Saturday, July 13, 2013

Luck is relative

I've been writing the blog for five years now. The goal has always been to capture the family's memories and over the years, I've wondered how I would handle a tragic event. It's not easy, but I doubt the boys will forget the night that their mother almost died. The least I can do is to explain how the events unfolded.

Today, David's first grade class had an overnight camping trip in Zwingenberg im Odenwald, which is about an hour away from Heidelberg. We were late, of course, but for a change we weren't the last family to show up.

We got the tents set up and Angie disappeared to search for snakes, beetles and other disgusting crap that totally impressed the kids. While she distracted future Fear Factor candidates, I snuck off to hide clues for a scavenger hunt we had organized.

The afternoon was great and the boys had a ball. Peter also had a ball until he kicked his into the river. Then he cried like a little girl until his unbashful father stripped to his boxers and jumped into the river to rescue his favorite soccer ball. I didn't make it that far, though. Another father had also gotten semi-naked and we were both wading into the river when an angry swan mama thought we were trying to eat her babies. She then freaked out all over me and the other dad used the feathery distraction to steal my thunder. At least Peter was so happy to have his ball back that he didn't dwell on the fact that his father was scared off by a bird.

In the evening we built a bonfire and roasted marshmallows. It was the text book end to a camping trip. As the sun went down, Angie went into the tent with the boys to read them a bedtime story. After a meal of chocolate and marshmallows, it was no surprise that it took quite a bit longer to render the animals restful.

After a few hours, Angie emerged looking frazzled, but still quite content with herself that she had succeeded in putting the boys to bed. I was impressed, too. I high-fived her and we sat down by the fire. We talked with the other parents until the bonfire had died down and then the adults started dropping like flies. 

After everyone turned in, Angie and I stayed behind to clean up. As we were just about to go to bed, Angie went to fetch her purse, which was next to the knee-high cement wall that enclosed the bonfire.

As Angie leaned down to pick up her purse, she twisted her ankle on a piece of firewood and essentially catapulted herself backwards into the bonfire pit.

Luckily, the fire had died down to embers.

Luckily, I was standing there and immediately raced over to yank Angie out of the bonfire pit.

Luckily, I was able to smother her shirt with my hand, which had caught on fire.

Luck is relative, though. In the few seconds that Angie was on the coals, she suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns going up from the back of her knee to her shoulder blades.

Peter woke up from the screams and came racing out of his tent as I was calling the ambulance. Needless to say, he was more hysterical than Angie and I combined. Because we were out in the boonies, it took over an hour for the ambulance to arrive.

While waiting, Angie and I agreed that I would stay with the kids and meet her at the hospital the next morning. David and Tom were still asleep and we didn't think that waking them up would do anything other than traumatize them.

I've never felt more helpless than watching Angie getting loaded into the ambulance. As the flashing lights faded, I carried Peter back to the tent. I envied David and Tom's oblivious snoring and focused instead on calming Peter and reluctantly assuring him that everything would be okay.


  1. Steve, I had missed this and the one about the Manly Men though I did know Angie had suffered serious burns. I'd talked to Beth and Amy with none of us knowing how serious it was. It's our prayer that her recovery has gone well and that she's back to being the best "Mom" in Heidelberg. Jean A.

  2. Thanks, Jean! It will take time, but the worst is behind us.