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RedBull Gives You Wings!

Updated: Dec 7, 2022

I should have drunk one before I went to work that day.

Story by Randy Grathen

The doctor looked at my MRI and said I should be dead. He didn’t say why. Others in the hospital kept telling me the same thing, but they never said why.

Laurie & I started a pressure washing business at the Lake of The Ozarks in October 1998. We did concrete sidewalks and parking lots, restaurant exhaust hoods, decks, homes, and condo buildings.

We had to rent a 60-foot High-lift to do condos so we could reach the gable ends of the building nearly 80 ft. above ground. When we were done using a lift I always pressure washed it so the rental company got their lift back cleaner than when I received it. Consequently, they always gave us their best machines. Except for this one time.

It was a short notice job and the rental company had one dinosaur left on their lot. All the controls were slow to react, the steering was sloppy, the floor of the cage was buckled in a couple of places and the door to the cage didn’t close and latch properly. When you're going to be working 80 feet above ground, the first thing you do when you get in is connect your safety harness. As the saying goes, 'It's not the fall that hurts, it's the sudden stop." I just finished cleaning one building and was preparing to move all the equipment to the next. I brought the cage down, disconnected my harness, and got out to shut down the pressure washer and climbed back in the lift.

I raised the boom up and swung it around so the machine was pointed in the correct position for driving.

Before I lowered the cage back to the ground, I turned around to look and make sure I didn’t set it down on anything underneath me. As I turned to look, my foot caught on one of the humps in the metal floor. The cage door had not shut as it was supposed to - it was wide open and I was 23 feet up. As I started to fall I grabbed for the railing but managed to only change the direction of my fall. I came out headfirst. I had time enough to wonder - "is this how I'm going to die???" but I rotated enough that I landed on the blacktop mostly on my right side. I laid there stunned. I wasn’t dead, and nothing really hurt – yet.

As I was falling out of the lift a woman in a 3rd floor condo had just picked up her phone to call her daughter to pick her up to go to lunch. She saw me fall and called 911 instead.

As I’m laying on the blacktop, the first thing the EMTs want to do is start cutting stuff off of me so they could check me for injuries. “Cut off his safety harness” one of them said. That harness cost me over $130 dollars and I had to order it off the internet. (No next day delivery back then.) I said “no, look it has buckles” and I unhooked it for them. Next, they wanted to cut off my rain jacket. I had to go to Bass Pro shop 70 miles away to get that jacket. I said “No, look it has a zipper.” So, I unzipped it for them. Then they wanted to cut off my tee shirt. I said “Ok, I got that at Wal Mart, go ahead.” By the time they get done, I’m laying in the parking lot in the rain, half undressed, but I managed to save all of my equipment and nearly all my clothing, before they finally decided it was safe to move me into the ambulance.

On the ride to the hospital, about 45 minutes away, nothing really hurt much except my head. I was strapped down head to toe on a plywood backboard which had no padding. Every tar-crack they hit in the road felt like they were driving over speed bumps. I was getting one heck of a headache.

When they got me in the ER, the doctor told me I had a collapsed lung. He said he had to insert a tube in my chest to bleed off the trapped air so my lung could reinflation. He said he would give me a shot to numb the area first. He used a scalpel to cut a slit between two ribs. Well, it wasn’t numb yet when he made the incision, and the tube felt like he was trying to wedge a 2x4 into the hole. Now that hurt like hell!

When he was done, they stuck me in the MRI machine. If you've ever been inside one, you'll find out real quick if you're claustrophobic or not! Forty-five minutes of torture later, they wheeled me to my room in Intensive Care. Several hours later the doctor returned with the results. I had a collapsed my right lung, had three broken ribs, and fractured my pelvis in four places. Several days later I finally found out why I “should have been dead.” If the fractures in my pelvis had allowed the bone to shift, I could have bled to death internally. There is no good way to stop that kind of bleeding.

I believe the hand of God guided me to the ground as I fell that day. If I had gone out head-first, I probably wouldn't be sitting here typing this story. If I had fallen in any other orientation than the one I did, the number of broken bones and possible head trauma probably would have changed me forever. Twenty-two years later I still have had no residual effects whatsoever.

Laurie & I have learned that God doesn't waste any tragic event in our lives, there are always lessons to learn and our relationship with Him deepens as we learn to trust him more and more.

Before I left for work that day we talked about what to do for dinner that evening. Neither of us could have known that I might not come home that night. Five seconds before I fell, I had no idea that those might have been my last five seconds on earth.

Unless you commit suicide, you will never know the hour of your death. When you die, where will you spend eternity?

Never leave the house without kissing your wife goodbye, and remind her you love her. You may never get another chance to tell her.

In conclusion, Laurie would want me to tell you that the last thing she said to me as I headed out the door that morning was “make sure you wear your safety harness.” She said she never thought she had to tell me I should "hook it up too!"

For more stories from Our High Places, click here


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