My immediate thought was Dad would be caught in the spreading fire or overcome and die up there. I didn't know what to do - I felt so helpless being 4 hours away, on one hand I was glad Gordon and I were here, out of harms way, on the other, I couldn't stand not knowing what was happening. I told Mom to immediately call me back as soon as she knew Dad was ok. I couldn't take waiting, it was not long before I was calling her back - this time Dad answered. I can't tell you the relief I felt hearing his voice, although he sounded terrible. I asked him if he remembered that smell at the cabin below, he did, I said he needed to call the gas company, what if A & D's place (neighbors above) had a leak of gas that caused the explosion - someone needed to get the gas company out ASAP. He said he'd call right away and hung up.
Minutes ticked by and I didn't hear anything and was going crazy with worry. I finally called mom or she called me - I can't remember which - and she told me Dad was having chest pains and the EMT's at the fire site were coming down to help. I started to get ready to make the trip back to the mountains instead of the grocery store.
The next call Mom said they were taking him to the hospital. That's when it was definitely decided - Gordon and I were heading back. I was told that A & D survived, initially I was told they were not inside but then later found out they were inside but made it out in time. Anyway, the EMT's had to have Dad walk down the stairs and to a logging truck which was in their driveway (the single lane gravel mountain road was blocked with police, fire, and rescue trucks as well as volunteer fire fighter's and logging trucks) The logging truck took him further down and then he had to get on a gurney and finally loaded into the ambulance which took him as far as the Maggie Valley Rescue & Fire station, where he was moved to yet another vehicle to transport him to Asheville's Mission Hospital.
I was so happy to hear that A & D survived, and so thankful the fire was contained to around that cabin and didn't spread further (we can thank the soaking weekend rains for that - see my pictures of our cloudy walk after the rains below).
After making reservations at a hotel near the hospital - I still didn't know it wasn't a gas explosion on the mountain and wasn't taking chances on it - plus I didn't know what would happen with Dad and thought maybe we could avoid trips back & forth from Maggie to Asheville. Gordon and I got back in the car that was barely unpacked, and headed back to the mountains, praying a lot on the way.
One amazing thing was that my friend Amy was in Waynesville visiting her friends - just 30 minutes from my parents place. I called her and sweet, wonderful friend that she is, she met Gordon and I in Asheville at the hotel so I could go see my Dad at the hospital. Thanks to H1N1 no children were allowed in the hospital unless being treated, plus a cardiac unit was no place for a four year old anyway.
Dad was admitted, the blood tests showed that there was heart damage. On Thanksgiving Day the blood tests showed more damage, he was put on blood thinners until Friday when he would undergo a catheterization. Dad had 2 stents put in blockages back in 2005, doctors were not sure if there were new blockages, if the stents had failed, or what damage was done.
Thankfully on black Friday the best Christmas present was given to us - the doctors said there were no blockages, the stents were fine, and that he simply had a heart attack due to the extreme exertion and stress of the incident. We were told his heart damage should be manageable with medication. Alleluia!
Amy & Buster spent Wednesday evening, Thursday and Friday taking care of Gordon - I can't find words enough to thank her! My Mom said she and Dad were outside Wednesday morning and heard a popping noise. She said it sounded like deer were crashing through the woods - their initial thought. Then as it got louder they thought it might be a landslide - it sounded like big trees were being broken and snapped off - they didn't know where to go just waiting for the slide, it sounds so terrifying. When the fire explosion happened they saw it and realized whose home it was, Dad knew they were home and although Mom, fearful for him, begged him not to go, he headed up the mountain - not by the road, but straight up the ridge to the road above from the back of their place. When he arrived A was standing in her nightgown and D was standing there watching the fire burn. When the first responder arrived he parked his big dooley truck in the road which blocked the water truck from getting to the fire - it was chaos and Dad tried to help by telling them how to get closer before walking back home while having chest pains. Thankfully, although a home and all the contents inside were lost, no one was killed. A miracle. I personally think Dad had a hero-attack, not just a simple heart attack, mom said when she begged him not to go he said he couldn't live with himself if he didn't go and they were hurt, sounds like a hero to me. I'm so glad my hero is still around to help his namesake to grow up into an amazing man just like himself.
Friday afternoon I drove up to the fire site - a 3 story home was reduced to this:
not a thing salvaged
We didn't have a Thanksgiving Day like most people celebrated, but we are more thankful than ever. Now we're back home, Dad is home from the hospital, and hopefully, life can start to go back to "normal" soon.