David T. (Bud) Fay remembers the terrible childhood accident that brought him to Deer Lodge and made him the hospital’s youngest patient.
It was an August afternoon in 1949, and we were getting out of Morgan School, a one-room schoolhouse a couple of miles west of Headingley Gaol. Me and my cousin Ted were late getting out, and my brother and the rest of the kids got quite a bit ahead of us, and I wanted to ride my bike to catch up. Ted told me I shouldn’t, but being young and foolish I thought I could easily catch up, and so I set off. Needless to say, I didn’t make it.
What I met up with instead was a green three-ton truck loaded with 13 head of cattle whose driver was doing 65 miles per hour in a school zone, trying to make it to the stockyards in Winnipeg before closing.
The following are the injuries I received: a compound triple fracture of the skull, three broken ribs, a collapsed lung with contusions of the chest and throat, a broken right arm and a left arm cut to the bone, a left leg broken in two spots, and a right leg broken at the hip, and held onto my body by a few inches of skin.
After being hit, I had to wait until the ambulance arrived from Winnipeg. Judging the distance now, I probably lay on the side of that highway for close to an hour. When the ambulance picked me up, the driver and attendant realized that with the amount of blood I had lost, and the injuries I had sustained, I would not make it alive to the General Hospital or to St. Boniface Hospital. Therefore, they stopped at Deer Lodge Hospital. There they were informed that Deer Lodge was a military hospital and could not accept civilians. Apparently what happened next was the ambulance crew refused to take me any further until someone in the hospital agreed to accept me into Deer Lodge.
I ended up on the second floor in the Officer’s Wing, where I officially became Deer Lodge’s youngest patient. The officers, upon hearing about the kid and his condition, all refused scheduled operations until the kid was saved. One flight lieutenant donated a piece of his skin to help graft on my right leg from hip to foot, and doctors used a piece of bone from a flying officer’s skull to replace some bone I had lost due to the triple fracture of my skull. They placed me in the Officer’s Operating Room for 72 hours while they patched me up, which broke another record for longest time on an operating table. Apparently the doctors would fix one thing, let me rest, then figure out the next steps, and so on, and so on, until I was all back together. I don’t know the names of the majority of the doctors except for the lead one—a bone specialist, Dr. Charles Hollenberg—but these were some of the best brain, lung, skull, and blood specialists the government could find.
The first thing I remember after the accident was seeing my dad, who had came home from Churchill. I still remember them telling me he was there, and then the door opening to reveal him, and me saying, ‘Gee, wow!’—and that was it. I was back out like a light.
Next I remember having to stay in bed as they had reattached my right leg, which was in a suspended sling. The one song that I remember playing on various radios in the ward was ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’. And I can remember the officers going downtown and bringing me back the latest candies, toys and gizmos, and the guys playing with a windup fire truck on their knees in the hall. One of the veterans brought me back a balloon made to look like a clown. It had feet made of cardboard that the nub of the balloon attached to. Whenever you threw it, it would flip over, but it always land on its feet.
The whole month of September went by, and I believe it was the beginning of October that I was transferred to St. Boniface Hospital just in time for my birthday. Thus ended my stay at Deer Lodge Hospital.
If the ambulance driver had not stopped at Deer Lodge, if those amazing doctors hadn’t worked on me, if those great and caring service men had not made room for me or donated the skin and bone I needed, I would not be alive today to tell my story.