Trauma in the Neighborhood

On Wednesday close to 2pm, I was out watering my yard, Steve was in the garage and Sascha and Apollo were in the baby pool on the deck, when I heard a loud crash and then someone yelling: call 911! call 911! I knew immediately that something serious happened to my neighbor and good friend, Craig Brown. I knew because not more than ten minutes prior he was dropping off some flowers to me that his wife didn't have time to plant. I asked what he was up to and he told me about the deck project he and his contractor were working on. He wanted me to come see it so I told him I'd be over after Apollo went down for a nap.

Back to the story, I dropped the hose and ran as fast as I could to the house which is right next door to us. After running in the house and seeing that Craig had fallen off the deck, I ran as fast as I could to reach him (his wife was on the phone with 911 and the contractor was running around the neighborhood trying to find Ed (our neighbor)). I found Craig around back lying very still and flat with his face buried in the grass. I could see the blood. My heart sunk. I was in shock. All I could think was "not Craig! not Craig!" I knew he couldn't breathe in the position he was in so I lifted and turned his head just enough so he could breath. About a minute or so later Steve showed up and then the contractor and Ed. I kept Craigs head in my hands the whole time so I could keep it as steady as possible. Steve was down by his legs, the contractor was on the side and Ed was holding up a sheet to shield the hot sun. At first he was unconscious and making loud snoring noises. The guys decided we should put him on his side so he could breathe better. After that he started making very labored moaning noises which basically continued the whole time. The paramedics came pretty quickly, but in a situation like that it seems like they took forever. We were relieved to see them. They had me keep holding onto his head and asked me to hold his oxygen mask on too. Craig kept trying to pull it off (good sign) but I kept it in place. They were asking questions like what his middle name and birthdate were. I told them I didn't know. Craig started mumbling his middle name and birthdate (another good sign, brain activity). They had me keep his head steady while they rolled him onto the board to stabilize his head and strap him down. It wasn't until after they walked off with him to the ambulance that I started breaking down and would continue to do so, off and on for the remainder of the day. He's like family and to find him in that type of situation just broke my heart.

After making a stop at the hospital in Bremerton he was flown over to Harborview in Seattle to their trauma center where they're better equipped for these type of injuries. Long story short: his top two vertebrae that are closest to the skull are fractured, he has broken ribs, a punctured lung, spinal cord injury, a piece of skull broken at the base of his head and bleeding and pressure in the brain. The good news is that he does move his arms and legs. When asked to squeeze his hand or move his toes, he responds. They do have him pretty heavily sedated so he's not showing very much coherency. His lungs seem to be doing well. He was taken into surgery yesterday to have his vertebrae fused together (just to get him into position can take a couple of hours) and his blood pressure started rising. They decided to wait and let him rest more.

What happened from the contractor's point of view: Craig was working alongside him on his two-story back deck that didn't have the railing up yet. They both grabbed opposite ends of the door frame from the sliding glass door that was already out. When they started yanking it out, Craig must have lost his balance causing him to fall backwards and off the deck.

I'm just so glad he's alive. I think the fact that he takes such good care of himself and has such a positive attitude is probably what is keeping him alive. He's 71 years old and retired from the Navy. I hope and pray that he'll be able to have the strength to walk again. His injuries are very severe and he's always lived such an active life. I would see him outside all the time working on all sorts of projects. He's the one who helped us get rid of the racoon and patch up the hole in the house. He's also been there for us when we had the four day power outage and needed help with our generator. He was running around refilling ours and taking care of the other neighbors. He even brought Pops some Sorth Pole gear to wear that he had from when he used to live there. There's countless other things that he's done for us. He truly has a heart of gold! Please keep Craig in your prayers.
6 Responses
  1. Fireball Says:

    I am stunned. I enjoyed meeting him last month; he is a really nice guy. I remember we were talking about how unsafe that deck looked without the railing. It sounds terrible and scary, but I'm glad you were there to help out. I will pray for him and his wife.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    While I admire your ability to post this information, I am apalled at the fact that you would post pictures of you and your family showing off your bloody hands and clothes. What are you thinking?? Do you for one minute think that his family would want to see this??? Did it also occur to you that by moving him immediately following the fall may be the reason that his injuries are that severe?? The first thing you learn in first aid in an emergency situation is that if you suspect a neck or spine injury, you never, ever move the head or neck!!! My prayers are with him and his family.

  3. Diana Says:

    This is for my own blog/journal and for those who choose to read it can. It was a way for me to express how traumatic of an event it was for me. It was the worst thing that I've ever witnessed aside from checking both my Mom and Dad into the same hospital at separate times in the very same day by myself, back when I was 19. My Dad ended up dying two days later.

    And of course my heart goes out to this family who I consider close enough to be my own. By posting the pictures I had no intentions of hurting anyone and if I did, I do apologize. I will remove them immediately.

    Also, I have no medical training and was fully aware that you're not supposed to move their head. I didn't know how soon the paramedics would arrive. When I found him, he wasn't breathing at all. As soon as I moved his head to the side, he started breathing and was clearing out all the fluids that were filling his lungs. I just did what I thought was right in that moment and I'm glad I was there when I was and that I was able to help out. Everyone I've spoken to about it agreed that I did the right thing. You tell me what you would have done?

  4. Steve Gardner Says:

    Dear anonymous, Perhaps you missed the part where Diana wrote that Craig's face was buried in the grass. He wasn't breathing. Had she, and then we, not moved him he would not have survived, because the paramedics took well more than five minutes to get there. Go without oxygen for eight-ten minutes and paralysis will be the least of your problems.

    I don't know if you have ever been in a situation in which you know you're holding someone's life in your hands. You don't make decisions irrationally, but you make them quickly. Diana knew the risks. We all knew the risks, but he needed to breathe. Diana did the right thing. You weren't there, so keep your armchair quarterbacking to yourself.

    You're appalled? I am absolutely disgusted there are people like you who are so quick to judge and then to suggest that perhaps it's Diana's fault that his injuries were so severe. You think those pictures were insensitive? Look in the mirror.

    Steve Gardner, Diana's husband.

  5. Ryan Says:


    Thank you so much for your heroics on that day. You saved his life, and you deserve a medal. You and Steve have been nothing but amazing friends to Joanie and Craig, and have been so incredibly supportive during this time of crisis, from what you did for Craig then, to taking care of Coconut for such a time, and then even for cheering Joanie up with some "Apollo" time the other day. This is a time where positive acts are to be noticed, and negative attacks of cowardice are to be ignored.

    Ryan Brewer (Craig's stepson, Joanie's son)

  6. Kelli Says:

    I was in Alaska all summer and just found out about Craig yesterday! I am so shocked and worried! I guess he's in an intensive recovery program now and he is making faster progress than they expected. I know him from the photography club and he's always been so warm and generous toward me and everyone I know that knows him.