Bob Pressnall

First post: Mar 26, 2019 Latest post: Apr 2, 2020
Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.  Here is the story of how we got here.

“There are so many blessings in the unfolding of our newest chapter as life partners and family….” Charlene
On Thursday March 14th in the late afternoon, Bob and Charlene went for a short hike above Codornices Park in Berkeley to visit the seasonal waterfalls.  A 15-20 minute hike up a trail off Euclid Avenue, Bob and Charlene walked along a narrow path surrounded by young redwood and bay trees. They approached the falls and arrived at a plank bridge. Each paused to assess the situation having crossed many such bridges in their 40 years hiking together. Once Bob reached the other side, he lost his balance.  He fell 20 feet or so and rolled another 5 feet landing face down in the creek below. (First of many blessings: When Bob was in the Army he went to jump school.  With numerous free falls out of airplanes, his body instinctively rolled to break impact of the fall.  If he hadn’t have rolled, he surely would have injured his spinal cord.)

Two hikers heard Charlene scream and raced up the trail and down the ravine to Bob’s side.  (2nd blessing: Vincent and then Emily were not far behind on the trail and came to assist.  They saved his life as Bob lie face down in the water. First turning him over then holding him as his head bled profusely…. )

Charlene called 911, (3rd blessing cell service available) then ran down the trail to the street to meet the Berkeley Fire Department as they wouldn’t be able to easily find them.  A team leader and a scout followed Charlene scanning the area. Evacuation was tricky given the steep terrain.  The fire fighters pulled Bob out of the ravine using a basket stretcher anchoring to a tree stabilizing the ascent. The emergency team was phenomenal moving with calm, kindness, confidence and efficiency. They found a shorter exit route taking Bob up the hill rather than back down the trail, landing on a driveway on Tamalpais Ave.  Charlene, who had been instructed to wait on the driveway was finally reunited with Bob. She held Bob’s hand, kissed him, he smiled back. Finally on stable, flat ground, the rescuers began cutting Bob’s wet clothes off of him.  They had stabilized his neck with a collar and were careful to keep his back flat.   Later Bob would have no memory of the fall or first days in ER and ICU.

Bob was transported to Highland Hospital trauma center via full alert ambulance, sirens and all. Charlene rode in front with the driver, watching as the rescuers in the back took care of Bob who continued to be verbally responsive.  His tone was friendly and appreciative. Once at the hospital initial care involved diagnosing the extent of the damage beyond the visible anterior and lateral head wounds. The CT and MRI indicated fractured vertebrae (C1 – fractured in 3 places, C6, C7 and T12  -- all in the neck and upper back). Additionally a small brain bleed (subarachnoid) was discovered, but small enough to not be of major concern. Diagnosis and first aid lasted into the wee hours. Bob was eventually transferred to ICU, Charlene was at his side.

Because C1 and C2 are so close to the brain stem, injuries to these vertebrae are often fatal or result in full paralysis.  It is a true miracle that Bob had no initial spinal cord injury given the fall. However, having three fractures in C1 left him at great risk. Emergency surgery to fuse C1, C2, and C3 to his occiput was immediately scheduled and undertaken the next day. (4th Blessing – Highland Hospital is a top notch trauma center with amazing medical professionals and staff.  There were a dozen doctors and nurses waiting for Bob’s arrival).

This has been a time of great challenge, crisis, and grief and also a time of countless auspicious blessings.  Despite being in ICU under such dire circumstances, we actually feel blessed as a family to have had this week together.  So much warm open space and heart. So many tears and so much laughter! Thank you for all the love and support that has been pouring in. Thank you Nancy Burke, Kimberly Aumack Yee, Sandra Ladley, and Gale Young for being our first caring bridge.  Thanks Judy Weatherly for setting up this Caringbridge web page.

After a week at Highland, on March 21, Bob was transferred to acute rehab.  If you wish to read more about the journey at Highland hospital see Journal Entry on March 26. We will update his progress in rehab where he is expected to be until April 4.  Please no visitors while in rehab. Bob’s schedule is rigorous with multiple sessions each day. He is exhausted and sleeps in the gaps between therapy sessions.