Sometime in the 60s I built a swimming pool for Glenn and Katy
Mc Connell. Glen and Katy ran the local lumber yard and were good friends of ours. We had been on many great trips with them.
Katy wanted a pool with lots of water shallow enough to walk in. They did not want a diving board. The pool was going to be just thirty-feet long, so I built a pool with lots of shallow end and mot much deep end. After all, if you don’t have a diving board, you don’t need much deep water.
Perfect logic, huh? Well, maybe not. Glen and Katy’s son Pat thought he would do a real nice thing for his folks and put in a diving board for them, so he got a diving board and installed it. OK so far.
On the day of my first cross country flight as a student pilot, Glenn and Katy were having a party with about twenty people including Phyllis and me. A guy who worked for Glenn and Katy, I still remember his name. It was Tom Woods, hollered “I’ll go swimming if anyone else will! Not being one to back away from a challenge, I hollered, “I’ll go!”
So we went in the house and got trunked up. Tom walked out on the board and kind of leaned forward and sort of fell into the pool. I thought “What a wimpy dive. I’ll show him.” So notwithstanding the fact that I had built the pool and knew about the long shallow end, short deep end situation, I stepped onto the board, took a run, made a big bounce and did a high, long dive.
I ended up in 4 ½ feet of water on my head. Only this mid-depth water and my arms out in front of me had lessened the impact when my head hit the concrete.
I was stunned. I stayed down a while to try to get my thinking clear. People were worrying about me when I didn’t come up. I finally crawled to the side of the pool and got out. My head was bleeding, and my friends were ardently dabbing blood and patching me up.
In spite of the blood, my head didn’t hurt very much. What hurt was my upper back and my neck. I thought it will get better in awhile, so I sat in a chair and waited for it to get better. It didn’t get better.
In an hour or so, I decided that I had better go home. Phyllis and I were in separate cars, so I drove myself home and went to bed. Phyllis came soon.
Along about midnight it was still hurting pretty badly, so I called the doctor. (In those days you could call the doctor.) My doctor, Dr. Dudly was out of town so I was referred to his associate, Dr Gabrielson.
Dr. Gabrielson’s advice, based on what I told him, that I had got out of the pool by myself and driven myself home, was stay in bed, lie on your back, and get someone to drive you to the hospital in the morning. I followed his advice except for lying on my back. That made it hurt more.
In the morning our son Jim drove me to the hospital. After X rays which showed a crushed vertebrae in my back but no serious damage to my neck, Dr. Allison, an orthopedist put me in a plaster cast from my waist to my neck. He told me that I would have to wear the cast for three months. The cast didn’t really hold me tightly. I could move around quite a bit in it. It was hot in that cast. Plaster gets hot when it sets. I didn’t like it. I thought “THREE MONTHS? NO WAY!”
I told the nurse that I wanted to see the doctor right now. She said that it would be several hours. I told her that the cast was aggravating an old back injury, which it was. The doctor came back.
I told the doctor that I would not wear that thing. That I was not hurt that bad. That I had got out of the pool by myself and had driven myself home. I told him, if you don’t take it off, I’ll go home and take it off myself!
He was convinced. He asked if I had someone who could drive me to San Bernardino in the morning. I said yes, so he cut the cast all the way down each side and took it off. Then he put the too pieces back on me and taped them together and gave me an address in San Bernardino where they would make me a steel brace.
I went home with the now removable cast, wore it that night and in the morning son Jim drove me to the place in San Bernardino where I was fitted with the steel brace. The brace had a waist band and two flat steel bars that went up each side of my back and tied with straps over my shoulders. It held me real firmly and was excellent support. The instructions were wear it full time for 3 months. Not me. I took it off every night. I figured that as long as my movements didn’t cause pain, I was not interfering with the healing process.
Shortly Glenn and Katy sold the property to Frank Russell. Frank was a mutual friend. I worried that someone else would do what I had done and get hurt, so I told Frank about the hazard and offered to replace the dangerous diving board with a slide for free. It was OK with him, so my crew took out the diving board and installed a slide. I hope that no one ever changes it back.
I was unbelievably lucky to have survived this accident, brought about by my poor judgment, with no permanent damage. I could have been killed or worse yet ended up a quadriplegic.