One Year Since the Gaping Jaws of Death

Some people’s heroes are religious, political, historical, or celebrity. But some of the most influential heroes are those that directly impact your life. In my life, my hero is my father, David Eugene Watson.Dad and I have always been very close. He is full of love, guidance, humor, and spirituality. I love to spend time with my parents, and it’s been hard to move further than 20 minutes away from Murray. This picture of us was taken in April 2007 at the SLC airport. He was kind enough to bring my beloved Cafe Rio pork barbacoa salad to the airport on my 2 hour layover so we could chat. It was really hard on him when I moved away from Utah. Little did I know that when I moved to Michigan, I’d be seeing him more than ever…

On January 11, 2008, my dad was returning to Salt Lake from St. George in a van with some of his coworkers in the LDS Church Audiovisual Engineering Department. In central Utah, near Fillmore, the driver of the van overcorrected and the van tumbled off I-15 and rolled several times through a field. The driver sustained a shoulder injury and needed some plastic surgery from the shattered glass. The front passenger had minor cuts and bruises. My father was nearly killed from the impact of the crash and subsequent rolling. He had a giant abdominal gash from the seatbelt, a lung injury, major contusions all over his body, and his legs were crushed under the weight of his body, particularly his left leg. He was briefly taken to Fillmore Hospital, and soon LifeFlighted to Salt Lake City and rushed by ambulance to Intermountain Medical Center in Murray. My mom alerted me of the accident that evening, less than a week after arriving in Michigan. Rosie and I packed up our bags and took the earliest available flight to SLC. Once I arrived, I was appointed as the family representative to talk to all the surgeons, doctors, nurses, respiratory techs, and hospital workers…and then relay the information to my family.

His first surgery was overnight with an orthopedic surgeon, vascular surgeon, and general surgeon. They did a saphenous vein graft from his other leg to restore bloodflow to his crushed leg. After nine hours, they were able to restore bloodflow to the left leg. However, his body was in shock and had endured so much trauma that he was medicated into a chemically-induced coma.

Over the next few days, several more surgeries were required. Unfortunately, the trauma of the crush wound was too severe and his left leg was amputated. It was originally expected to be amputated just below the knee, but the necrosis had spread further up, and the amputation was done at mid-thigh.

In order to keep friends and family informed, I started a blog for his health updates. News of my dad’s accident spread like wildfire, even internationally. We were the recipient of thousands of prayers, hundreds of service hours, and dozens of meals and cards. To date, there have been over 8,000 visitors to his blog.

Throughout the next two weeks after the surgery, his condition improved. He was doted on by many loving people, in addition to the wonderful staff at IMC. On my 28th birthday, February 5th, dad “graduated” from IMC and was transferred to Aspen Ridge Transitional Rehab. This would become his home for the next four months.

Rosie and I traveled back and forth from Detroit as much as possible to encourage him through his recovery. It was difficult to be away from him all the time, but a blessing to have our pass benefits to travel to SLC for free whenever we needed to.

Dad made incredible progress at Aspen Ridge. He had hundreds of hours of physical, speech, and occupational therapy.

Taylor loved to fly out to SLC as often as possible to be my dad’s right hand man. There’s a saying about girls wanting to marry men like their fathers…let’s just say they get along amazingly.
Dad was fitted with a prosthetic C-Leg, and spent the majority of his physical therapy time adjusting to the function of the prosthetic. Unfortunately, his right leg had sustained more damage from the accident than originally anticipated, so he spends the majority of time getting around in his wheelchair.
In June, Dad graduated from Aspen Ridge, and my family moved an apartment in downtown Salt Lake. It became their home for the next six months. Dad was fitted with hand controls on the van, and was able to start driving and returning to work.
This picture was taken on my last trip at Christmas at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, just one week before they moved out of the apartment and into a new home in Lehi. It was a great night, going around to see the lights at Temple Square as a family. It amazed me that I was able to visit him 9 times in 2008, when I’d originally expected to see him every 3-4 months. Hopefully his recovery will continue, and he’ll be up for a visit our new home in Atlanta!

He still has a hard road ahead of him, but I am amazed at the progress he’s made in the last year. He has kept his sweet soul and has not allowed the tragedy that he faced to ruin his spirit. He was been an inspiration to many, and I’m so lucky that I can’t claim him as my own father.

Update on my Dad

Several of you have been asking for updates on my dad’s progress. He’s improving steadily, he’s on the final fittings for his C-leg (computerized prosthetic), and he’ll be done with his rehab at Aspen Ridge within the next few weeks. You can read up on him at his blog with lots more pictures.

The most shocking news in a while came this week, when Assist Utah came to do an assessment on my parents’ house. It’s 3 stories, with a steep driveway and curved staircases. To renovate the home, add chair lifts, and make it wheelchair accesible…the potential bid was $40-80 thousand! And this estimate would not include renovations to their steep driveway, which he can’t get up on his own in the wheelchair. The planning, contracting, bidding, and construction could take upwards of 4 months, and he’ll be ready to leave Aspen Ridge by the end of May. With this info, it appears that finding a new house is a better option long term.

It needs to meet quite a bit of criteria. The driveway must be flat or very slightly inclined. There must be an accessible door to build a wheelchair ramp. There must be doorframes at least 30″ wide, which is wider than the standard 28″. The toilet area and shower must be wide enough to allow wheelchair access. The list goes on and on.

We’ll have more info within the next week or two what will happen with their housing situation. It’ll be sad to have to give up the Green Oaks home. It’s been 15 years of traditions and memories for my family.

My Dear Ol’ Dad

The Three Survivors

I talked to my dad today to wish him a happy Easter, and was sad to hear him a little downtrodden. Although his recovery is going steadily, it’s coming slowly. It’s been 10 weeks since the accident, and he’s got another 4-5 weeks to go in Aspen Ridge. Above is a picture that was taken with Bruce and Nathan; the three survivors of the horrendous accident that took my dad’s leg and almost took his life. He was able to take his first field trip out into public, and went to the Church Office Building to see his coworkers. His work group was very cordial and glad to see his health improving so much. But on this trip, he also needed to go to the church travel office to get his renewal passport photo taken. The assistant in the office made the comment, “Looks like you got into a fight with a snowblower and it won.” Although the employee probably meant to make my dad laugh…it really hurt. It was the first truly insensitive comment that he’s encountered since the accident.

He also was able to go to Stake Conference where two apostles, Holland and Ballard, and Elder Huntsman from the Quorum of the Seventy spoke. Elder Huntsman mentioned in his talk “how nice it was for David Watson to make it out today after his terrible accident.” He had a great showing of support from members of the ward and stake…and hoped that it would spark some visitors. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. He’s been very lonely for people to visit. Between a few visits a week from my mom and siblings…he has a lot of downtime to be lonely. Once the occupational and physical therapy is done…he’s left to his own devices in the facility for hours a day. He would love to have people come visit him, even if its a short stay. Even if you don’t know him well, he’s anxious for company and would be happy to make a new friend. Rosie and I will be flying out to see him on Tuesday, and plan to keep him occupied for as many hours as we can.

To hear about his recovery in his own words, check out his blog at

Today: David under the knife: part #6

Today David will be going in for another surgery at TOSH. He has been doing well with physical therapy, but continues to have difficulty with his right foot. Today the surgeons will enter the leg through one of the scars from the last surgery. They will do some nerve testing to see the extent of the nerve damage from the accident. The surgery will likely be an outpatient procedure, and he’ll return to Aspen Ridge this evening. Please keep him in your prayers…David NEEDS his right leg intact to be able to walk with a normal gait once he’s fitted with the prosthetic on the left.

Dad’s One-Hour Trip Home

Friday, right before Rosie and had to leave for the airport, David was done with an ortho appointment at TOSH. The driver from Aspen Ridge said that David could come to the house for a few minutes. He was overcome with joy, as he hasn’t been to the house since a week before the accident. The wheelchair transfer was a little tricky, and required three of us to get him up the front steps and into the house.

Barbara was all smiles to have him home for a few minutes!

Mystic was more than happy to take an immediate perch on dad’s leg. She’s the only family member that hasn’t seen him in 6 weeks, and was slunking around his leg and the wheelchair for the whole visit.

I’m so glad that I got to be there for David’s first trip home. It’s still going to be a long time (3-5 weeks before he can come home for good), but hopefully his drivers for future appointments will be gracious enough to let him visit the house occasionally.

The Van of Doom

This is the van that nearly ate David alive.

I finally got hold of some of the accident pictures. They are incredibly scary, and it’s a miracle that all three men in the car survived. Pics courtesy of Ken Wooton.

I am so grateful to all those who stopped at the accident site to help David, Nathan, and Bruce out of the wreckage. It’s a true blessing that their lives were spared.

Scenes from Rehab

At the request of many of my blog readers, here are some updated pictures of my dad’s recovery. You can read specifically about his progress at

Thanks to Grandma Joyce, here are a bunch of pictures from the past two weeks, both at IMC and Aspen Ridge rehab. Yesterday, he met with the prosthetist to start some of the initial fittings for his C-Leg. He has physical and occupational therapy everyday. He is able to eat just about anything, but his stomach shrunk so much from the feeding tube that he barely has an appetite. He has been working on an assisted slide transfer into the wheelchair, instead of the 6-step transfer that wore him out. He typically has his appointments in the morning, takes a nap after lunch, and then most of the visitors come in the evening.

With Grandma, Mary, and Jacob.

On the way to PT.

David and some of his coworkers from the A/V Department

With sister Laurie from Portland and Barbara

David’s mom has been an amazing caregiver!

Rosie and I are so happy to visit David in such great shape!

One Month Anniversary

Last night, Rosie and I arrived into SLC to visit David for a few days. We had a crazy day stuck in -20 degree Minneapolis, and we were lucky to finally make it in to SLC around midnight. Today is the one month anniversary of the accident. He has showed me some picutures of the accident, and I’ve uploaded some pictures of his last two weeks. More info will be posted tomorrow. He did say that he has lost 45 pounds from the accident (25 from the amputation.) He calls it the “rollover diet,” and does NOT recommend it! Leave a comment and wish David a “happy anniversary.”

Great news!!!

This has been David’s bedside crew this week…Mary, mom, grandma and Laurie. Taylor took the picture a few days ago while in SLC. Today was a wonderful day…a great birthday wish come true! He passed the thin liquid swallowing test, they removed the PICC line, he was able to do an assisted transfer into a wheelchair and……(drumroll please)….he’s out of the hospital! Because he is out of the hospital sooner than expected, Aspen Ridge West on 53rd isn’t open yet. So he is at Aspen Ridge on Winchester and 10th East. It’s a beautiful facility, which my Grandpa Jack was in after his car accident in 2005. There aren’t many beds, so he was lucky to get in. He is still on oxygen, but otherwise his labs are good and he doesn’t need IVs anymore.

Slurp and Swallow

I just got off the phone with David. He was in much better spirits than yesterday. He finally passed the swallow test…he can have thick liquids, like yogurt, pudding and pureed foods…but not thin liquids like milk and water. He celebrated with a chocolate milkshake. He said the hospital shake was pretty mediocre, but he was so happy to have a sweet taste in his mouth! Tonight he’ll be having some pureed foods for dinner. Mary’s going to pick him up a yummy shake at Take Five tomorrow.

They also removed the feeding tube and catheter today. His blood levels have regulated and he’s okay on his labs. Good news is just what the doctor ordered!