Something to Live For:
A Story of Larry Weeks
Journal Entry - Jan. 23, 1979 by Larry Weeks
Just when I have something to live for, this happens.
The doctors tell me the burns are bad--second and third degree scalds over 80%
of my body. It was a superheated deluge of water from a giant retort at the
Franklin cannery. We were only trying to get the frozen door open after the
hard freeze last Tuesday morning. It was the 9th, the day before my 29th
It must have been 30 below, the coldest it had been all season. I had just started my shift. The morning crew was coming on. The retort door simply wouldn't budge and we were desperate to get things ready for the canning run. So my boss told me to fill it past the fill line and turn up the boiler to thaw the ice in the cavernous building, open as it was to the snowbound yard. I had my misgivings, but we had only ten minutes, and you can't let 200 people stand around on a production line, some who'd come from as far as a hundred miles away. We were all just lucky to have jobs.
I stood to the side of the door on the curb of the retort platform as I first tried to open the door. I picked at the collecting ice around the door seam. No luck. On order, I pried up the lever from the the drop latch with a crow bar so cold I could feel it through my gloved hands. It groaned at first. I moved closer to get better purchase. I must not have been paying attention. I thought I would be out of the path of the draining water and the swinging door. What a mistake.
The load from the superheated overfill burst like a geyser, blowing the door. I tried to hold the door to protect myself but the pressure change was too great. Thousands of gallons of superheated water just vaporized from the sudden disturbance. The door and the steam and the roiling water knocked me back, then my feet went out from under me. The scalding water then caught me across the chest. Steam vaporized in my goggle-covered face. I couldn't see a thing. My heavy work clothes soaked through almost immediately.The flood must have carried me right out the open rollup door toward the snow bank. The next thing I found myself buried in the snow bank, where I had dived or fallen or been thrown. That cooled me off and must have stopped me from cooking even more in the boiling hot clothes. I don't remember much else until now. Here I am in the University Hospital special burn unit over the mountain in Salt Lake. They tell me I arrived here only three hours later. Nice thing about Life Flight.
I still can't feel a thing. For the first week or so I must have been delirious. Now the doctors say I could be back to work by Christmas. That would be great. Still the doctors say the burns are pretty bad. I don't know how long I really have. But live or die I'll make the best of it. I'm going to fight. I'm determined now we are expecting our first child. Just a few weeks to go.
My hands and back and most of my face seem okay. I don't dare dwell on a mirror, I'm so swollen. I can get up and walk, but I'm a bandaged mess. I have to sleep a lot. The soaked dressings are changed every day. It's made it really hard to eat and sleep since it's like ripping off and changing your skin every day.
When I get out, it will be tough making ends meet, but we will manage. I'm doing it for her and the baby, whatever it is. Let's hope we are all out of here before April. There is so much to be done.
Well, it's time to sleep. I am so cold even though the heat is up, and I can't seem to eat enough. I feel like I'm going to starve. And the IV pain killers keep me between doppiness and agony....
.... Shallys Weeks was born March 2, 1979. Just
an hour before, Venette visited a much swollen and nearly lifeless Larry in his
dark, heated, aseptic hospital room. In his pain, he asked to see his
daughter again. A very pregnant Venette was understandably surprised,
until she realized how close Larry was to the Other Side.
Shortly after midnight March 4, alone with Venette as the baby slept peacefully in her arms, having succeeded, Larry Weeks was released from his mortal pain.
"If there is pain in separation, it is only because there was joy in
being together." ---- The Spoken Word, March 11, 1979
Story by Ken Allen ©KRA 1999