Friday, Sept. 3, was a day of such emotional extremes that it is hard to believe that it actually happened. In February, after 33 years, Cambria’s jewel box theater, the Pewter Plough Playhouse, was forced to close its doors until fire sprinkler installation was complete. Installation of sprinklers began in July.
There was an obvious positive response to 97- year-old Jim Buckley’s demeanor at the prospect of the Plough opening up again before too long.
Aware that Henry Jaglom’s very successful play “Just 45 Minutes From Broadway” had recently closed in Los Angeles, Buckley contacted Jaglom, who decided to take the play to Cambria. Fire Chief Mark Miller and the CCSD graciously allowed the production to run for three days, contingent on having a safety officer on site.
When it was announced that the play would have a three-day run, all three performances quickly sold out. Jim was ecstatic.
It was like old times during intermission on the first night. The piano lounge was filled with comments and conservations about this exceptional play and the reopened Plough.
Once the audience had returned to their seats, Jim used his two ubiquitous canes to make his way to a stool in the wings to watch the rest of the show. But he didn’t quite make it. A witness described his fall to the floor as more like a gentle collapse.
I was the on-duty fire watchman.
Some of the PPP’s volunteers had transported Buckley to the lounge in his roller walker. When I was alerted about Jim’s accident, I talked with him regarding the extent of any injuries. “My hip hurts a bit when I stand, but it’s not bad when I’m sitting,” he explained.
Based on my 25 years on the fire department, I suggested that paramedics evaluate his condition. With a wave of his hand, he responded, “That won’t be necessary, I merely bruised my hip when I fell.”
“Bones are brittle at 97, Jim. If you did break a bone, there might be a sharp edge at the site of the break that could have cut something in the circulatory system. We don’t know the extent of your injury and you could be bleeding internally. You need to be examined.”
“I want to thank the cast for their performance tonight; I’ll wait until the play is over to be checked out,” the old fellow said impatiently.
I repeated my advice a little stronger.
“Oh, all right … go ahead and call the paramedics — but no sirens.”
As the paramedics placed him on a stretcher to examine him in their van, one of the emergency workers noticed that his right foot was at an odd angle — a sure sign of a fractured hip.
From the excitement of yet another play at the PPP to hip replacement surgery less than 12 hours later is another example that we don’t know what the next moment in life holds for us.
But I want to make something positive out of this unfortunate incident. One of the PPP volunteers asked me the following evening, “Did we do right by picking JB up and putting him in his roller walker to move him?” I congratulated her on the brilliant question.
“Actually, it is better not to move a victim of a serious fall or having been struck by a vehicle. It was fairly apparent that he was not badly injured by his fall, but look at the result — he had broken his hip and he could have suffered a laceration to an artery. If at all possible, leave victims as they are. If it is imperative that they be moved, move them without causing them to change position. However, many victims are nauseous after a trauma and may feel the need to vomit. Turn their head just enough so that they won’t aspirate any vomit. If the discharge gets into the lungs, fluids in the stomach are destructive enough to sear lung tissues, and death can occur in a day or so.”