A Westport Island Phoenix
Paul Bonyun: Rising Up and Giving Back
Today, February 1, 2014, Paul Bonyun was at One Boston Place representing the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and his own brand of personal strength. For the second year in a row, Paul climbed 758 stairs up a Boston skyscraper in the American Lung Association’s Climb for Clean Air. He is celebrating his life and hoping to inspire others.
Paul raised more money this year than last year for the the American Lung Association (so far, $1,670). He is thankful to his family and his community, as well as fellow fire fighters and first responders for the support they have given him for this climb and for his many victories since 2006. As a tribute to his supporters, Paul has asked to share his youngest son’s diary of a day that changed their lives and the ensuing journey that has made them stronger.
A Diary of My Dad’s Accident
by Caleb Bonyun
In the early morning hours of January 2, 2006, my dad (not pictured left) was cutting a tree for firewood like he had done many times before. Part of the tree had a crack up high that he could not see. This 150-pound part of the tree (pictured) fell as he was cutting and hit him on the head.
He somehow walked half a mile home. I was 17 years old at the time, and had had my EMT license for only a month. My mom screamed for me to wake up; and I ran downstairs wearing only shorts to see my dad sitting on the couch – blood running down his face, his head split open, going in and out of consciousness. I was shocked at first, but then I went to work, trying to stop the bleeding and start oxygen (I kept a med kit in my car for calls).
While I was working on him I had my brother call 911 and advised him we needed LifeFlight (medical helicopter). The local Fire Department showed up shortly after my dad finally lost all consciousness. I was covered in blood and shirtless, so the Fire Chief told me to go get dressed. After getting dressed, I ran back downstairs to my dad who was now surrounded by two paramedics and an EMT-1. They loaded him into an ambulance and drove only 500 feet to a nearby field where the helicopter would land. My dad had been strong and kept breathing until this point. While in the truck, he stopped breathing, and that is the moment I thought I had lost my father. The paramedics tubed him and started breathing for him. He was loaded into the helicopter and rushed to a trauma hospital. I held my composure right until the helicopter took off. In the ensuing silence, I was brought to my knees with panic, fear, and grief. It was the single worst moment of my entire life.
He was rushed into surgery where doctors did everything they could to save my dad’s life. He came out of surgery in a coma, and the doctors said the next few hours would be “touch and go.”
My dad was in a coma for four weeks. I visited him every day. I talked to him about school, and how things were going at home. I held his hand and told him I loved him every day.
After four weeks, the doctor said he could wake up soon. Everyone at my high school, including the teachers, knew he could wake up; and they allowed me to keep my cell phone on loud and answer in class to get updates. One day, we had a substitute, and my phone rang. The sub stood up and said with anger “no phone…” but was cut off by the entire class standing and yelling, “LET HIM TALK!” On the other line, my mom said, “Would you like to speak with your dad?” I broke into tears when I heard his scratchy, groggy voice say, “Hey buddy.” When I said “Hi dad,” the whole class broke into applause. Much to the sub’s surprise, I rushed out of school and went to see him awake for the first time in over a month. The picture (above) is our first meeting.
The doctors said he may need to learn to eat again, but he was eating and drinking in no time.
This is me and my dad one year after the accident standing in front of the helicopter that saved his life. He is back to almost 100 percent. He is on life-long disability but lives at home and does everything a normal person does. He has almost no more short-term memory left and has to write everything down so he can remember it a few hours later. He has issues with seizures but that is now mostly under control with proper meds.
This is my dad and my mom walking with me down the aisle at my wedding last year. On that worst day of my life I never would have thought he would be by my side on the best day of my life. I am so grateful to all the men and women who worked so hard to save my dad’s life. This is my story of the hardest thing I have ever been through: thank you for hearing it.
Photo credits: Caleb Bonyun and friends