Falling and rising

Living and standing again has a local man feeling grateful after a 30-foot fall.

“The decisions made at that scene saved my life,” Mark says. “And someone made the decision to take me to McLaren Oakland, and that was where I needed to go.”

In late June, as part of an operations crew, Mark was 30 feet up in a power lift cleaning a portion of a wall, having just squeezed the trigger of a power washer.

Someone made the
decision to take me
to McLaren Oakland,
and that was where I
needed to go.

That was the last thing he remembers.

The power lift, which had several safety measures in place, inexplicably tipped over, sending the 62-year-old plummeting to the ground.

“They told me later that first responders were quick on the scene,” he said. “I didn’t remember the ambulance ride or the first responders. Next thing I remembered was two-and-a-half days later in the ICU.”


After arriving on the scene, Mark was taken to the emergency and trauma center at McLaren Oakland in Pontiac, where he was quickly evaluated.

From the impact, Mark had broken vertebrae in his back, three breaks in his right arm, a broken sacrum and a shattered pelvis.

“I had broken just about everything you could break in your pelvis,” Mark said.

Of all his injuries, the most alarming in the immediate aftermath of the fall were those that couldn’t be seen – Mark had significant internal bleeding.

Says Courtney Berry, RN, McLaren Oakland trauma program manager, “Mark’s injuries were devastating and to the point of being life-threatening. His trauma was a case that needed immediate action from our team.”

Upon his arrival, Mark was taken to the McLaren Oakland cardiac catheterization lab to determine the location and extent of his bleeding.

An angiogram determined it was coming from the gluteal artery in his hip, which physicians were quickly able to intervene upon and stop.

Mark would ultimately be transfused with 16 units of blood throughout his stay in the hospital.

To immediately stabilize his broken pelvis, he was fitted with a pelvic binder before orthopedic trauma surgeons were able to place an external fixator for further stabilization. A broken pelvis is especially worrisome to physicians since a stable pelvis is vital for anyone being able to properly sit, stand and walk.

On his second day in the hospital, surgeons were able to perform a definitive fix to his fractures.

Over the next few days, Mark would return to the operating room for multiple procedures to repair fractures in his lumbar, right arm and back.

“I was in pretty bad shape,” Mark said. “I kind of got the idea from people’s reactions that it was significant.”

Healing and grateful

Rushed to the hospital on June 26, Mark remained in the McLaren Oakland intensive care unit until July 8, when he was moved to the hospital’s inpatient rehabilitation unit.

“The scene never changed, and I had to see the worried face on my wife,” Mark said. “But they started to get a handle on things, and when I was moved to ICU step down, I had a thought. They told me I was the most stable person to move out of the ICU.

“I felt pretty fortunate.” Says Mark’s wife, Denise, “I was in a panic, but the ICU nurses were terrific. I couldn’t believe how calm and technically skilled they were. I really appreciated the care they gave us.”

Mark began his recovery with physical and occupational therapists working to help him regain his strength and mobility, including standing and walking again.

“Watching Mark’s improvement from his original, dire condition is very encouraging as he continues working on his rehabilitation,” Berry said. “But what has been truly inspiring to see is his determined approach to his recovery and his displays of gratitude to those around him.”

He progressed enough to the point where he could safely return home.

“I was very thankful, emotional,” he said. “It was physically hard, mentally taxing and emotionally draining, and it would be easy to fall into a ‘woe is me’ trap. But it’s humbling that a group of strangers would put so much time and effort in to getting me better. So I could live. To save my life. Through the whole process, everyone cared, and cared deeply.”

With his therapists optimistic, he’s standing now and working toward taking steps. He says it’s now up to him to get better – that the hard part of surviving is behind him.

“Every single person, be it a surgeon or housekeeper, was very respectful and optimistic,” Mark said. “They’re a very positive group of people. I’ve got to count myself lucky.”