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TideWriters Tales
Special Section~Isabel 2003
It Could Have Been Worse
By Brenda Lee Renwick

     “Breathless, disoriented, and more than a little glad it’s all over,” is my standard answer lately when people ask me how I am. Of course, it isn’t all over, but at least there’s a respite. Hurricane Isabel was merely the culmination of a month of difficulties. When she blew through I was trying to catch my breath from everything else that had happened.

     On August 26th (my 46th birthday) I fell down the stairs at work and badly sprained my ankle. (It still isn’t healed completely.) “Oh well”, I commented cheerfully, “It could have been worse.” It wasn’t fractured, just terribly painful, three times its normal size, and vividly purple. 

     Two weeks later, my boss apologetically informed me of the directive from above: cut hours. This was actually the second cut. I had already been reduced to a mere six hours a week. Anything less didn’t even pay the gas for the trip in. So, still limping, I’m jobless, too.

     The Sunday before Isabel hit, my husband John went out with the chain saw to trim some limbs that he thought might pose a problem. From the back door, I watched him settling the ladder and making his preparations. Praying absentmindedly for his safety, I turned away to begin my housework. I had just put a load of laundry in and was headed to the living room to start vacuuming when I heard a pounding on the garage door. A strange garbled shouting accompanied the pounding. When I opened the door, my husband fell in. 

     Crawling and groaning, he finally ended his struggles in the living room. 

     Distractedly, I noticed that his back was covered with dirt, and all I could think was that I’m glad I hadn’t started the vacuuming yet. “What happened?” I asked.

     “I fell….off the ladder…oh, my back...” All this was groaned and very difficult to make out. I tried to help him, to make him comfortable, but after 20 minutes the pain was not receding. He could not lie on his back, or sit. His only relief came by laying the upper half of his body on the sofa and the lower half on the floor. This is how the rescue squad found him when they arrived. I had suggested to him that I try to take him to the hospital, but it quickly became obvious that he would not be able to tolerate the ride in a car. (He really didn’t want to go at all. “What can they do?” he’d asked.)

     The bottom line is this: he had a fractured vertebra. He stayed two nights in the hospital. Besides the stress and distraction of his accident, I felt guilty that I hadn’t even heard him fall. Imagine if he’d lain there unconscious for a while! What if he’d fallen on the chain saw, or the ladder had fallen on him? He said he was screaming after he fell—and I didn’t hear him. He’ll heal, the doctor says. A few weeks out of work, a few weeks of limited work, and eventually he’ll be fine. He has cabin fever, but it could have been worse.

     With all this going on, I didn’t make any preparations for Isabel. When John got out of the hospital, I spent most of that day and the next hovering over him and trying to take his mind off his disability. (He’s not a good invalid.) When Isabel hit, we had no extra batteries, no gasoline for the generator, no extra candles or canned goods or ice. We lost power even before the storm really hit, and it stayed out for over a week.

     Walking around the property after the storm, we were amazed. Gloucester was really torn up. Several of my neighbors have trees lying over their houses. We had one large tree fall, but nowhere near the house—not even in the front yard. We had our share of branches and debris to clean up, but nothing like what so many of the county residents have to deal with.

     It could have been much worse, and for many it was, but we had our troubles before the storm. Maybe the Lord decided that was all He’d ask of us for now.

© 2003 Brenda Lee Renwick. All Rights Reserved. 
Contact Brenda Renwick at 

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