Lucky break keeps business owner on his feet
Scott McArthur fell 12 feet from a ladder and fractured his neck and right wrist - and considers himself the luckiest man alive. Beating the odds against possible paralysis and given a prognosis for a complete recovery, Mr. McArthur has found himself enveloped in the caring, kindness, and support of family, friends, and the Island community.
"I certainly haven't pitied myself at all," Mr. McArthur said. "The fact I'm coming out of this with my life and my limbs, I'm really a lucky man."
The 50-year-old owner of McArthur Tree Care was working with his crew of two on the afternoon of September 6 on Longview Road in West Tisbury. He fell from a ladder while pruning some trees.
Despite a cast on his wrist and a cumbersome "halo" on his head, Scott McArthur is all smiles with his partner Vickie Thurber.
Although Mr. McArthur fell and landed head first, he thinks fracturing his wrist may have changed the angle of his fall and lessened the damage to his neck.
"When you break your neck, even a fraction of a millimeter can make a difference," he said. "I give my wrist credit for helping me come out of this alive."
Mr. McArthur sat up immediately, and did not lose consciousness or experience any loss of feeling. When his crew rushed over to ask if he was okay, he was only conscious of his wrist, which was swelling up.
Thinking only his wrist was injured, instead of calling an ambulance, Mr. McArthur asked one of his employees to drive him to Martha's Vineyard Hospital by car. In retrospect, he said he was thankful his decision to forego emergency transport did not aggravate his neck injury.
"I'm glad that wasn't the difference between an accident that resulted in paralysis or did not," Mr. McArthur said. "If I had aggravated a delicate situation just getting in the car, it would have been horrible to live with."
On arrival at the hospital Mr. McArthur was given a full body scan, which revealed the wrist fracture and also a fracture of the first cervical vertebra of the spine, without dislocation and injury to the spinal cord. He was flown by plane to Boston Medical Center where he spent five nights, the first two in a trauma unit, where his partner Vickie Thurber and mother Beverly McArthur of Westport, Conn., were by his side.
Although his guardian angel may have softened his fall, Mr. McArthur was the one left wearing the "halo." His, however, is no beam of light, but rather a traction apparatus used to immobilize his cervical spine while the fracture heals.
The halo band encircles his head and is affixed to his skull with four titanium screws, two in his forehead and one behind each ear. Adjustable metal bars run from the halo to a rigid, lightweight lambs' wool-lined vest that fits snugly around his chest.
"People see me in this thing and hear about how I fell, and think I was in such great pain," Mr. McArthur said. "But I've got to admit, although I'd love to milk it, I just haven't felt any pain."
On the way home from the hospital Vickie Thurber and her son Ian took him shopping for a recliner chair, and friends Carla and Steve Furtaw picked it up and delivered it that night. The recliner has made it possible for him to sleep while wearing the halo, Mr. McArthur said.
He will wear the device until early December, followed by some other form of neck collar. He is looking forward to the removal of his bright pink wrist cast this week, especially since he is right-handed.
Despite the halo, Mr. McArthur manages to take daily walks to places such as the West Tisbury Post Office, the up-Island Cronig's, and the pharmacy.
When Ms. Thurber, who formerly served as the West Tisbury postmaster, is pursuing her new vocation, providing therapeutic horse riding lessons to children, Mr. McArthur relies on the Vineyard Transit Authority for transportation.
As he noted wryly, "Us folks in halos don't drive!" In addition to looking forward to driving again, he said the first thing he wants to do is "shampoo my hair and splash my face with water."
Mr. McArthur has been in business on the Island since 1991, doing residential tree pruning and tree removal. Family, friends, his crew, and clients have called, dropped in to see him, sent cards, and brought meals over, he said, and Ms. Thurber has provided him support and care from the start. In addition, business associates in the tree trade covered for him, completing jobs he was committed to do for clients this fall.
While Mr. McArthur does have medical insurance, he said that like many small business owners, he does not carry Worker's Compensation on himself as he does on his employees, because of the high premiums. Unfortunately, his company must go dormant in his absence.
Recognizing the financial hardship this presents while he is recuperating, his friends Connie and Walter Ashley, owners of C & W Power Equipment, contacted the "You've Got a Friend Foundation," which set up an account for donations for him.
The low-profile, non-profit, Island-based foundation's mission is to provide a tax exempt conduit through which funds are raised and then used to aid people in need on Martha's Vineyard. Donations can be sent to You've Got a Friend, Scott McArthur Fund, c/o Martha's Vineyard Cooperative Bank, Box 668, VH 02568.
"I'm so fortunate," Mr. McArthur said. "The funds collected will cover any medical costs related to my injury not covered by medical insurance. If there is any money left over, then maybe some of my other monthly expenses may be covered."
The Ashleys also are hosting a fund-raiser raffle to benefit Mr. McArthur, offering chances to win a Jonsered 16-inch chainsaw, which retails for about $300. Chances can be bought for $20 at their shop on Barnes Road from 8 am to 4 pm. The drawing will be held on Nov. 20. They have collected $600 so far, and with another month to go hope to sell many more tickets.
In reflecting on life after the accident, Mr. McArthur said he definitely will be more cautious and "won't be bounding down stairs." However, he added, he is not afraid to get back in the treetops.
"It's work I love and I have every intention of returning to it when I'm cleared to go," Mr. McArthur said.