it’s different.  This is every day life.  We are back into our routine, but our routine is completely different than our old routine because 1) we have a new baby in the mix and 2) Sheridan can’t walk.

For me, one of the hardest parts is the fact that because Sheridan is on crutches and can’t walk, he can’t really do anything to help.  So, at night he comes home and can’t do much other than sit and rest his foot.  It’s pretty much impossible to hold a baby while standing with crutches, and she doesn’t like to be held while you are sitting down.  So while he watches tv I make dinner, clean up dinner, feed the kids, give the kids baths, do the night time routine, clean up the house, etc etc.  I wish I could say that I’ve always handled each day with grace, but I have had my moments of frustration that I feel like I have to do everything while he sits and watches tv.  I know that it’s not fair for me to get frustrated with him, because there isn’t anything he can do about it, but it has just been a big struggle.  I have so much respect and admiration for military moms and single moms.  Trying to do everything without much help is a really tough job.

He’s been frustrated with the fact that he can’t do anything either.  Sheridan played semi-pro football in college and has always been an athlete.  He’s lost about 15lbs since the accident, most of it being lean muscle.  It’s been depressing for him to see all the hard work he put into gaining muscle just slip away, and things that are a normal part of our evening routine like family walks, camping, hiking, etc he can’t participate in.

As a result of the accident and our situation, a lot of our house is still in boxes and we’ve hired someone to mow our new lawn for us.  I know that this phase will pass, and I hope we will look back on this time and realize that it has made us stronger and closer as a family.

I appreciate everyone who has sent prayers our way.  I do believe in the power of prayer, and we are so incredibly lucky that Sheridan was able to keep his foot.  The doctors said that once he is weight bearing he will need about 4-6 months to regain strength in his leg and foot again but that he should be able to walk normally and make a full recovery.

Sorry this ended up being so long!  I have had a lot of people asking how is doing and so wanted to give a full update.

Your friend,
Natalie