The Red Baron & Earthquakes
A story of Anger – Trauma – Encouragement – Compassion, and Hope.
My little car was a beauty, a Mitsubishi Mirage Dingo, with only 43,000 ks on the clock a 1.3 litre car. It wasn’t until I spotted this other one in a yard one day exactly the same as mine but it had tinted windows and a better motor 1.5 litre Gdi and only 27,000 k’s. I was hooked so I changed mine for it. What the Gdi stood for I don’t know. (Something injection.) Lovely high seats for comfort, just a beauty!
On the back window I had the words “The Red baron“ which I changed because my wife didn‘t like it, to “L.B.W.” which were my initials and most people thought of “Leg before wicket.” I couldn’t get the number plate as someone had it, but they said I could have it as I L.B.W. I If I wanted it, but I declined.
Leading Up To Events.
My name is Lawrence and I am a 72 yr old New Zealander born and bred in Christchurch.
I was made Paralysed by medical misadventure.
It all happened on the 4th July 2010 when I was asked to have an MRI scan and I was in extreme pain after having a disc in my back collapse and all my nerves were crushed. As I sat in the waiting room it got worse and I could hardly walk, and had to be assisted up onto the MRI table and down again.
Those who had the knowledge and power to say “Off to the Hospital” had diagnosed me wrong. The Radiologist showed me the severity of my Disc collapse but chose to say, “You’ll be ok,” and sent me home. I had an injection from my own Dr, but it didn’t alter the pain at all.
Within just a few hrs I was rushed to A&E dept Christchurch Hospital for urgent surgery as I had become paralysed from the waist down. The Ambulance staff carried me out from my bed to the Ambulance outside. I felt every bump in the road on the journey to the hospital but the ambulance men were very good at their job calming me down as much as possible.
I had to endure being there at A&E lying flat on my back and in excruciating pain watching others who were just drunk and a young girl who slit her wrists because she wasn’t getting attention fast enough. This in turn took the Dr’s away from me.
So many people coming in (Mainly elderly) and those who even in the early hrs of the morning had been in accidents. It took my mind off things for a moment.
My wife was at my side and also my Daughter which was lovely to see as they kept me calm by talking just about everything. What a blessing they were to me.
I had an ECG, and Pic line inserted with injections going in to try and lower the pain level which helped only slightly.
They said I would have to have an x-ray because my heart wasn’t functioning properly. ( I had Atrial Fibrillation). It skipped a beat every four beats and sent blood rushing to my head. Sometimes it made me light headed.
After being wheeled into the x-ray room by this young attendant, and being bumped around going through doorways (and I felt every one) they said that I had to sit up and I thought, Why can’t they just slide the board under me? It just didn’t make sense?
I was made to sit up to a 90 degree angle and as they pushed just that little bit more I felt something in my back snap and the pain was greater than the first. The young girls had snapped two bones off my disc or spine and I was in extreme agony.
Apologies were made (I think?) and I finally was wheeled into the surgery room after getting the appropriate injections.
I came out of surgery and the first thing the surgeon said was Quote “It was the largest disc I have ever seen and I removed two other bones that had broken off as well. The disc blew out of your back and hit me on the chest” Unquote.
Can I show this to the medical school here? I told him that’s fine go for it.
I spent 5 days in ICU and then transferred to ward 28 on this wonderful bed which had all the mod cons fitted but as I was wheeled past the reception part of the ward the nurse in charge said in a loud voice, “Oh! No! you can’t have that bed in here.” I hoped she was only joking but she wasn’t and I had to have a standard bed.
Earthquakes and things
Finally I was taken by ambulance to Burwood Spinal Unit where I was to be there for about five months.
It was here that my story starts regarding Earthquakes and things.
They had wheeled me into a room, and before long the nurses brought someone else in so I had someone to talk to.
He appeared to be a small man, but then after talking to him I realised that this man they brought in had been run over by a train, and it happened because he slipped on new paint on the platform as it had been raining. The doors were locked on the train and he couldn’t get on.
He fell under the moving train and ended up with just one small left limb, no legs or hands, and no right limb at all. I don’t know how he survived. He didn’t seem to know who he was and his story was in the papers across New Zealand.
I spoke to the head nurse Anna who came to help me and said to her, “He must be the worst case here, and to my surprise she said “No!” you are. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing anyway as time went by the nurses changed me as I had lost Bladder and Bowel control which had to be attended to daily three or four times & injections every four hrs for infections that had taken place. (Chest, Bladder, Stomach, and I felt feverish and was shaking and had pneumonia.
I didn’t know in the thick of things I would experience a Quake as large as 7.1 Magnitude, and when it struck, my bed moved sideways a foot here and there with tremendous force, and as I could only see the ceiling I watched in horror as it all moved back and forth. I hung onto the rails of the bed and wondered where to now?
I thought the whole place was going to crash down around my ears. It was a deafening noise with the ceiling creaking and groaning and making ungodly noises.
There was nothing I could do and I just yelled to my room mate, “Are you Ok!. He replied in a quiver, “Yeah I think so.” He wasn’t with it. I told him to Trust God!
The nurses came scurrying in and asked if we were ok! and after assurances they left, but before they left I said “How are we going to get out of here? and they replied, “through the sliding door,” we will take you onto the grass outside.
Sure I thought and if the door was jammed or something they wouldn’t fit us all into the hallway as there were too many patients, but they were lovely and efficient and calmed us down one by one.
No- body knew of the trauma, the anguish and anxiety I felt over the months following, the hopelessness I felt not being able to walk or do normal things.
I got so angry at God first, telling him that I had done all these things for him and had showed his love to so many, why did he allow this to happen to me then I fought the shock and trauma etc, until finally succumbing to acceptance of how I was.
The after shocks were terrible and added to the fear and anxiety I was feeling.
All I could do was stare at the ceiling hoping another quake wasn’t going to come. I hid this fear inside away from my visitors and wife.
I had to go through so much with humiliation in the days following after soiling myself and wetting the bed because I had no control over my body ( Bladder and Bowel.) The after shocks certainly didn’t help and I felt terrified by them. I would wake up in the early hours with pyjamas soaking wet from stress and have to have them changed.
The nurses were great some stayed in their little square they built for themselves while others moved out of the square and really helped. They were a blessing to me.
I knew them all by name and it was a pleasure talking to them as they came every few hrs to check and change things like the bed and my pj’s. They helped in my recovery so much with early Rehab, Physio, and things like that. There was Lena, and Kate, Kathy, Christine, Angela, Anna, and Nathan the manager to name a few.
Raj the head Dr of the unit was absolutely marvellous as well and understanding. He knew my limitations and was positive in speaking to me which in turn made me that way too!
Then their was Rosie the receptionist who always spoke with politeness, and helped with anything I asked for. The Physio girls were great too especially the Irish one who went by the name of Kathy Robinson. She pushed me pass my limit and got me on my feet much quicker. I used to tell her Irish jokes like this one. “This Irish man went to town sightseeing and while looking around the city he found he needed to go to the toilet.
He couldn’t seem to find one and lo and behold came across this large church and said to himself “There has to be one in there! He swung opened the doors and as he looked down the isle, there at the end he saw these two boxes. He didn’t know that they were confessional boxes and that the priest was in one waiting for someone to come for confession.
He dashed inside the left one and heard this person next door going “Ahem” (The priest was trying to get his attention. Again he heard “Ahem”, but in a louder volume. Finally the priest banged on the wall to get this guys attention, and the Irishman said back, “Hey it’s no good banging, I’ve got no paper in here either. Ha! Ha!
I achieved so much in the Gym that they presented me with an award . (But I’m getting ahead of myself).
I thought I was handling things quite well with progressing a little here and there. The shock was when the Head surgeon had said “You will never walk again” I don’t know if the quake was worst or what he said about walking. It hit me hard and I withdrew into myself. The after shocks never let up and made me nervous.
As a Christian of some forty odd yrs I rebuked those words the Surgeon said, and set about doing what I could in the gym and exercising when I could. I would Pray every night “Father make me whole again let your healing anointing flow over me and heal my body. Let restoration come. I never let up day and night praying pestering the Lord.
As each day came and went, changes came and out of the blue while watching a game of the All Blacks with my son in law Rick, my toes began to wiggle. The game became second as Joy and Exhilaration took place. I was over the moon and as the weeks and months ticked by My prayers changed from asking to thanking,
“Father thank you for the Restoration and Healings upon my body.” Thank you for hearing my cries, and for answering my prayers.
I met one of the Crusaders Nasi, and his manager and even spoke with John Key the prime minister who visited the Hospital. When he came over to my bed I made sure I said about the elderly, that they needed a pay rise. I hope he took me seriously.
Somewhere down the track, and after much Physio and hard work in Rehab I thought I was now ready to get out onto the road and go home, but I still had to endure the last month in a place called TR ( Traditional Rehab). It was here that they put you through your paces and taught you everything you needed to know about life as a disabled person. Travis and Fiona were just great people who spent time helping us.
We learnt things like cooking, and cleaning, and washing dishes, preparing meals for others once a week, and even hanging clothes on the line. I even played pool with two nurses behind me in case I fell, and fall I did at one time luckily not causing any damage as I had no feeling in one of my legs. It was so easy to break a leg.
It made me laugh when I couldn’t move and after some time the nurse Kathy (the Irish one) came over and said, “Lawry you’re standing on your foot”. yet they didn’t put you down for your mistakes but lovingly looked after you.
While learning how to walk in the Gym this ball was in my way and I tried kicking it away but I used my wrong foot and almost fell. Thank goodness my instructor Kathy who was always with me and saw the event was there to steady me. I guess I got over confident at times. I was like that always doing double what they said.
Once a week we went out to get groceries with one of the staff always at our side in case we stumbled or got into difficulty.
I eventually was able to play mini golf in my wheelchair as a final rehab thing and to my surprise got two holes in one and won a pass to come again free. It made me feel good. I also got a cup for the best in Archery at Burwood, and believe it or not split an arrow down the middle just outside of the centre goal. They called me Robin Hood and took a photo of it and pasted it on the achievement wall in TR. Ward.
I didn’t tell them I was a junior champion from way back until much later and then I helped others to achieve better results by teaching them how to hold the bow properly and stand and things like that.
I pestered the nurse to allow me to try a test for driving in my little Red car, and eventually was given an all Ok! The nurse in charge put me on this machine to test my reactions and I passed the test to drive my car as my right leg was getting better even though my left one still needed work on it. My car was automatic.
I passed my driving test at Burwood Hospital and then another by driving around Christchurch streets and busy intersections with two instructors I passed my final test with flying colours. “Whoopee! I was so excited to say the least. I finally was released to go home with my new wheelchair.
They sent me a letter a few days later to say I had to come into the hospital for rehabilitation in the pool swimming etc.
The day was the 22nd of February and I pulled into the hospital behind the chapel.
The time was almost 1:50 pm or there about. I got out of the car and put my wheelchair onto the ground as I was trained by Burwood staff to do when all of a sudden it struck. A massive 6.3 Quake.
The ground lifted up in front of me in a dozen places and I got thrown into the back of my car rocking to and fro. What a nightmare people running everywhere and nurses coming and checking if all was Ok! A gas bottle had broken it’s coupling and was thrown onto the ground not far from my car. I was fortunate it didn’t hit me.
A lady came out screaming she had fallen inside and hit her head which was bleeding.
Dr’s and nurses came running out and it made me laugh as Dr’s checked their flash cars for any damage.
I had to sit for 15 minutes or so to calm down. I thought “How can I get out,” the road had lifted quite a lot. Was my little car able to get through over the humps? I didn’t want to fall into any holes as I knew quakes could open the ground wide.
I finally went out onto the road to go back home which was a journey of two hrs.
Things were crazy. We were bumper to bumper all the way with water, liquefaction almost a mitre high and at times I’M sure my little car lifted off the road ,and I thought I am going to end up into the river. This turkey had come from the other direction and was driving fast making a big wave. When it hit my little car it lifted up off the road. It was terrifying for me as I couldn’t walk and thought I might drown or something. One lady had gone down a hole and had to be towed out by a 4×4 truck.
What could I do the water had made me think I needed to go to the toilet and I ended up being in pain as I held on. No good going out in the water I couldn’t walk to the back of the car for my emergency bag which had my catheter in it.
Thank God I finally got home. A quarter of an hour ride there, and two hours getting back home. All the time I was thinking “How is my wife? Is she Ok? I hope she’s not hurt.
What a mess our home was in, stuff everywhere, my office had everything on the floor, clothes in bedroom on the floor, bathroom a mess, cabinets broken, and all our antiques broken that I had kept for so long. GONE! Telly on the floor no good anymore and just bought a few months earlier.
And so the journey ends and I thank God we are Alive!
What man said couldn’t be done, “God made possible.” Praise The Lord!
Today although not free completely of Trauma and stress, I can say without fear, and with integrity and with a positive statement that “I can walk,”
Yes, I can walk, I put aside the walker they gave me and walk unaided for short bursts, and as each day goes by I get stronger and stronger.”
I look back to all the get well cards 30 odd, and the people who visited me and gave support, the coloured pictures from my grandkids and even Elim Church who not only looked after my wife with food and things but made visits to the ward to see me.
Especially Don and Sue who gave so much of their time to come and sit by my side and just chat. Thank you guys.
The Pastor, Clinton Kelleher even came and prayed for me and it all helped in my recovery. Such a colourful character he was and funny too!
Without the prayers of loved ones, and my endurance to succeed I would not have made it. My special thanks to all who have been part of my recovery and especially Helen my wife. What an outstanding person!