As we read the story on the front page of the June 4 Wilkes Journal-Patriot about the young man getting hurt at the Devil’s Wash Tub, we couldn’t help but get sick on our stomachs. All the feelings and bad memories from June 11, 2011, came rushing back. This is a story of an injury at the “Devil’s Wash Tub” from a parents’ point of view.
That day, our son and some friends went to the Devil’s Wash Tub as youths will do. Our son took a dare, went out on one of the higher rock ledges and did a backwards flip off the ledge.
Instead of landing straight below in the deeper pool, he flipped over the deeper pool area and landed on the other side of the pool in water only 6-8 inches deep with bedrock lying just below the water’s surface.
He fortunately completed the backwards flip, so his heels hit first. Over-rotation would have resulted in his head hitting first. After his heels hit, his tailbone hit the rock and he fell forward face down and unconscious in the water. An observer on that side of the pool jumped in the water and grabbed our son. One of our son’s friends, who is an Eagle Scout, then performed CPR on him and probably saved his life.
It took Wilkes EMS or Wilkes Rescue Squad a couple hours to get to our son and get him out due to the rough terrain and severity of his injuries. The ambulance took him straight to Baptist Hospital. While he was en route to the hospital, our other son called to inform us that his brother had been hurt at the Devil’s Wash Tub and they thought he had sustained a head injury (“severe headache”) along with other injuries and could not walk to climb out of the area because of the steep terrain.
We jumped in the car and headed straight to Baptist, which was the longest ride because of not-knowing and wondering. We cried and prayed all the way. When we got to the Baptist emergency room, we were told we would have to wait while they evaluated our and did X-rays, which we were told shouldn’t take more than an hour.
We still hadn’t been able to see our son, but 6 1/2 hours later the nurses said we could see him. As we walked back into the ER examination rooms, we could hear someone moaning in pain and found out it was our son. We were told the pain was mostly from his broken heel at that point.
The doctor then came in and explained that our son had sustained several injuries as a result of the severe and abrupt impact of his body hitting the underlying bedrock beneath the shallow water.
He had a broken heel, cracked tailbone, punctured and partially deflated lung, fractured skull and bleeding on the brain. Our mouths dropped open.
The doctor then stated that our son’s fractured skull was actually a blessing since it helped prevent the pressure that often results from bleeding on the brain with a closed-head injury. The doctor felt that his body would absorb the bleeding around his brain, but said he needed to be under close observation for the next few days.
He spent two nights in Baptist Hospital and then returned mid-week due to severe pain in his head. Another CT scan was done on his head to rule out additional bleeding and pressure. The recurring pain in his head at that point was thought to be from a severe concussion as a result of the severe trauma to his body from the impact. About a week later, our son had surgery in which three titanium screws were used to close the fracture in his heel.
All of this happened to a 20-year-old stellar athlete, a 190-pound, 6’1” college baseball pitcher. This could happen to anyone, regardless to how fit and in shape they are. Our son’s youth was in his favor. We felt that there was an angel on his shoulder when he jumped. We truly believe God has a plan for him because he has no long-term effects at this point from his injuries.
He returned to college to finish a successful collegiate career as a pitcher. The headaches finally subsided, but his heel bothered him for several months.
We’ve heard talk of the Devil’s Wash Tub for years. It’s a place where youths gather and often make poor and immature decisions that can affect them and their families for the rest of their lives. Our only advice is to make good decisions because we are accountable for our actions.
There are consequences that can stay with us as long as we live. The memories of that eventful day will be with us forever and we are blessed to still have our son with us.
Moravian Falls, N.C.