Friday, October 09, 2015

TOP STORY >> Paralyzed Mason returns home

Leader staff writer

A local Mason and 24-year Air Force veteran recently returned home and says a positive attitude is his key to walking again after being paralyzed in a freak accident last year.

Harold (Hutch) Hutchison and three friends were cutting a tree down Oct. 23 on Sugarloaf Mountain for someone in need, when tragedy struck. The tree fell on Hutch.

One of the friends, a retired doctor, kept him alive until a helicopter arrived.

Hutch’s saw was brand new, and the doctor’s was dull. The tree flipped within a few seconds and threw him 10 feet, Hutch and his wife, Gail, said.

When Hutch’s heart rate slowed, Gail continued, the retired doctor thought to give it a boost with the epi pen her husband had brought in case he was stung by a wasp.

Later, the couple discovered the retired doctor’s daughter was head surgical nurse at a hospital he was sent to. She assisted with one of his procedures.

Six hospitals, about five surgeries and 11 months later, Hutch was welcomed home by family and friends at the couple’s house in the Toneyville area of Jacksonville.

He even surprised his wife that day with a vow renewal ceremony conducted by their son, who is an ordained minister.

While Hutch was away, volunteers built a ramp for him during the hottest part of the summer.

Hutch wanted to thank all who have supported him, including this newspaper, which published a feature article and editorial in August about his sister-in-law setting up a Centennial Bank account for those who want to help.

It is called the Harold Hutchison Donation Account, and the account number is 501505255.

Hutch and Gail, who is also disabled from back and neck fusion issues, said the money in that fund has kept them from financial trouble so far.

Hutch told The Leader he wanted to thank the Home Depot store in Cabot, Austin Ready Mix, George Barton Auto Repair and the Jacksonville chapter of Disabled American Veterans for the ramp and helping in other ways.

He added, “A big thank you to my family and friends for your prayers and support during this most difficult time.”

But he and his wife still need a van that could cost up to $29,000 and must meet extensive VA requirements. The VA will install a wheelchair lift at no cost to the Hutchisons.

The van would mean Hutch seeing his granddaughter play volleyball and getting back to everyday activities, like shopping at Walmart.

One of the most difficult things they’ve had to do since Hutch’s accident, the couple agreed, has been asking for help because they were taught to take care of their own problems and be on the other side of charity — giving unto others.

The Mason was known for purchasing, on sale, everything for his lodge’s holiday food box giveaway, with the exception of perishables. Both he and Gail have worked in grocery stores before, so they knew how to save money on such things.

Friends even brought sales papers to Hutch in the hospital so that he could point out the good deals. “I told him that chair’s not going to stop him this year,” Gail quipped.

He has also bought equipment for coaches in Jacksonville and Cabot and backpacks for local schoolchildren, she added.

Their son delivered boxes this year while his dad was in the hospital. His mom said he saw that the fridge of one battered woman who received a box was barren.

The son bought her groceries and told Gail he cried like a baby all the way home afterward, knowing why his father participated in the charitable program every year. “At least I know, if nothing else, that he has taught our son, you know,” Gail said. “People that don’t believe that there’s a higher power, if they had been down this journey with us this last 11 months, I think they’d be a totally different person.”

Hutch and his wife shared with The Leader how they reacted to his misfortune, and they offered advice for those in similar situations.

As for Hutch’s first thoughts, he said, “It was a shock and I just, to be honest, after the accident I really didn’t know what happened.”

Gail said, “When we first found out, we didn’t know nil for awhile, if he was going to live or not, so all we were worried about was keeping him...Everything was just going so fast, and they turned, they had to roll him. And he was in so much pain. He was just praying aloud for God to take him. And, every time he’d pray for God to take him, I think I was praying for God to keep him (here).”

With tears in her eyes, she told The Leader, prayers being said in the waiting room outnumbered Hutch’s pleas.

Gail added that she told her husband later, “It may be my fault that you’re in that chair...My prayer when you went into surgery was, if God would just please spare your life and bring you back, I’d take you any way I could have you, I said, because I can’t imagine my life without him.”

The first surgeon didn’t think Hutch would make it, but he prayed with his patient’s loved ones, the wife continued.

The doctor said after that it “looked like a bomb went off in his back,” but the spinal cord was nicked in three places, not severed. Gail said they were told he had a 50/50 chance of walking, but that it wouldn’t happen within a year.

The VA said Hutch wouldn’t get better, but the couple pointed out that the people who told them that aren’t physicians.

Hutch said, “My attitude is you can’t tell nobody that they’re not going to do anything because, sooner or later, if you’ve got a high enough attitude...They told me 20 years ago that I’d never walk. I had an aneurysm and a blood clot.”

Back then, his right side was paralyzed and he couldn’t do anything, not even feed himself. “I’ve got the attitude. I get depressed every now and then about things that can’t happen. But now I know what to do and how to do it,” Hutch continued.

Gail noted that there was brain bleeding and swelling at the beginning to worry about, which affected his memory. The first person Hutch recognized was his granddaughter.

Then tragedy struck for a second time while he was hospitalized. Hutch’s roommate passed away overnight, and he heard the other man cry out before hospital personnel rushed into the room.

Hutch has CPR training and tried to leave his bed to assist the roommate. “That was really hard on me. To see somebody that you’d been talking to...And he had a wound like I did.”

Hutch explained, “I was blaming myself because I might could’ve saved him if I could’ve got up.”

The couple’s advice for people in a situation like his is to not give up, set a simple goal everyday, have a positive attitude, never lose faith in God and to not be afraid of asking or accepting help when it’s needed.

Gail said, “You have your bad days and your bad moments, and you’ve just got to get through them. And we’re still going through them.” She continued, “For every bad, I think we’ve had a good to come out of it. And I know there’s going to be more, and I know we’ve got a lot more bad coming, but we’ve weathered this storm. We’ll weather another one.”