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

Picture of a man holding the tree that fell on PaulIn 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).

Paul in the hospital on a respiratorWhile 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 Paul in intensive carehelicopter 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.

Paul with his sonAfter 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.

Paul in his hospital bed having a cup of coffee with his wifePaul in his hospital bed eating with his wifeA few days later he even had his favorite cup of coffee with my mom.

The doctors said he may need to learn to eat again, but he was eating and drinking in no time.

Paul being discharged from the hospital pictured with two of his nursesHere he is right before discharge with a few of the amazing nurses who helped him get better.

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 Paul and his son in fron of a Lifeflight helicopteralmost 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.

Paul arm in arm with his wife and son at his son's weddingThis 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

Posted on February 1, 2014, in Everyday Life, People and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Caleb, I’m so glad that you managed to save my oldest friend. Thank you.

  2. Caleb, your story tells your Dad’s journey beautifully. You don’t remember me, but I have been coming to Westport to visit your grandfather Bill , your grandmother Jean, your uncles Steve and Archie, and your mom and dad for over 45 years. I remember you and Nathan as babies in back packs at the winter carnival weekends. Your Dad’s journey has been amazing. Thank you for telling it.
    Jan Temple Metoxen from Longmeadow MA

  3. This story made me cry as I remembered Paul and Bill and Jean and our long ago childhood’s together. Paul has always been a very good person and I’m so glad you saved his life and told his story. You don’t know me, Caleb, but a long time ago in Brookhaven Paul was a good friend. Liz Lacey

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