The Incident - Page 3
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Three minutes passed. The phone rang. As I answered the phone I hoped it would not be a friend calling to chat. It was the 911 operator who informed me the Alaska Railroad was sending a high-rail truck with two railroad workers to our trailhead and asked if Jim could make it to the trailhead. I asked Jim if he could make it and tell the operator "Yes, Jim says he can get to the railroad tracks." she said an ambulance will be waiting for Jim at the railroad depot when he arrives in Talkeetna. She then asked me to call her back as soon as I arrive back at the cabin after delivering Jim to the railroad rescuers. The 911 operator repeated the instructions about the wrapping and not removing any towels. She says the ambulance attendants will remove them if needed. I tell her the instructions will be followed and I will tell Jim to keep the towel on this hand.
I told Jim the Alaska Railroad crew was on the way to our trailhead to pick him up. I gave Jim complete instructions concerning the towels. Jim assured me he would not take the towels off till he is in the ambulance. Jim and I got on the four-wheelers and headed toward the railroad tracks - it is a ten minute ride. We left in such a hurry that I forgot to get Jim clean clothes, his I.D., money or the keys to our car parked in Talkeetna (not that he would be driving anytime soon.) I also did not think to have Jim leave his gun at home. We drove toward the railroad tracks. I was behind Jim, hoping he didn't pass out on the way. Jim got to the tracks first. A railroad truck was already at our trailhead when we arrived. I was very glad to see it!
By the time I stopped my four-wheeler Jim was standing beside the truck with two railroad workers. All three men are staring down at Jim's unwrapped mangled hand. I could not believe what I was seeing! Jim had taken off all the towels from his injury and was showing his hand to the two men. I ran up to Jim saying "No, you are not supposed to remove the towels and expose your hand to germs!" As I rewrap Jim's hand he looked at me sheepishly and said "Well, these guys wanted to see my hand." Jim was like six-year-old making excuses for being bad. I knew taking off the towels was a big mistake when I looked at the two railroad men. The sight of Jim's mangled hand had thrown the two men into shock. Now Jim and I have a rescue team in shock! The men turned pale, were weak in the knees and moved very slowly, if at all!
I instructed the driver to get back in the truck and wait for my signal to take off. He just stood there in place. I repeated the instruction to get in the truck and the driver slowly got into the truck. The other guy said he wants to ride in the backseat with Jim in case he needs help in route to Talkeetna. The backseat of the truck was full of railroad stuff. The railroad worker slowly started to straighten the backseat while I started throwing stuff into the front seat! As I am throwing stuff I notice the driver is slumped over the steering wheel. The other guy slowly climbed into the back. As Jim gets into the truck I shout "Driver! Driver!" I got no response. The backseat guy began poking the driver's shoulder and I shout "Driver! Driver!" again. The driver slowly raises his head and shakes it as if he was in a daze. I wondered if I should push the driver over and start driving myself. I told Jim bye, shut the truck door, slam my fist on the truck and tell the driver to take off. Nothing happens. I slam my fist on the truck again and yell "Driver go, go! Take off!" Finally the truck slowly starts moving. Jim tells the driver to go faster. I wonder again if I should drive. Jim and I could walk to Talkeetna quicker than this truck was going! The truck starts moving a little faster. Jim tells me later the driver was in a daze the entire trip to Talkeetna. He says the driver was going 30 to 35 mph but could have been going 50 to 60 mph. Also Jim says the backseat man asked him if he believed in God. Jim said he did. Then the man asked if it would be alright if he said a prayer, Jim said it would. The backseat man said a prayer as they traveled. I loved hearing that the three men said a prayer as they drove to Talkeetna; it is the best thing they could have done.
I watched as the truck with Jim in it disappeared around a curve. I was all alone at the trailhead with only my thoughts and visions of the day's events going through my head, it was a horrible feeling. I went back to our cabin, checked the time and realized it had been 40 minutes since I first called 911. It had taken me ten minutes to return from the trailhead, therefore it had only taken 30 minutes for the 911 operator and the Alaska Railroad to get Jim rescued out of the bush. Thank God for 911 operators and the Alaska Railroad! I called the 911 operator, told her Jim was in the hands of the railroad men on his way to Talkeetna, and that it had only taken 30 minutes for her to get Jim out of the bush. I told her I was amazed how quickly she was able to make it happen. The operator was relieved Jim had been picked up and she told me an ambulance attendant would call me as soon as they received Jim. I sincerely thanked her and said good-bye.
I was pleased Jim was on his way to the hospital but sadness hit me hard and deeply. I cleaned the blood off the front porch before it had a chance to dry; the chore seemed very eerie to me. Maybe 20 minutes later I received a call from an ambulance attendant saying Jim was in Talkeetna in the ambulance, and they will keep me informed as they are in route to Anchorage. Also they tell me the Talkeetna Fire Chief has Jim's gun. Turns out it is illegal to carry a gun in an ambulance in Alaska. Before they would allow Jim in the ambulance the attendants and Jim had a discussion about who could be trusted to receive Jim's gun. Everyone agrees the fire chief would be a good candidate. He was called and arrived at the depot. The gun had to be unloaded before the fire chief could accept it and Jim was the only one around that was allowed to unload it. Jim told me later it was a struggle for him to unload the gun with only one hand. That activity took 15 to 20 minutes causing a delay in Jim's trip to the hospital. CONTINUED ON PAGE 4