Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy "Re-Birthday" Miguel

One year ago today I was sitting on my couch attending a conference call. The power went 'thump' - which disconnected me from my call. After a few seconds the power came back on, and I dialed back into my conference call. Then the local phone line rang. Normally when I'm busy I would ignore that phone, so I'm not sure what prompted me to pick up. On the other end was a hysterical, crying voice - the only word I could make out was 'ambulancia'. It registered that someone was calling to tell me there'd been an accident, and when I asked "Miguel?", the answer was "Si". I dropped both phones, grabbed my wallet, locked the doors, and raced to the street to hail a cab. Those couple minutes it took to get a cab and get to the site of the accident were the most terrifying of my life - because I fully expected to arrive to find out that Miguel had been killed.

There was a crowd of people gathered, but I tore through the crowd and shook off a woman who tried to stop me from getting to Miguel. I was stunned to see him sitting in a chair. His head was hanging, his color was grey, he looked puffy and like he'd just been bombed. But he was ALIVE! The paramedic was wrapping a huge bandage around his head and I assumed that part of his head had been blown off (thank goodness I was wrong about that!). I called his name and after the second time he raised his head and looked at me and said that he was fine (he wasn't).

Miguel touched high-voltage cables. The force of the jolt was what 'thumped' off my power a mile away. More than 16,000 volts of electricity coursed through or around his body. And didn't kill him!

Oh, he was badly hurt, no question. First, second, and third degree burns to 30% of his body. A huge gash in his head from falling down a concrete flight of stairs when the electricity exploded around him and knocked him out. The first person to attend to him said he wasn't breathing, so he slapped him in the face. Miguel came around and claimed he was fine (he wasn't). He walked down the next flight of stairs to sit in the chair and get first aid treatment to his external wounds. Then he was whisked away to the local hospital for stabilization and bandaging of his burns. Then a boat ride to Cancun where an awaiting ambulance would slowly thread the needle of Cancun rush-hour traffic to take him to the ER, where we would spend hours waiting for specialists to check him out and determine what might be damaged by the line of current on the inside of his body.

Word spread quickly on the island that Miguel had been killed. And a few hours after Miguel had gone by boat to Cancun, another man's corpse was returned to the island. Strangely enough, that man's name was also Miguel, and this solidified the rumors of Miguel's death.

Miguel's extensive bandages made him look like a zombie from the movie "Thriller". We joked that he should return to Isla and walk down the main street in his bandages, prompting speculation if he was really dead or alive. We had to find humor in something.

The road to recovery was long and painful. Miguel's faith and spirit, along with lots of TLC and medication, carried him through. Miguel should have had skin grafting, but a string of circumstances delayed it long enough that he eventually decided he wanted to see how it would heal on its own. And now, other than his scars, Miguel is as good as new. The plastic surgeon treating Miguel recommended a gel, Contractubex when we last saw him in June. This gel is for burn patients and helps smooth out the ropey scar tissue on his arm and abdomen. Miguel says the gel also makes his underlying tissues feel less stretched from the scars.

So today is the one-year anniversary of Miguel's accident. His second chance at life, because he should have been killed by that zap of electricity. He is a little bit different than he was a year ago - both inside and out. Without getting personal, there were good things that came out of this horror.

Cruising around the island, Miguel still comes across the odd person who does a double-take and says "What, you're alive? I heard you were dead!". It's only been a year, it may take a while for the rumor of life to circulate!

Postscript: In remembering this 'anniversary', I have to again give thanks to my dear friend Bennie for dropping everything and coming to the island to help out when I really needed it. I do not know how I would have gotten through this without Bennie taking charge of the house and animals while I focused on attending to Miguel's needs in the hospital in Cancun. Muchisimas Gracias, Amigo!!


Ann said...

So glad all worked out for you & Miguel & he's here to celebrate this anniversary!

Life's a Beach! said...

Happy Birthday Miguel! He's so blessed to have your love and support. Last time I was on Isla, I watched an ambulance delivering a person to a small boat for the crossing to Cancun. That's a scenario I'd never considered when I thought about living on Isla. So glad Miguel made it through! And close calls can really change your vision of what's truly important in life!

Anonymous said...

I so know what it is like to have someone y0u love go through a near death experience. It is incredible that Miguel survived. Just like with Tara there must have been an angle watching out for him.
When we saw Miguel in April he showed us some of the burns and I couldn’t imagine what they must have looked like months before. He must be one tough hombre!

Scottozoid said...

I remember when you and Miguel showed me the scene of the accident...and the stair rail that had just been built just before it happened...if that railing hadn't been there, Miguel would have fallen all the way down to the bottom floor and it would have been even worse!
Sometimes, the most trying times bring out the best in people, like Miguel and Bennie and yep you too Sue.
I look forward to giving you and Miguel a big embrazo when I see you in December!

IslaZina said...

Feliz Re-Nacio! Or some other made up word that would fit such an occasion. It truly is a miracle. He was so tentative when I first saw him after the touch and go and now, more secure, as if he is well grounded. Enjoy your day together. It serves as a reminder to us all that it all could end in the blink of an eye.

Bennie said...

It's very hard to belive that it's been a year now since Miguel's accident.

From Sue's writing it sounds like I did more than I did. I simply did what I could for a dear friend in need (take care of the animals). To be quite honest I was the receipent of the best blessings of all in the end. I was able to help a dear, dear friend Sue and get to know the man who means so much to her.

During my short stay in Mexico I got to experience the true charm of Isla and the people of the island. I speak NO spanish other than Gracias, or Buenos Dias. Of course Sue introduced me to the owners of the store around the corner and on the other side of the Island.

Knowing no spanish and learning to survive in a country that was not my own... I have a whole new repect for what so many feel that come to the US to try and find a better life.

Learning how to shop for eggs, milk, going to the market, catching a cab and giving instructions on where to go.. These were all experiences I would have never had any other way.

People were asking how Miguel was doing and doing their best to speak to me in English while I tried to speak Spanish. The day I remember most was the day Miguel came home and I got to tell someone that Miguel was back at Casa on Isla. I know horrible Spanish, but they got the message.

I was truly blessed to have a boss (Jeanie) that let me go to Mexico and help Miguel and Sue. And even more blessed to be able to provide a little help (and let me assure it it was very little effort on my part.)

I flew home on my Birthday and even though Miguel was stuck in the house and could not leave he was able to arrange to pull together a Birthday gift for me. I was amazed at his kindness and what he could pull off being stuck in the house.

Least to say the blessings went both ways. And Jackie if you read this... Miguel is a very tough Hombre!

Anonymous said...

Sue, I thought of you and Miguel both this morning and prayed for a beautiful day for you both to enjoy and celebrate. And Bennie, a year ago, I wasn't really your boss when I heard the news, you are right, we all did what we had to do for our friends in need and the animals too. You are all wonderful friends and we are all blessed to have each other.

Sue said...

Such warm, caring comments to the post from yesterday - brought tears to my eyes. I shared with Miguel and the only word he asked me to translate was 'tough', so he got the jist of what you all wrote. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment, it means a lot. I have a lot more to say but we just got interrupted by an island 'emergency' - a kitten crying long and hard for help. We finally caught it and have just put some food and milk in its belly and hopefully it will settle and sleep while we decide what we're going to do about it. THIS is why we ended up with 6 animals for Bennie to care for. We're down to 4 but this kitten might bring us back to 5 - we'll see. :-)

Islagringo said...

Amazing! He is one very lucky guy in so many ways. But I'm sure he knows that!